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What’s slowing down CMOs in their post-COVID-19 planning?

By Michael McCune | April 04, 2020 | 0 Comments

MarketingMarketing Leadership and Strategy

The external hunt for answers delays critical internal actions.


Last week I wrote about questions CMOs asked on calls and in peer forums.

This week the client conversations turned to “How do I answer the questions?”

And there are a lot of questions….

Some marketers simply turn on the fire hose of prognostications. I hear clients say, “We’re looking for anything that might help. What do you have?” They spend their time devouring speculation.

But no one really knows, and I try to turn those clients inward so they don’t waste their time.

Other marketers are already looking within for answers. Not in a mystical sense; they simply realize it is up to their own organization to decide what to anticipate and prepare for.

These leaders say they want to lean on scenario planning. But traditional approaches seem too slow and involve too few people. They want to involve more people and move quickly.

To help them get moving, I’ve been putting forth two case studies that can be adapted to affect a more rapid and ‘agile’ approach.


Aligning Assumptions  At The Start


If you are going to run high-speed planning for multiple scenarios, it will help to surface stakeholder assumptions and beliefs ahead of time. I use an older case from Ericsson to underscore the value of this.

Ericsson learned that great plans can be waylaid by unknown and un-calibrated voices. Amongst several types of ‘voice’, I focus clients on two:

  • Collective biases of senior leadership
  • Individual biases within the senior leadership ranks


Working off this case, one company did a quick poll of executives using a Google Form to get a grip on where they stood as a group (Image).


Through this, they discovered their areas of alignment, areas where alignment might be unstable, and places where their own voice was an outlier.

You don’t need external partners to do this kind of rapid polling, but depending on your culture, you may need a third-party to help get aligned.


Prioritizing Which Scenarios to Target


While aligning assumptions makes scenario planning go faster, one still needs to decide what scenarios to work on.

With so many shifts occurring, an organization can become paralyzed trying to prioritize one over another. This is where I leverage a case study from John Deere (sub. req.) that was originally used for trend impact assessments. In our current climate, it can also be used to quickly prioritize which trends to focus on.

Polling is a part of this effort as well. The key is to use multiple criteria with simple scoring. In John Deere’s case, they had seven categories that each trend (scenario in our case) was scored on: low, medium, or high:



  • Potential for New Business
  • Potential for Disruption
  • Potential for Market Shifting
  • Rate of Technology Adoption
  • Portfolio Impact
  • Revenue Potential
  • Organizational Readiness


Of course, I tell clients to alter categories as suits their own situation. The image below gives a sense of the intended outcome after a couple of screeners:




Don’t Forget Your Customers


When you stop looking at competitors, peer organizations, or other external data points, you still aren’t alone. You have your customers.

As my colleague Augie Ray points out in his blog post today, “Once you understand the diversity of needs your customers have, you can begin to consider the actions and information your organization can provide to satisfy those needs.”  

The emphasis on ‘your organization’ is mine. But it should likely be yours, too.

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