Have you found yourself needing to change your social media plans lately? 2020 and Covid-19 have changed everything to do with long and short-term strategic planning. There have been lots of winners who’ve adapted quickly to internal and external changes, and many more who’ve not.
From my own conversations, I frequently hear people wish they didn’t have to constantly redraft their immediate plans and instead spend more time planning further out.
An agile strategy helps unlock some of those doors.
If you work in social or digital, the chances are you’ve not seen a plan that goes further than a year into the future, and you’re used to working in weekly, monthly or quarterly production sprints for content. However, you’re likely beholden to the channels you support, which invariably will include products and services which are on multi-year development cycles.
This is where so many have fallen down with stoic strategy over 2020: Markets have shifted and companies are stuck behind the groove selling products which no longer quite meet demands, via a marketing team using creative and channels which were authored and approved three months earlier.
As I write, many agencies are struggling to find the tone for Christmas campaigns, because they have no idea what restrictions will be in place in which market, yet alone what daily life will look like in a week’s time or by the end of the year.
An agile strategy will breaks the long term vision in smaller, more adaptable pieces
You could gather as many senior specialists with as much experience as possible to inform a long term plan – only to find weeks later the world has changed. With this plan, you could find yourself having pre-ordered thirty million VHS cassettes for the following Christmas, while everybody is suddenly buying DVDs.
Agile keeps the longer term vision, but breaks long, complex plans and structures down into smaller achievable chunks that can often be accomplished at greater speed.
It allows you to adapt quickly to internal and external changes, while passing power and authority down the ladder from senior leadership to project, channel and product managers. Traditionally, those chunks tend to be three months long and broken up into weekly work sprints. You can still have vision enriched targets for the year or longer, but they may be subject to change.
Focus on the high-level goals, and be flexible on how to reach them
Remember that agile doesn’t require you to bin business objectives or targets, but be aware that there’s more than one way to reach them.
Rather than planning tactics two years in advance, teams focus on the quarter. If they want to trial a new method, they can get it to market and be raking through the results within weeks, instead of trying to find a gap in the product roadmap in eighteen months.
Agile strategy development requires keeping one eye on the long-term vision and making sure all of the chunks and sprints ladder up to it, and the other eye on relentless improvement. Work that delivers great results can scale up, and work that doesn’t can be shut off and the resource shuffled elsewhere.
The vision isn’t inflexible. As many spirit companies found in the first weeks of the pandemic, there was an abundance of gin sitting on shelves in low demand, but a shortfall of hand sanitiser which could be made from 80% alcohol.
There’s nothing wrong in pivoting from being one of the top gin brands in the UK by cases sold, to becoming one of the top hand sanitiser brands in the UK by cases sold, then changing back six months later as business intelligence informs that it’s time to refocus.
Those who’ve embraced agility early in the pandemic moved their budgets towards digital and social, away from out of home and print. Those who moved fastest got the best deals on CPM before the competition ramped up.
Whether it’s 2020 or 2021, strategy works best when it’s flexible and can adapt to the changing needs of the business and its customers. There’s no point clinging on to an agreed strategy when it will lead the business in the opposite direction to its customers. What’s really needed isn’t to be ‘smarter’, but to be more agile.
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