When in strategic planning mode, decisions are made, sometimes too quickly for the sake of keeping momentum up. Assumptions impact decisions and they introduce risk. And that is why it is wise to slow down and test your thinking.
When plotting your marketing strategy for 2015, decisions will be made. Each decision introduces a degree of risk. Sometimes that risk may not surface until you are well into the implementation phase of your marketing strategy – by which time it’s too late to question your assumptions and your thinking. A situation like this can turn into a costly one. And that is why it may be to your advantage to slow the pace while you are in planning mode.
One particular strategy project that I am working on at the moment has me sifting through reports and decisions that my client has made as part of a company wide strategic planning initiative. It’s not in my nature to simply accept the strategy, I tend to question everything – and for good reason. I’ve been conducting research that has helped to justify and challenge some of the decisions they have made. It is this work that has my mind focussed on the topic of assumption making and the risks they impose.
Justify every strategic planning decision
While forging your strategic marketing direction for 2015, make sure to have research or evidence to justify the big decisions you are making. And, make sure you are clear on the assumptions you are making during the process. For clarity the Oxford Dictionary definition of an assumption is “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.” The challenge is that assumptions can sometimes be hard to see. That’s because they are the things that you take for granted, things you don’t normally question. Starting to question them requires a change in the way you think.
Learn to recognise hidden assumptions
To help you develop your strategic thinking, it’s important to learn to identify hidden assumptions. Here is a good tutorial that I found which can help you. I’ve also listed some common assumptions that I see my clients make.
- We are excellent at delivering our service because business is growing. The assumption here is that the company is excellent at delivering their service, and that is why they are growing. There will be other factors contributing to growth. It may be that this assumption is limiting growth my assuming service delivery is great.
- We are not developing any new products this year because our customers keep buying from us so that means our products already meet their needs. The assumption here is that the company thinks their products satisfy customer needs simply because they keep buying. The risk here is customer churn increases if new competitive products come along that satisfy a larger need for clients. The risk here is revenue loss.
- Calls from clients are declining so this means we are delivering a high level of service. The assumption here is that a high level of service is creating a decline in incoming customer calls. There may be other factors leading to the decline and without analysis of call types, this assumption could be limiting growth, or worse creating a decline in revenue.
- We will generate the leads we need every month with PPC activity because that was the best lead generator this past year. This assumption assumes that PPC activity will continue to generate sufficient leads. Other factors that could influence PPC performance have not been taken into consideration, such as increased keyword competition and increased CPC impacting ROI. The danger here is the budget for PPC activity might drain budget from other areas, in order to maintain lead generation levels.
It’s not until you start to question and dig deeper that you can see the risks imposed by assumptions. Early in my marketing career, I learned a hard lesson about making assumptions. Perhaps this is what has led to the development of my strategic thinking. When I’m making decision for my clients, decisions that translate into investment that needs to generate a significant return, I make sure I can justify my thinking. That’s how you can make decisions and implement plans with confidence.
- Take time out to review your marketing strategy for next year.
- Identify the assumptions you made when mapping out your plan.
- Consider the risk associated with each assumption
If you’d like a fresh pair of eyes to review your strategic marketing planning for 2015, get in touch. Contact KG Moore on 01206 646 006 or email us at email@example.com
Special thanks to a great photographer, by the name of Olle Eriksson, who has given us permission to use his image in this blog article. Find more of his great photographs on his website and also his superb Instagram and Facebook accounts.