As a marketer, you have carefully established plans. But are you ready for when things don’t go as planned?

Our son, Caleb, was born last weekend, but we expected him more than a week earlier. Although births are rarely predictable, we had attempted to plan, and our plans were completely thrown off.

As marketers, things often don’t go as we expect. You can develop Plans A through Z, but you will never have a plan for every possible development.

If the only constant is change, why does change so often take us by surprise?

Here are four things you can do today to get ahead of unexpected changes.

1. Do Your Post-Mortem First

When things are still going good, grab a couple people and start working out the things that can possibly go wrong.

The following questions are a good starting point:

  • What move could our competitor make that would jeapordize our plans?
  • What external factors, such as the economy, can derail our plan?
  • What is the biggest dependency or assumption in our plan and what if it doesn’t happen?
  • What if nothing changes, but the plan doesn’t drive the results expected? Where will you look for the problems?

Doing a post-mortem now will help you adjust plans to accomodate a broader range of possibilities and will prepare you to react to the unexpected.

2. Build in Agility

Are you able to shift quickly? If not, look at your organization and make the changes necessary that allow you to change course as needed. When the unexpected happens, you are not prepared if you cannot move.

3. Always Know Why Things Work

When the unexpected happens, it isn’t possible to still know what will work. The situation is unknown and may impact any element of your plan.

However, if you understand why elements of your marketing plans have succeeded or failed in the past, you can reevaluate them in light of the current environment.

4. Keep Resources Available

In business, keeping resources in the wings is a challenge. However, in order to make changes quickly, you will need budget or time available.

Develop a plan that includes unallocated budget and other resources, with specific plans to use them through the course of the plan along with the flexibility to redirect them. This approach builds flexibility into the structure of the plan while still permitting a full plan to be developed.

Unfortunately, I did not follow my own advice in points 1, 2 and 4, and I was not ready for Caleb’s later than expected arrival!

Your Turn

How do you build planning for the unexpected into your plans, process and organization? Share your advice in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).