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How to Use Scenarios to Achieve Marketing Agility

by Laura Patterson  |  
December 7, 2016

Agile companies want to be able to rapidly adjust on all fronts, including Marketing. Companies are interested in marketing that's agile because they believe it will help them deploy the right elements of the marketing mix at the right time to influence the specific outcome they want to achieve.

Scenarios to Facilitate Agility

Scenarios are postulated sequences of events or other developments. Creating scenarios helps you consider a range of possible outcomes and drivers of change. Accordingly, scenarios are a powerful tool for understanding potential situations and then developing appropriate strategies for each of those situations.

In short, scenarios help you anticipate. They help you ask better questions and prepare for the unexpected. They increase your readiness—thus setting the stage for agility. And scenario analysis is an essential part of creating agility.

Creating scenarios that will be useful in helping to make marketing agile requires data and timing information. Therefore, you need answers to the following types of questions:

  • What data can change, and by how much, regarding customers, the market, and the competition?
  • What data are predictive of a key prospect or customer behavior?
  • What data are essential for effectively engaging with customers and prospects?
  • What data are required to support a consistent cross-channel customer experience?

How to Create Scenarios

To effectively use scenarios and incorporate them into your planning, you need to cover the full range of possibilities. They require both art and science, so follow these general principles:

  • Look for events that are certain or nearly certain to happen.
  • Create scenarios that cover a broad range of outcomes.
  • Identify at least 3-5 critical uncertainties.
  • Develop at least four scenarios to address each of these uncertainties. (Why four? So people don't lean toward the middle one.)
  • Create a weighting scale to evaluate the probability and risk of each scenario.
  • Use the scenario with the highest probability weighting as your primary case.

Before you create your scenarios, however, define your scope and time frame. Ask what information would be of greatest value to the organization at what period down the road. It might help to look at the past and think about what you wish you had known then that you know now. Clarify the issues that are key for Marketing, then identify the industry, political, economic, societal, technological, and legal, trends that might affect those issues. Next, you are ready to identify the key uncertainties—those events the outcomes of which are uncertain and which will significantly affect the issues you are concerned with; note the relationships among those uncertainties, and keep those trends in mind.

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Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM

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