Pivot Planning Takes Flight

Pivot Planning is increasingly shaping the business agenda in 2020. In August, we urged businesses to embrace Pivot Planning, which means preparing for sudden moments when a business needs to pivot. Now, leading research firm Forrester Research has validated our stance and amplified Pivot Planning with a new report, “How to Pivot to People-Led Planning.” Forrester urges marketers “to leave behind traditional periodic spreadsheet marketing plans for ones that are more flexible, agile, and iterative.” Indeed, we believe Pivot Planning will become even more essential in the years to come, as businesses everywhere learn from the harsh lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for the unexpected moments that can change the world. Let’s take a closer look.


Pivot Planning Defined

Pivot Planning is about developing a readiness for action for when pivotal moments occur, even when you may not know what the ultimate action may be. Sometimes these pivots can be positive, such as a culturally defining moment where a brand has an unexpected opportunity to lead with purpose and authenticity, acting on meaningful change. Sometimes pivots can be negative, like a sudden boycott or service outage. We compare Pivot Planning to preparing for an earthquake. Your business cannot predict when one will strike (or whether you’ll be affected) but you can certainly plan for the event and get your emergency kit and plans ready.

As Isobar Chief Strategy Officer Jory Edmunds said in the Forrester report, “It was always the case that companies needed to take a sense-and-respond approach to their planning and operations. It’s just even more so now because the COVID-19 pandemic is changing circumstances from state to state, moment to moment.”

At Isobar, we work with brands to enact Pivot Planning along four major dimensions, which we explain in our post: 

  1. Rethinking the annual plan.
  2. Doing constant pulse checks. 
  3. A dedication to collaboration.
  4. Core teams to make it real.


Forrester’s Take on Pivot Planning

Forrester focuses on making marketing teams more agile and responsive to constantly evolving customer needs. Analysts Shar VanBoskirk and Stephanie Liu point out examples of businesses whose marketing campaigns were either tone deaf or blatantly inappropriate because they failed to respond to rapidly changing consumer sentiment as the pandemic took hold. In a blog post announcing the report, Stephanie Liu urges marketing teams to be more responsive and agile by adopting “people-led planning,” which has three core tenets: continuous operation, ongoing measurement, and flexible budgets and tactics. 

Forrester stresses (and we agree) that businesses should make it their goal to make people-led planning practices stick after the current crisis ends. That’s because if COVID-19 has taught businesses anything, it’s the need to develop agile ways of working for when another pivot happens.


Pivot Planning Is Real

Businesses are using Pivot Planning and realizing benefits from it now. Forrester discusses a travel company that worked with Isobar to pivot when the pandemic rocked the travel industry in March. Isobar helped the client in a number of ways, such adopting a contact-free customer experience, doing constant pulse checks of the business and its customer, and being more nimble with media and customer experience investments. 

Forrester quotes Isobar Senior Vice President Tim Haarmann on the value of choosing a narrowly defined set of high-impact contact-free experiences as opposed to hitting the panic button and sampling a variety of possible digital experiences: “Going after a few initiatives with a combined client and agency SWAT team will get work in-market quickly to then test and provide learning for additional initiatives to fast-follow.” Sometimes less is more with Pivot Planning. 

In addition, Tim discusses the value of frequent pulse checks with the client: “We encourage our clients to show up to every meeting ready to play. Think on decisions between check-ins to keep moving the work forward.” When you meet frequently, you need to be on your toes at all times.

The Forrester report is significant because it raises awareness for a way of working that will help businesses be more adaptable and customer-centric. As we write this post, a number of potentially pivotal moments loom, such as a presidential election in the United States. Don’t wait for the pivot. Plan for it.

Contact Isobar

Pivot Planning is not about a crystal ball that predicts the future. Instead, this is about embracing new ways of understanding market shifts and preparing to take action when unexpected pivots come into focus. Contact Isobar to learn how we can help you embrace Pivot Planning, and let’s pivot together.