Agile Business Planning is Good Marketing

Last year 2015 was the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Commemorating a great victory for the British, and a disaster for Napoleon. In fact, for the thousands who died it was a horror. The victory was because Wellington had a clear strategy and adapted it. He had some luck which he made the most of by staying in the heart of the battle. Napoleon relied upon his tried and tested approach using cannon, and was not fighting amongst his men at the front of the action, so could not see what was going on as Wellington was able to. It is an example of adapting to what is happening around you, being truly agile. And agile business planning follows similar principles.

Agile and Marketing

The point of this blog is that the new belief in agile, i.e. customer responsive, short phase project planning is precisely what good marketing should be about. Marketing is not promotion, it is the whole process of research, strategy, implementing the marketing mix and analysing in order to adapt tactics. I was chatting to a client the other day about our 2017 ideas. What struck us both was the importance of being pragmatic, proving things worked and that we could both genuinely believe strategies would work. So, for example, a seminar idea, would need to be based on one delivered recently and successfully by ourselves or a competitor, that had genuine traction. And that we knew we could promote using online, offline, word-of-mouth, social media marketing – all our toolkit etc. and fit into our schedules. Not a pie-in-the sky idea plucked out of nowhere. We have analytics, data, evidence i.e. science to merge with the art of creativity.

Strategy is not a Rush

But it isn’t all rushing around! Watching the Peter Drucker Global 8th Forum 2016  recently, one speaker said how startups could not be expected to plan at all, compared to existing businesses. I think this misunderstood the role of a strategy or plan. As Henry Mintzberg demonstrates with his fantastic emergent model, you should have a plan, with an objective. It is just that you adapt to circumstances, much like a sailing boat tacks i.e. zig-zags rather than follows a straight-line to get to its destination when facing the wind. At Dorset Business Angels we ask for a business plan from entrepreneurs pitching for funds, but investors would frankly be surprised if all the plans were realised. The point is, there needs to be a Plan A, which can then be adapted based upon “when the rubber hits the road” or everyone’s own “Waterloo”. It’s just agile business planning to adapt – and a test of good management.

Wellington and Napoleon

At Waterloo both army leaders Wellington and Napoleon had detailed plans. Both were previously incredibly successful. On the day Napoleon lost. It is debatable what happened, from what I read, Wellington held the higher ground, with many of his troops largely hidden over the ridge. And was supported by the Prussians too in this position whilst the French and Napoleon always optimistic attackers with cannon, could not breach this position. Wellington stayed among his soldiers and clearly knew from his strategy and plan right down to every soldier’s actions, what was going on. I heard someone the other day refer to the “strategy” for their business as if it was something once completed, to be left to a distant group of sages whilst the workers and expert agencies got on with the business in hand. Can you imagine Wellington doing that? Napoleon was certainly at fault, in many historians’ opinions for staying behind the lines and not seeing what was going on with the fighting.


I used to be incredibly impetuous when I got stuff back from DIY shops and smash open the boxes. Then wonder why the legs or items did not fit together properly. I learnt my lesson and now do what it says in the instruction manual. I have a cup of tea and read the manual. A few times!

Do you have an instruction manual for your tasks – a plan or plans? Actually, you probably use all sorts of tools: online software, apps and even paper guides to help you organise work. We are restless in testing out tools to check they work. For example, Mind Maps, project plans, apps and alike. But not gimmicks for the sake of it. There has to be a strategy, plan and profit delivered. No plan, no profit but agile business planning is good marketing.


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