New Rules of Planning for 2021
September is for planning
Well, in normal times. But we have to plan… even in abnormal times. Even if we know our marketing plans will change. So… what’s a good way to make a plan that’s at least sensible?
Defining the ‘now’ normal
In last week’s blog post, we talked about the process of forming habits. We’ve all formed new habits in the last half year. Think about your morning routine. Or your business meetings.
And by the time we’ve reached the next phase of the pandemic (even assuming there are not multiple waves), we all will have grown used to all the things that still seem odd now. It will be the “now normal”.
The surprising longevity of the temporary
Last spring we approached our new behaviors with an “emergency” mindset that let us tolerate the oddness and imposition of having to do everything differently.
But after a while, the adrenaline of an emergency fades and we need to settle into a more sustainable mindset. We seek to move from what we “must” do to survive to what we “choose” to do to make work and life enjoyable.
This has two interesting implications. The first is about longevity.
I have found that the longest-lasting situations in life often start as temporary. I notice this when I ask people how they ended up living someplace where I meet them. I often hear “Well, actually, I originally moved here [10 or 15 years ago] with the idea of staying for just a year…” I think viewing a situation as temporary gives us the “permission” to simply accept it… which allows us to tolerate it longer.
Why be QWERTY?
The second implication is about rationality… the “choice” part of adjusting a situation so it suits us for a longer time. This would make you think that the future will be more rational, as people and companies make logical choices about their futures.
That is partly true, but reality – even for B2B decisions – is usually more nuanced than that. That’s because decisions are made sequentially… and prior decisions influence current ones.
Let me give you an historical example that you are very familiar with… your keyboard. In what world does that ridiculous QWERTY arrangement of keys make sense? Who would ever voluntarily design that?
Funny you should ask because… it actually was designed to make typing HARDER (as you might have suspected)! That’s because human fingers can move faster than the original mechanical typewriter hammers were able to move, so the keys were placed to slow typists down!
History always wins
So why do we still have archaic keyboards on electronic devices? History, of course! Every year it gets harder to overturn 152 years of people learning the QWERTY keyboard. It doesn’t “make sense”, but in keyboards, our history is our future.
In one win-loss investigation, I recall an intelligent B2B decision-maker revealing the real reason their company didn’t select my client’s product. She explained that our internal advocate had just successfully gotten another purchase approved, so the group wanted to give precedence to another person’s preference. Yes – that happened!
So how can we apply these lessons for sensible 2021 planning?
Planning Step #1: Update & deepen your customer understanding
Let’s recognize that what buyers and customers will be doing in the “next normal” is some variation of what they are doing in the “now normal”. So, step one is to update your understanding of how and why your prospects buy.
And by “prospects”, I include your current customers who you would like to renew or repurchase, to expand their adoption to more users, and to advocate for your brand. One of the themes we have heard is the need to update value propositions because companies have been forced to update how they evaluate all their services and providers.
Planning Step #2: Prep for 2021 with scenario planning
Gather your marketing, sales, and customer success teams to identify the new “prospect” mindsets and behaviors you collectively have been noticing. Then identify 2-3 alternative directions for those in 2021. Now you have hypotheses that you can test.
We find it’s best to start with the mindset issues, because they drive the behavior, and let you understand the ‘what’ as well as the ‘why’ in one integrated whole. If you pick the right people to interview, this can be done with relatively little time or cost.
Planning Step #3: Co-invent the future with your customers
Rather than try to figure it out all on your own, marketers find they get better results and stronger buy-in conducting co-creation sessions that include their key buyer audiences along with key internal stakeholders.
This is a powerful way to build from and apply learning from prior stages. It can also build internal consensus around your buyers, instead of some internal faction.
Plus, it’s a great way to take advantage of the opportunity, if not the necessity, the pandemic brings to try new things. As you’ve heard us say, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”!
How can we help?
Of course, let us know if we can help you with any of this – even just thinking it through. It’s not our first rodeo.