What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about marketing planning?

  • An annual rite of corporate governance?
  • A forced march of endless meetings and spreadsheets?
  • Guessing what your customers will want and where they will want it in 18 months?
  • Existential dread?
  • The exact opposite of why you became a marketer in the first place?

We hear you.

To be sure, marketers are on a roll, innovating at an unprecedented pace to keep up with the rapidly transforming customer experience ecosystem. Marketers today use more data and technology, know more about their customers, engage in more channels and across more devices, and personalize experiences in ways that didn’t even exist a few years ago.

But one thing hasn’t changed: marketing planning.

Marketing planning remains stubbornly immune to the evolution of customer engagement. For too many marketers, planning is still about parsing budgets into channel buckets. And that’s a big problem. Planning processes that limit flexibility, obscure visibility to performance, and fail to align with marketing objectives have a chilling effect on marketers’ ability to keep up with their customers.

That’s why it’s time to take a fresh look at how we plan marketing. Brands need to move away from linear planning processes that were designed for the TV era to a customer-obsessed approach focused on solving customers’ problems. Shar VanBoskirk and I are pleased to announce new research that explores a modern approach to marketing planning. We want to help brands develop the marketing planning processes they need and deserve, and we call it “people-led planning.”

People-led planning is characterized by three core tenets: continuous operation, ongoing measurement, and flexible budgets and tactics. The research establishes the idea that people-led planning enhances brands’ customer focus, considers the dimensions of a new cyclical planning process, and offers recommendations for how brands can elegantly pivot from existing planning methods.

The upside of people-led planning is huge; it sets the stage for continued marketing innovation, unwavering customer obsession, and meeting customer expectations anywhere, anytime. We’re excited to work with Forrester clients to get their take on people-led planning; learn about how the new process can be adapted for different strategies, industries, and objectives; and better understand how Forrester can continue to research marketing planning to help brands turn planning from drudgery into a strategic weapon.