Effectual Marketing Planning

Effectual marketing like a speedboat

I have to say, I’m intrigued and maybe even fascinated by this concept of effectual marketing planning.  With a bit of research, one discovers that effectual marketing planning is based on the verb, effectuate.  Effectuate means to cause to happen or accomplish.  Effectuation is the noun; the act of implementing, providing a practical means for accomplishing something or carrying into effect.

I was exposed to the concept via an HBR Blog post written by Peter Whalen and Samuel Holloway.  They published a paper about the subject titled, Effectual Marketing Planning (EMP) for New Ventures, in September 2011.  Their premise states that traditional marketing planning (TMP) is not effective for new ventures suggesting a framework for EMP. I suggest the concept could and should be adopted by all firms regardless of size or number of years in business.

I highly recommend reading the paper whether you market for a large multinational, a small start-up or anything in between.  Suppose we look at a spectrum of marketing planning ranging from TMP to ad-hoc.  Where do you lie on the spectrum?  Likely, you like someplace in between leaning one way or the other.  EMP lies closer to ad-hoc.  Therein lies one of the dangers of this concept, confusing EMP for ad-hoc.  Ad hoc or seat-of-the-pants marketing is wasteful and ineffective.  You’re better off not marketing at all if your current modus operandi is ad hoc.

Even if you market for a large multinational, there is a lot of value in Effectual Marketing.  It’s not that the established markets will change much year to year, but the shorter cycles of Effectual Marketing as compared to TMP could benefit any organization.  We have the tools available allowing us (in large firms) to act with agility and an entrepreneurial spirit.  This agility allows the large firm with such a marketing culture to beat the other large competitor stuck in an annual planning cycle.  TMP was developed and grew up when optimization tools like marketing automation were not available.  Many, many firms still don’t get it remaining stuck marketing as if it were the 80’s.

Let me be clear,  I believe strongly in the marketing fundamentals we’re taught in MBA school like the 4 Ps, Porter’s Five Forces, STEP, positioning, value propositions, value chains, etc.  I also believe that in this modern Marketing 2.0 world, by leveraging the digital tools, we are able to measure in real-time, draw quick accurate conclusions, adjust, optimize and engage with our target audiences in a timely and highly relevant manner.  The result, proven to be effective, is higher organic growth rates and bigger market share.

While a company like Emerson is running a 18 month campaign that cost millions and would take a nuclear blast to derail, a company like Siemens could make quarterly adjustments to audiences, messages, and even the design to optimize the effect.  (these are only examples, I have no idea how these companies market)  There’s no excuse not to be measuring, monitoring and optimizing in this day and age.  It doesn’t take too long for a savvy CMO to get a very strong understanding (backed up by data) as to what messages engage his audience and what messages do not work well.  Why would any CMO wait for 12, 18 or 24 months to modify his plan if it isn’t working or shift budget to programs that are working well?  EMP is agility!


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