Tips for a Successful Planning Process

Jon Duke

VP, Strategy

This is the second in our series on annual planning. In the first article we reviewed five of the challenges facing marketers for 2022. In this article we’ll provide some tips for a successful planning process and plan.

The annual planning process often starts by getting everyone in a room and talking about what you’re going to do different next year. But it’s important to take one step back and understand where you are today before looking forward. A great process for this is the planning cycle.



The planning cycle answers the following questions:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Why are we here?
  3. Where could we be?
  4. How could we get there?
  5. Are we there yet?

By using the cycle, we ensure we undertake our work with historical context, connection to the business, understanding of the consumer and our environment, and allow space for transformational thinking rather than just linear evolution. The cycle can be kept quite simple or become a project all its own that progresses throughout the year. The key thing is to give each step its due consideration.

The time horizon for the plan varies but is most often 1-3 years. Many organizations now have plans at this level as well as shorter time horizons that continuously repeat the cycle for a specific product or feature through agile marketing sprints. These sprints can keep up the cadence of execution and drastically shorten the learning loop, but must be in support of a larger cohesive plan.



To set yourself up for success, here are a few more things to consider as your design your planning process.

External Perspectives
We tend to focus on the information we have at hand, which is often internal data. Ensure you have a plan for bringing in external perspectives, whether that is a look at competitive activity, consumer research or conversations with customers and partners. This is essential for understanding where you are today as well as evaluating potential future directions.

Internal Engagement
Think about who is part of your working group, who you need information from and who you need support and endorsement from. If your organization has a strategic plan or business plan you will of course want to align with it. But chances are there will still be large gaps that you’ll need to fill. You’ll also need to get a sense of the changes anticipated across the organization that you can support or that will impact your efforts.

Human Factors
There is an expectation for planning to be data driven. And while this is important it can make plans cold and somewhat detached from the real world. It also excludes a large pull of information that can help you make better decisions. Human factors and emotional drivers are often more important than data points and research. Take time to consider how human factors can impact internal execution as well as consumer adoption.

Avoiding Planning Paralysis
It’s a difficult balance between spending your time planning and doing. Ensure you start the process early and have clear decision gates so that your internal stakeholders feel a sense of purpose and momentum around your planning process. You can’t plan away all risk and you’ll never know for sure if something will work until you test your assumptions and ideas in the real world. Set out a process that is appropriate for the scale of your resources (time, money, staff) and get to work with some low cost market tests on your key priorities.

Now that you’re thinking about the process, next week we’ll give you some tips to kick start your 2022 planning.

m5 is one of the largest independent agencies in Canada. We help our clients find new perspectives on their business and consumers. If you could use some outside advice on your planning process let us know!

Jon Duke
VP, Strategy
[email protected]