Design Thinking for Marketers: Creating Your Marketing Plan

Most organizations – small or large – have a marketing plan. It outlines planned marketing efforts for a period of time, usually for the fiscal year, and is generally a linear process. What if you instead used a design thinking approach to guide your next marketing plan?

Design thinking is a mindset that focuses on understanding the people you create for before taking action. You stop to question existing assumptions and reframe unclear problems before creating anything – whether it’s a product, service, or yes, even a marketing plan. Below are a couple of concepts from design thinking that you can apply when creating your plan.

Diverge and Converge:

Planning is often linear but it doesn’t have to me. Instead of walking through predefined steps to create a plan, design thinking instead encourages convergence and divergence in design thinking projects.
Design Thinking
When diverging, team members go broad, coming up with as many ideas as possible without limitations. Going for quantity is what will eventually result in quality. This can be about channels, messaging or any other component of a plan. By examining all the possibilities, the marketing team has the freedom to come up with fresh ideas.

In convergence, team members come back together to select the best ideas to meet their goals. Some of the ideas may be so far out, they aren’t feasible. That’s okay — allowing people to go broad inspires creativity and gives room for legitimate ideas to emerge.

Apply the NUF test:

This is a simple chart used to evaluate any idea – including marketing strategies. The NUF test allows you to quickly evaluate an issue by rating whether it’s new, useful, and feasible. Team members provide their ratings independently then come back together as a group to reach consensus.

New doesn’t always mean better but new does stand out more than the old. Run your proposed marketing plan through this filter to decide if you are trying some new things in the upcoming or if it’s just a copy and paste from last year. Also, evaluate if it is the same thing your competitors are doing.

Is it useful? Tie it back to the business objectives. This can reign the team in if people go too far into the left field as they come up with new ideas during divergence. Does your plan support the company’s goals? This keeps you focused.

Is it feasible? When you diverge in design thinking, you go as wide as you want. There are no limits to inspire creativity. In the convergence phase, you bring those ideas back in to determine if they are doable. You want to end up with an idea that the team can carry out with allocated resources.

These practices will inspire you and keep your plan fresh. But once you have a plan, don’t treat it as a static document for your designated period of time. Remember that pain points will change, new competitors will come to market, customer expectations will change and shifts in the environment will impact what people want and need. Keep measuring and make changes as needed to maximize your company ROI.

Check out part 1 and part 2 of the Design Thinking for Marketers blog series!

Design Thinking for Marketers:
The Value of Iteration

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Tina Arnoldi
Tina Arnoldi