Planning for the unexpected

Planning for the unexpected

Over the last month or two we’ve been fortunate to be busy. Very busy. That is not intended to be a ‘look at us, we’re great’ kind of statement. But perhaps more of a reflection of life working in a creative agency environment at this time.

We’ve be lucky enough to work on some great projects with clients and have the opportunity to pitch for some really interesting briefs, all while we continue to plot the future direction of our business in this rapidly changing sector that we operate in.

This busy period typifies what gives many of us the thrill of working in an agency environment. Challenging deadlines, pressure to deliver and the need to continually learn and evolve our skills. The highs are amazing, the lows are tough to take. It’s what makes this a great industry to work in.

But in these busy periods, one fundamental that transcends the boundaries of sectors and roles becomes apparent: the need to prioritise.

As a strategist, the purist in me loves nothing more than the sight of a beautiful, integrated marketing strategy that is delivered to the letter over a two-year period. And I’m sure that there are others out there who share that idealistic vision. However, when the going gets tough and the busy times kick in, we can’t always have our ideal. Short-term opportunities emerge that aren’t in the plan, unexpected challenges creep in and new discussions appear on the horizon that are just too exciting to ignore.

This means we have to be flexible and adjust our sights a little. We have to stop and reflect – which actions should we prioritise over others? Do we stick to our plan, or chase what’s in front of us?

Given the pace of change in our industry today, many of us can’t afford to ignore the new, off-plan opportunities. So that’s what we’ve been doing recently here at Kaleidoscope and we’ve had some great success, and of course, some failures as a result.

But we haven’t been making decisions on our priorities lightly. We’ve been employing a clear set of criteria to all of our decisions. These are based around an assessment of likely returns, interest and motivation of the team, and potential consequences of inaction. From this we’ve been able to identify a few simple tips to help guide others in busy times:

Align your marketing activities against business priorities.
The marketing strategy—and highest-priority activities—should feed the company’s business goals. Using a balanced scorecard with appropriate metrics can do this.

Deliver what you prioritise… and say no to the rest.
Or at least point out the consequences to the plan of saying yes to peripheral activities.

Communicate with company stakeholders.
Trust requires personal relationships, which you can build through regular, planned communications about what marketing is doing and the results being achieved.

Be clear on the role of marketing.
Map out the role of marketing within the business and keep focused on it. This typically cuts across strategy, brand, and demand. If these three elements get lost amidst a crush of other activities, make a commitment to refocus your energy on these basics.

Engage and communicate with key stakeholders.
Marketing cuts across a whole business and many stakeholders. Make a commitment to understand the business goals and objectives of the key stakeholders and don’t stop communicating with them about what marketing activity is being delivered and the results being achieved.

However, perhaps most importantly, we have been drawing on a longer-term strategic framework to help guide our decisions. Whilst its not the idealistic detailed strategic plan I mentioned before, it gives us a broad direction and shape that we can draw on. It’s an agreed roadmap of where we want to get to, with a degree of flexibility built in to allow us to respond to new opportunities when they arise.

It’s a pragmatic plan that perhaps reflects the nature of our industry today – prepare for tomorrow but be prepared to change on the way there! Plan for the unexpected and enjoy the ride!