We’re done with traditional marketing planning. Here’s why.

Woman looks at glass board with sticky notes that have different ideas written on them.

On the other side of a pandemic that rocked every industry, the idea of planning ahead has become a bit of a joke. “What even is time?” we ask, rhetorically — and for good reason. Modern life moves a lot faster than it used to. In this “new normal,” change is inevitable. So, why are some companies still using traditional annual plans to guide their brand and business decisions? In today’s volatile business climate, you need a more malleable approach. You need a roadmap.

Five reasons why roadmaps are the key to navigating an uncertain future.

1. You don’t need a crystal ball.

Rather than adhering strictly to a predetermined plan, a roadmap is a dynamic framework that allows for adjustments based on real-time insights and changing market conditions. We can’t accurately predict what business looks like one to three years in the future, but we can make a pretty good guess at what the next three, six or nine months look like. And with a well-defined brand vision for your business, we make decisions based on the general direction you’re trying to go.

2. You get to learn as you go.

For a successful roadmap strategy, you need the discipline to continuously measure results. By tracking progress toward your goals more often, you gain valuable (objective) insights into what’s working and where adjustments are needed. So, instead of solely reacting to changes outside of your control, you’ll have what you need to make proactive decisions with greater confidence. Keep in mind, accountability is essential. Identify who is responsible for monitoring and analyzing the data as well as when updates are shared and through what channel. 

3. Transparency builds greater team alignment.

As the old saying goes, when you know better, you do better. With this approach, everyone involved must be willing to consider the realities of the data and adjust their strategies accordingly. Embracing transparency fosters a culture of responsibility and informed decision-making — based on empirical evidence rather than assumptions. Transparency also helps you understand which aspects of your business model have the most impact on revenue, customer retention, market share and more. When you normalize fluctuations in your business based on hard data, you’ll create an open-minded environment that encourages creative, intentional solutions over “fire drill” quick fixes. Plus, making a strategy adjustment isn’t always bad news! Sometimes you’ll stumble upon data that points toward a promising opportunity.

4. Your priorities can shift.

Traditional plans are sequential and chronological, where the success of any step depends on completing the step before it. The last thing you want in a world that moves quickly is a bottleneck that slows everyone down, whether they’re directly affected or not. Roadmaps allow for things to be re-sequenced based on changing priorities. This level of flexibility is particularly valuable for product launches and other initiatives where timing is critical. With a roadmap, you can pivot seamlessly in response to market feedback and emerging trends.

5. It’s all about the execution.

With a roadmap, the emphasis shifts from exhaustive planning to focused execution. While detailed plans (the “how”) are still necessary for implementation, the primary goal of a roadmap is to provide a general path forward (the “what” and the “why”). Instead of splitting hairs over minute details that may or may not be relevant in the future, wouldn’t you rather spend valuable time and resources delivering results today?

Client example:

Roger is a company that makes trucking technology for the agricultural industry. When we first started working together, they aspired to be a neutral platform connecting the two sides of trucking logistics: carriers and shippers. The idea was to create a product carriers would naturally love and, therefore, adopt. If shippers wanted to participate in the marketplace, they would have to join, too. High user engagement was the plan.

After analyzing the initial data from users, they discovered that change management was a bigger obstacle than they thought for both carriers and shippers. If Roger had been following a traditional planning approach, they could have easily gotten stuck looking for ways to boost user engagement. With a roadmap approach, the Roger team shifted their priorities. Instead of focusing on user engagement with carriers, they put more resources toward implementation and supporting change management inside customer organizations.

From the first launch to the new direction, we helped make a measurable impact, including:


    • More than 150,000 loads completed on the app in the first year

    • Adoption by over 500 carriers in the first year

    • Over 1 million impressions generated

The bottom line.

The roadmap strategy offers a pragmatic alternative to traditional brand planning, so organizations can navigate uncertainty with confidence. By embracing flexibility, continuous measurement, transparency and shifting priorities, you can steer your brand toward success on your terms. If you want to talk more about a roadmap for your brand, let’s talk. Navigating change is what our services are all about.

Leanne Prewitt

President & Chief Executive Officer

Shaped by her background in creative direction, Leanne leads the agency’s culture and creative vision and also oversees the operations that allow a team of marketing, design and media specialists to create powerful and effective work for their client partners.

Leanne began her professional career in New York City working for some of the nation’s leading agencies. In 2016, after a five-month sabbatical around the world, she returned to her hometown and joined Ervin & Smith. Her global perspective and expanded professional experience influence the work she does today.