The fourth quarter is almost here, and that means many marketing leaders will soon begin planning for 2022. While COVID-19 is still with us, it appears we now have the tools to deal with the pandemic without resorting to policies that would substantially disrupt the economy. Therefore, the business climate is far different today than it was just a year ago.
Despite the more benign business environment, developing an effective marketing plan for 2022 will still be challenging, so it's essential for marketing leaders to employ a sound planning process. Fortunately, a proven technique from military planning can be adapted to help marketing leaders get their planning process started on the right foot.
What Marketers Can Learn from Military Planning
For years, US military commanders at all levels have used a process called METT-TC as an integral part of their planning process. METT-TC is a mnemonic that is designed to help commanders remember and prioritize what to analyze when planning an operation.
METT-TC stands for mission, enemy, terrain, troops available, time and civil considerations. Collectively, these six factors define the environment in which any military operation will be conducted, and commanders must thoroughly analyze each of these factors in order to develop sound operational plans.
In reality, all military operations are METT-TC dependent. The initial plan for an operation must take the METT-TC factors into consideration, and if any of the factors changes significantly as an operation unfolds, commanders must adjust their plans to fit the new circumstances.
Planning a military operation and developing a marketing plan obviously differ in a host of ways, but they have at least one important thing in common. Both will be executed in an environment composed of identifiable factors that will greatly influence success or failure. Therefore, both military commanders and marketing leaders must understand these critical environmental factors and account for them in their plans.
The MEC-R Process
When I work with marketers to develop a marketing plan, I begin with an analysis of four environmental factors. I've created a mnemonic for these factors that serves much the same purpose as METT-TC. My mnemonic is MEC-R, which stands for mission, economic/legal environment, competitive landscape and resources available.
Mission - The mission component of the MEC-R analysis is a clear and concise statement of the task marketing is charged to perform. The mission is usually expressed as an objective or objectives that marketing is expected to achieve.
In most cases, the mission should be distilled down to one primary objective and perhaps one to three secondary objectives. The primary objective will usually relate to revenue growth, while the secondary objectives might relate to things like the number of new customers acquired, reduction of customer churn or improving customer satisfaction. Obviously, marketing's mission must be aligned with, and supportive of, the company's overall business strategy.
Economic/Legal Environment - This MEC-R component involves an analysis of several macroeconomic indicators as well as industry-level economic data. At the macro level, most marketers should include an analysis of the following economic factors using currently available forecasts for the target planning period:
- Real GDP growth
- Unemployment rate
- Consumer income and spending
- Business investment
At the industry level, marketers should focus on economic factors that will or may impact demand for their company's products or services. For example, most B2B marketers should include an analysis of the projected growth rates of major customer segments.
This part of the MEC-R process should also include an analysis of any new or pending laws or regulations that will or may affect demand for the company's products or services and any that will or may affect the marketing methods or tactics the company can use, e.g. data privacy laws or regulations.
Competitive Landscape - This step in the MEC-R process focuses on the competitive attributes of the market in which the company operates. It would include an in-depth analysis of the characteristics, needs and buying behaviors of existing and potential customers, as well as an analysis of existing and potential competitors. During this step, marketers should also evaluate the impact of substitute products or services.
Resources Available - The final component of the MEC-R process is an analysis of the resources that marketers have at their disposal to accomplish their stated mission. "Resources" include people (number, knowledge, skills, etc.), technological capabilities and financial resources. In effect, marketing leaders need to assess what "troops" they have available to accomplish their mission. The plan they ultimately formulate must be "doable" with these resources, or they must identify any resource gaps that will need to be filled.
MEC-R Is the Starting Point
It's important to understand that the MEC-R analysis is only the starting point of the planning process. Marketing leaders will need to address many other issues in order to develop effective marketing plans for 2022. But performing a thorough MEC-R analysis will provide a sound foundation for the rest of the planning process.
Image courtesy of DENAN Production via Flickr (CC).