Marketing has become especially fast-paced, where consumers have more decision-making power, while being increasingly inundated with ad materials. Social media and online communities speed up information cycles, which quickly shift consumer behaviors, affecting trends that companies can use in their messaging. The ones who can adapt their messaging or quickly pivot will most likely come out on top. Making your marketing strategies flexible enables you to succeed in today’s marketing world.
You can incorporate a measure of flexibility into your overall marketing strategy through some small adjustments to your annual planning. Creating a plan that allows for frequent check-ins and consistent benchmarks will help you better prepare and adjust to abrupt changes in consumer behavior. The following information will offer some suggestions that can help.
1. Make Your Plan a Road Map
Many organizations fall into the trap of developing a rigid marketing plan you must follow no matter what. The trouble is, such a marketing plan may become partially or obsolete within a few months.
Instead of viewing your plan as a set of strict guidelines that must be adhered to, you should think of it more as a "road map" that will help your company move from one point to another. That makes your strategy more flexible while helping it act as your standard marketing plan. Changing your mindset going into the plan helps you quickly pivot when unexpected changes arise. Noting possible contingency or backup plans also helps you implement new plans and feel reassured that you’re making good progress.
2. Constantly Track Performance
It's vital that you continually leverage data and analytics to provide critical insights into how your company, and your industry, is performing. These data-driven insights can help you identify bottlenecks in your sales and marketing process and highlight areas in which your performance is above average.
In addition, you need to learn about your target audience constantly. As time passes and the nature of your core demographic changes, you must update your buyer personas to reflect the market's reality accurately. For example, do your core consumers still use the same social media networks? Do they purchase products through the same channels? Do they have the same concerns or interests that they did a year ago? Remember: tracking and interpreting customer data never ends.
3. Build in Small Bursts
While it's crucial to have a long-range marketing plan, it's often the course of wisdom to implement that plan in small segments or "bursts." After all, your business may have to adjust and pivot regularly. If you've already committed a massive amount of resources to your now-outdated original strategy, it will only be that much harder to change course. In contrast, building in small bursts allows you to turn occasional "climate checks" into a deeply ingrained habit and minimize wasted effort.
In practical effect, this means that you should plan campaigns in advance to understand what you will be doing but assemble the smaller elements closer to launch. That way you can adjust if something more relevant occurs. For instance, if you create social media or blog posts to launch a year later, you risk having outdated or vague content that won’t resonate with consumers. Whereas finalizing materials several months or weeks from launch allows you to build in nuance based on current trends. Keep in mind that for larger investments, such as TV commercials or outdoor advertising, planning in advance is essential, since they will run for longer periods.
4. Develop Backup Plans
It's always a good idea to have a couple of backup plans available, just in case "Plan A" is no longer a viable option. In the modern economic climate, unexpected changes have become a regular occurrence instead of an occasional shock. Though it's impossible to plan for every possible contingency, drafting some alternative marketing strategies may prove to be a lifesaver when your company has to shift towards a different direction quickly.
Knowing a couple pathways in instances of big changes is a good idea, but this also applies on a much smaller scale that doesn’t necessarily imply catastrophic occurrences. You can have backup plans for campaigns simply to reach a more relevant audience segment, such as if you want to increase recruitment or capitalize on local events.
5. Optimize to Add Value
When it comes to your marketing budget, you want to make sure that your investments bring in the highest possible return for your business. For one, this means allocating your resources toward advertising channels and mediums with a proven track record of success. (As an example, if the majority of your customers are coming from email marketing, you should continue investing in those efforts.)
At the same time, it's essential to identify emerging trends and practices - such as sustainability initiatives, social responsibility, and content marketing - that are worth adopting. If you do so, you'll be in the best possible position to "make your blows count" in terms of marketing spend.
6. Get Used to Quick Decision-Making
In many cases, being flexible goes hand in hand with making quick decisions. There are times when you'll have to determine whether your company needs to pivot toward a new direction, and if so, how best to accomplish that goal. You may have to make such a decision under a deadline.
Whatever the case may be, it's important to stay well-informed on the situation within your industry. When you are constantly tracking customer data and market trends, a critical decision suddenly coming up won’t blindside you, and you'll be able to make the right choice for your company.
In summary, flexibility in marketing requires:
- A mindset accepting of change
- Continual tracking of market and performance data
- Segmented implementation you can adjust as necessary
- The development of backup plans
- Optimized resource allocation
- Quick, well-informed decision-making
Implementing these suggestions may seem like an overwhelming challenge at first. However, with planning and effort (and perhaps an experienced media partner’s assistance), you can stay on top of changing trends and make your marketing flexible, effective, and successful.