Go long, win big: how long-term planning can deliver a competitive edge
Benjamin Hillman weighs out the importance of developing a two-track approach when planning campaigns: plan far enough ahead to have the capacity to be reactionary when required.
In today’s fast-paced digital market, there’s often great value in reactive marketing. Just look at examples from Specsavers in the face of the Oscars mishap, or how Norwegian Airlines capitalised on Brad Pitt’s split with Angelina with a “He’s Single” deal. However, planning marketing campaigns without setting up a longer-term strategy means you sacrifice the potential for longer-term buy-in and more committed relationships with customers. Building loyalty among customers is crucial, especially for mid-tier companies on their way to growth. But today most marketers (73.5%) are planning less than six months ahead.
Despite this short/mid-term mindset, mid-tier companies seem largely mature and savvy with marketing. They have “somewhat defined” (58.2%) or “very well defined” (31.7%) marketing plans, with the majority (59.8%) increasing their marketing spend in 2017. So why are they avoiding long-term planning?
Personally and professionally I think there are many good reasons why this is not happening. As a marketer myself, I am well aware of the high degree of focus required for the execution of campaigns, and that effort compounds with short time frames to get things into market. Being responsive is crucial to stay competitive, but constant back-to-back implementations of campaigns hinder our ability to elevate ourselves and take a look at the big picture.
Digital disruption has had a core role to play here. For example, just the influx of data that’s accessible to marketers means campaign activity can now turn on a dime from one week to the next. Understanding what data is particularly relevant to your campaigns, customers and success can result in breaking this data into actionable insights without entering data overload. This pace of disruption means companies no longer feel safe within their niche, scared that competitors will break into their markets and take their market share. Take for example The Dollar Shave club – a simple idea that upended the shaving industry – which Unilever eventually had to purchase (for a cool $1 billion). If you look at big shifts, Amazon’s invasion of the book industry is an example of what The Harvard Business Review calls ‘big-bang’ disruption.
Without any knowledge of the publishing industry, the company innovated by applying the e-commerce tools and logistical expertise it already possessed to a new market. All this disruption is forcing companies to be reactive, often with a short-term mindset, and this is reflected in their marketing planning. However, by being too reactive, companies can lose the ability to see programs through with a clear objective and plan strategically. Marketing campaigns require reinforcement, multi-channel emphasis and customer engagement over an extended period of time to deliver brand and product impact and resonance. Take see
Mastercard’s “Priceless” or Coles “Down, down” campaigns as an example. By constantly switching and changing directions, they can be throwing away the value of good ideas that might require time and insights to be tweaked to deliver success.
In that context, companies need to ensure that they set up an overarching series of themes or objectives each year for both their company and their brand. This way, they can ensure that their campaigns are given enough time to deliver the insights required to feed into the next campaign while also allowing themselves the flexibility to adapt as competitors and market change. It’s about developing a two-track approach: plan far enough ahead to have the capacity to be reactionary when required.
Dedicating enough time upfront to planning offers:
● Time to clearly define who your customers are, what their drivers and needs are, and what solutions you are providing that they find value in;
● A smoother execution because you’ve clearly mapped out the course your customers take to purchase and how they engage with your brand;
● A clearer view on performance and improvement over time and the goals you have within them; and
● Improved insights to feed into the tweaking of ongoing and upcoming campaigns.
From these details, you can craft stories and messages that will better resonate with your customers. Strategy is about being clear about where the company will grow, the value it will deliver, where your clients are and the means with which to engage with them. Prioritising long-term thinking enables you to define more clearly those essential points.
Benjamin Hillman is head of marketing at Salmat.
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