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  • Writer's pictureJudy C. Arnold

If hindsight is 2020, what does that mean for 2021 plans?

Isn’t it a bit ironic that 20/20 is a term used in ophthalmology to mean “normal vison?” We all know that this year, 2020, has been anything but normal.

So, how do you learn from this year to build a business and marketing plan for the next 12 months?

First, it’s important to recognize why you need to have a plan. A marketing plan is like a map. It’s your guide—meant to be flexible and allow you to adapt. Compare it to taking a trip. It wouldn’t be wise to travel to a new city, state or country without a map or digital navigation tool. You would want to map out a path that meets your needs—scenic back roads for a relaxing vacation or faster highways if speed from destination to destination is your objective.

If you run into obstacles, your map or nav system helps you identify detours or other routes. You have the tool you need to easily adapt and make changes. Without a map, it would be like being left in a forest without a compass, food or water. Similarly, a marketing plan is intended to serve as a directional path for testing, learning and pivoting.

Secondly, traditional marketing planning relies on looking at past results, industry and benchmark trends, learning from these, building on them, and identifying new innovative approaches to try. Couple that with determining your business objectives for the next year, you then devise marketing strategies and tactics to achieve those goals.

Although your vision for 2020 compared to reality may be very different, it’s still critical to look at your original intentions, what worked and what didn’t, and how you were able to shift to new ways of doing things to generate business. Recognizing the challenges of the pandemic, the unknowns of a vaccine, and further economic impacts, you have to find a way to be prepared.

But how?

I recommend focusing on 6 key words and approaches to help you build a successful plan for the year ahead.

Now more than ever, we have been forced to manage change, and excel in a fluid environment. Frankly, marketing, technology enhancements and the pace of business demand that more and more.

According to Richard B. Joelson, a psychotherapist and author, there are three states of awareness that are important to keep in mind when it comes to change. These also apply to assessing your business and marketing plans—hindsight, insight and foresight.

HINDSIGHT. By definition, hindsight is always after the fact. Per Merriam-Webster, it’s the “perception of the nature of an event after it has happened’ and is ‘twenty-twenty’ (ironically). But the knowledge and understanding you have about something only after it has happened is valuable.

INSIGHT. On the other hand, insight can occur during the process of change, when you become self-aware of an action or behavior. In this case, there may be time to take a different action or make an alternative decision.

FORESIGHT. The final goal in promoting change is achieving the state of self-awareness, or foresight. It’s an act of looking forward and in a sense, predicting an outcome.

Keeping hindsight, insight and foresight in mind, we need to also remember that the obsession with speed is optional. But proceeding deliberately, focused on doing the right things right, finishing key activities instead of starting and stopping, will deliver effective marketing. That requires agility, adaptability and transformation.

AGILITY. Agile marketing is critical in volatile times. Agile systems force marketers to make choices and tradeoffs and be very disciplined with execution. It’s about moving, thinking and understanding quickly and easily to implement effectively.

ADAPTABILITY. Over prepare through scenario-planning to create strategic bets and potential pivots. Embrace ambiguity and work though a variety of options to help you and your team adapt to environmental changes and client demands.

TRANSFORMATION. Digital transformation, ready or not, was thrust on businesses, consumers, students, teachers and just about everyone during this year. Wise advice from Emma Robertson, CEO of Engine Transformation, regarding planning during a pandemic, recommends that we “Make transformation a mindset not a program.” It’s an ongoing skill, process and ability you need to continually refine. Focus on being fluid and collaborate with your team and colleagues to identify new and innovative approaches that are realistic and doable.

Planning for the unknown may not be easy. But think about explorers and inventors who had the courage to go where no one else has. Like those pioneers, you have had to react to this pandemic and reinvent yourself and your business to face those challenges. Lean on that knowledge and experience to inspire your path forward. Chart your own course. Otherwise, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." (Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland)

For more information and to discuss your plans for next year, contact me at

Sources of inspiration:

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