The Great Unknown of 2021

The Great Unknown of 2021

Marketing Contingencies, Expectations and Planning for the Unexpected in the Year to Come

Enormous challenges and changes have been thrown at businesses in every market in 2020, but most important, it has taught us that planning for this new year requires a new approach, different perspectives, keen perception, meticulous contingency planning, and perseverance. Oh, don’t leave out flexibility and tenacity.

A recent article in MarTech about predictions for the year to come delves into the role of data analytics and the particular advantage it holds for marketing and sales. Companies not looking closely and deeper into their data as they forecast into 2021 will find themselves holding a key with no idea what door it fits.

Perception is all about knowing the here-and-now. Think about the changes experienced by your existing and prospective customers, different distribution methods, work environments, expectations, attitudes, wants, needs and levels of tolerance. We’re a marketing company, among other things, so I’d be remiss not to state the obvious: Market research on an accelerated time line is the only way to truly understand your customers. In 2020, research intervals of two to three years, typical of many organizations, shrunk to six months. That’s just about the minimum time your business needs to react to market conditions.

The best companies facing these changes are already using scenario analysis and PEST analysis (political, economic, socio-cultural and technological) to examine short term verses the traditional long term strategic view to guide their tactical approaches to changing markets. Most are at minimum looking to SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threat Analysis) just to ensure the key business managers are aware of market trends, competitor positioning and taking advantage of every strength while addressing and shoring-up weaknesses.

Planning requires contingency alternatives of the first order. What will further adaption to accommodate the pandemic bring and what is the time frame? How many people will rejoin the workforce and from where, home, office or a combination? What limitations – or freedoms – do these new work circumstances require or offer. Prioritizing these opportunities and challenges is key, and careful risk analysis is essential.

The best companies are doing weekly and monthly planning with their front line sales force observing and working with key clients and corporate groups. They’re in close touch with local, state and national services associated with COVID vaccine implementation and, equally as important, new restrictions and safety measures.

Perseverance is critical, for many companies, it is not business as usual and it is not an annual strategic planning session, it is an ongoing analysis to maintain strategic direction and profitability with a flexible, tactical approach.

The Best companies are creating tactical scenarios that will ensure short (3-6 month), mid (6-12 month) and long term decisions are made in a timely manner, with customer research to ensure profitability and take advantage of opportunities in changing markets.

Is your organizing reading your data with an eye for contingency planning? If not, we can help. Email Rob Beachy at

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