Was COVID-19 a PLANdemic To Your Org?

Marketing with agility McCormick L.A.

As we emerge from the pandemic, not only has the landscape changed, but so has our lens. We learned new things and had to adjust to numerous changes, especially when plans did not have built-in agility. From a business management perspective, much of it turned out to be positive. The rise of effective telehealth systems, the efficiency of holding virtual meetings, and the convenience of delivery of every kind of product, to name a few. 

If you feel less positive, as if a PLAN-demic wiped out all feasible strategies for functioning, then your lesson is about agility. 

I’m going to zero-in on your marketing plan because that is a great area to find possible adjustments. In your marketing plan we can examine what could be easily adjusted to expand or contract, like elastic in those pants you wore for six months. 

Plan to Meet Your Objectives in More Than One Way

Your objectives in your marketing plan should mirror the objectives from your business or strategic plan. Afterall, that is what you are marketing. In the best case scenario, you didn’t have to change those. 

For instance, if one simple metric for success was spelled out in an objective “to gain 100 new supporters in 2020,” you may very well have achieved that objective. Your strategies, your how, probably had to change a great deal. Instead of gaining those supporters through a series of in-person events, you turned to technology and met more people on Zoom meetings from a larger geographic pool and you saved money because you didn’t have to provide them with refreshments, parking fees, printed materials, or any other expenses that you usually incurred. 

Pivot, Not a Divot

The strategy to thriving is to change the lens and identify another solution, not dig a hole. There’s always another way to do something. ALWAYS! Being agile means that you’re open to other means of success. You’re nimble and can respond swiftly. If the tried and true way is actually barred from happening, waiting it out is really risky. Two weeks turned into a year. It was like a farmer facing a drought. If you had built-in agility, you had already considered what could dramatically change your forecast.

Instead, turn (pivot) to your arsenal of resources you can control. Change the product or program that you were going to rely on for a good portion of your income. You can also change the place and the delivery system. Price becomes relative to the other factors. Removing the barriers proved successful, not digging in your heels. 

Built-in Agility Comes From Contingencies

When I create a marketing plan for a nonprofit or a business, I go hog wild! It’s an exercise in pure creativity and possibilities. I stay within the confines of their goals and objectives and in the framework of their branding, but I like to push the envelope. Several possibilities my clients can’t see because their day-to-day experience is tackling barriers that seem insurmountable. Away from the “we’ve tried that before” and “that will never work” objections, I happily create multiple (sometimes too many) ways to accomplish their objectives. 

If an organization is expecting the marketing plan to last three to five years, then multiple avenues of success keep the annual plan fresh while building on some projects for longevity. In times of crises, these other avenues supply a great deal of options. 

What’s the blueprint for agility? In the planning sessions you need ask yourselves “what if?” Many “what ifs!” Common sense tells you that if you’re planning an outdoor event in winter, you need to have a contingency plan to take the event indoors in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. Because of COVID-19, we now know that people can adopt technology in new ways allowing us to deliver information and services in a streamlined and affordable way. 

Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.

–Oscar Wilde

Avoid a PLAN-demic with McCormick L.A.

Plan 2021 and Onward …

It is not planning that guides a leader to scream, “Do something!” amid a tragedy. A plan with built-in agility prepares leaders to simply announce, “It’s time to shift in a new direction.” Any improvisation is favored over inactivity in a crisis, but if you’ve already thought it through, it’s easy to frame the new direction with your team as Plan B instead of making a knee-jerk reaction that might be costly.

What would be costly, you ask? Short of closing completely, in terms of marketing and promotions, knee-jerk reactions often address the wrong issue. For instance, if most of your social media content had been pictures of your clients enjoying your product in your venue, a rash decision would be removing your social media pages. A more thoughtful alternative is to interview some of your clients on Zoom, record those experiences, then share them across all your social media platforms. Surely there are other alternatives. Because there’s always another way. 

Even when not faced with a crisis, your marketing plan should be ahead of the curve, always evolving. People tend to treat a marketing plan like a time capsule prediction to write and store away to read later and see if it was anywhere close to being right. That’s an epic fail! Review your marketing plan once a quarter at the very least to see how it compares to the reality of what’s happening in your market niche and geographically. If you are not keeping up with the expected progress, then change the plan. 

Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and small businesses. She recently published Laws of Promotion. The 50-page promotional guide for small businesses and local nonprofits is available now on Amazon.

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