How many times as marketers have we turned around and said,
“I wish I knew it was going to play out like that”? How many times have we
looked back at a campaign and said “Yeah, that’s great, but if we’d done this
it could have been faster/simpler/more effective”? Sometimes all you can do is
look back and learn for the next time, but that learning phase is key.
Pre-emptive decision making is founded on learning from past experiences and applying that knowledge to future scenarios. This is different to predictive decision making, but applies a similar principle. Think of it more as contingency planning, if you like, applying an “if this happens, what do we do next?” thought process.
What is pre-emptive decision making?
Say you’re preparing a proposal for a new content piece with
an existing client, do you:
- Send it and talk them through your thinking?
- Ask in advance what they want to be covered?
- Cover all angles in the pitch, even if some won’t be needed in full?
- Send a draft through and then finalise after feedback?
- Look back at previous proposals and work from that as a template?
The thing is, there is no right answer to that straight
away. You need to drill down into what you know about the client and how they
like to work; who is the proposal going to? Who signs off on the proposal? What
information do you need to include to get it signed off? How much detail do you
need to go into on different factors (reasoning, creative, execution,
Pre-emptive decision making is a core process of nailing a campaign, whatever that campaign may be, but for it to be effective you need to rely on what you already know. In the above example, if you know your client doesn’t like reading lengthy documents, option 1 might be your best bet. If you know they need to get it signed off by someone else, options 2 and 4 might be your best approach. If you know a previous a proposal has been signed off, option 5. If you need to prove that all angles have been considered, then go with option 3.
If you can guess what the hurdle might be, you can plan how to avoid it. You can preemptively account for blockers and overcome them.
Putting it to use.
The first thing you need to do is understand what blockers you might face, whether that is getting sign off from a client, implementation resource not being available, creative assets not being the right sizes, or delays in sign off. One thing we won’t be able to fully account for is external factors, but we can preempt the challenges that could come with them through strategic campaign planning. The more you know about what could stop you progressing in a campaign, the more you’ll be able to affect the outcomes.
Once you know what the blockers might be, or what challenges
you might face, you create three scenarios (and likely many more in your head):
- The one that fails (e.g. budget isn’t signed
off, resource isn’t available, expected performance isn’t achieved)
- The one that works (e.g. everything goes to plan
with minimal glitches)
- The one that excels (e.g. everything goes to
plan, no glitches, and performance is exceeded)
Then, you make an internal plan for all three scenarios. For
the first, you look at why it failed and work backwards – this is a difficult
but essential skill to master, not looking at what you could change, but why it
would fail. For the second, you plot an ideal timeline and fill in the
requirements for making that happen with assigned points. For the third, you need
to plot in every possible challenge, and every possible way to overcome them
against the ideal timeline so you have an ever-growing set of contingencies to
A bank of contingencies is invaluable. Not just for a single
campaign, proposal, pitch, or decision; but for all future decisions. Whether
that is for a campaign, a client, or your own business decisions, understanding
what could go wrong at any possible point of implementing it and knowing who
you need, what you need to do, and how you need to do it will make your life
(and everyone else’s) much simpler, allowing you to quickly, and effectively,
pivot when you need to.
Marketing is not based on singular decisions. Every decision
has a sub-set of decisions that lead to it and a subsequent set of outcomes
from it. Knowing what gets you there and what you get out the other side will
not only help you with planning but will help you ensure that your decisions
continue in the right direction.
Pre-emptively planning your decisions will not only set you up for success, but will make sure that when you are inevitably faced with a challenge, big or small, along the way, you know how to tackle it and how to move past it.