When & How To Pivot Your Marketing Plan

Published: April 19, 2024

🫰Q1 is the most important 3 months of the year for a marketing team. Missing your acquisition numbers in Q1 makes it harder to hit numbers later in the year.

It would be like running a race with only one shoe. You’ll keep going, but it’s going to be uncomfortable and your chances of finishing the race with a good time is slim to none.

So, when do you pivot your marketing plan? It can be very challenging for a marketing leader to admit the plan they worked so hard on during the budget cycle isn’t going to cut it.

But i’ll give you a hint – if your scorecard or marketing metrics look like this…it’s time to pivot. On a first glance it has some green – but there is a whole lot of yellow and red in here as well.

Matt Verlaque, the COO of Dan Martell’s SaaS academy posted something recently in his newsletter that sums up the challenge. Matt said,

Planning is safe. You hold all the cards, you can write down all the rationale, and it always ends the way you want it to. Reality, on the other hand, is scary as hell. You hold very few of the cards. People are irrational, they make emotional decisions, and those decisions have real financial impact on you and your business. It’s incredibly uncertain, and you have to come to terms with the fact that your plan is gonna change 57 times before you start to see some success.

So long story short…spend a little time building a plan. Get the plan in front of the real world as rapidly as possible. Measure, iterate, improve, and learn as you go. It’s scarier…it’s faster…it’s somewhat more chaotic…but it’s also the fastest way to discover what the real problems are, and to create the results that you so desperately want.

3 Steps To Pivoting Your Marketing Plan

Step 1 – Make sure you know the root problem you are solving for

A common mistake marketing teams make is not focusing on the same problem. Here is an example

New member acquisition is down by 20%.

  • The sales team notices leads are down 10% so that must be the reason
  • The marketing team recognizes traffic to the pricing page is down 6% so that must be the reason
  • The marketing leader learns that the amount of leads converting is down 3% QoQ.

So who is right? What is the root problem that needs solved?

Of course this is a fictitious example, but in reality you need to look back at your historical numbers or look to your future plans and get REALLY clear which metric is going to drive the results you need. Because if you focus on the wrong metric – you marketing pivot will likely fall short.

If you focus on traffic when it’s lead conversion that is the root problem you will create a leaky bucket.

If you focus on lead conversion you run the risk of your math not working long term because you don’t have enough traffic to scale to hit future goals.

So the point here is – get really clear on what you are solving with a pivot to the plan. It’s likely

  1. Market (traffic)
  2. Message (offers, lead generation strategies, etc)
  3. Medium (channels. Is there a channel that just stopped working? Why?)

Step 2 – Work on the plan in secret

Bare with me. This might sound like bad advice at a first glance.

I am writing to YOU 🫵, a marketing leader. Ultimately it’s YOUR responsibility to have a plan and you are accountable to the high level numbers. But you need a team to help you execute it.

One of my favorite quotes comes from John Doerr

A plan is only as good as its implementation

You CANNOT abdicate here and ask the team to come back to you with a new plan (or can you?). The answer is actually yes…but do not skip this important step.

Often times a marketing team is handed a plan with numbers they need to hit for the business. This is especially true for sales roles. This approach to marketing and planning leaves employees feeling like they aren’t apart of making the plan so it’s easy to push off blame when the plan’s execution doesn’t hit numbers. They don’t feel responsible for the plan because they didn’t make the plan. They can say “well of course that wouldn’t get us to $104k of new MRR this year.”

We are going to fix that in the next step.

But first…

Ideally, you have some thoughts on what the pivot needs to be. You should get those down as clearly as you can with the following

  1. Pivot
  2. What the risks are
  3. What you will need to start doing & stop doing
  4. Budget needed
  5. Resources needed
  6. Questions the team will likely have

Don’t show this to anyone – it will corrupt their thinking that is critical for the next step.

Keep this plan in your secret folder until the next step…

Step 3 – Enroll the team in creating a new plan WITH you

Here is where the magic happens. You are going to ask the team to work with you and align on the 1 BIG problem with the marketing plan (the root problem from above in step 1). You are going to make sure they are crystal clear on it.

Then you are going to ask them to come up with 3 ideas or marketing strategies that will help solve that challenge.

It’s quite literally 3. Don’t accept 4 and certainly not 2 ideas. Make sure it’s 3. You might be asking why? 3 months in a quarter, 3 attempts to get it right, creates deeper thinking between we could do this or that.

🫰 Bonus tip: put a tight timeline on getting the team member’s ideas back to you. Literally say you want them in under 24 hours.

Why a tight turnaround?

  1. Shows how engaged they are in helping right-size the plan
  2. Shows how quickly they can think critical
  3. Doesn’t allow for analysis paralysis or perfection to kick in

Remember – you will likely have to pivot the plan again – don’t waste time on perfecting something that might change in 3-6 months.

Okay – now that you have all 3 ideas from everyone on your team – the real work begins.

You are going to put them all in a document and look for themes, overlap, integrated bets, things you have tried before, things you haven’t tried.

It’s a good idea to group these by potential impact, risk and complexity

Just throw a random score on them to help you start thinking through the options. Here is an example of what you might get back from your team

IdeaRevenue ImpactRisk To The BusinessComplexity
Host a live event4/107/1010/10
Redo our demo5/106/102/10
Offer a free trial8/108/103/10

The magic comes in using their ideas to extend or alter the ideas you took down in step #2 above. If your team is giving you completely different ideas that what you think needs to be done you have one of two problems.

  1. You don’t understand how to fix the problem and your team does
  2. Your team doesn’t have the skills or right level of thinking to solve the problem

If you are unclear which problem is the one you are facing – get some mentorship or coaching from someone on your leadership team.

How to present the plan after you pivot

Okay – let’s do a quick recap

  1. You are crystal clear on the problem you are trying to solve
  2. You wrote down a plan that YOU think will get you back on track
  3. You asked the team to give you their 3 best ideas and are morphing them into your plan from step 2.

Now what?

It’s time to present back to your marketing team the plan they made. Because in reality, they made it with some of your help. You didn’t give them the answers but rather the space and data they needed to work with you on the pivot.

We are making a large assumption here that between the marketing leader and the team – you were able to come up with the right ideas to pivot the plan.

Again, it’s only as good as the execution. So get out of planning mode and start executing to learn if you made the right decisions. Track your data closely, making informed but fast decisions and move on. You will likely need to change the plan again. So take some pressure off getting it right the first, second or even third time.

🫰Bonus tip: it’s always a good idea to let the rest of the company know when the marketing team is pivoting. It can ensure good collaboration and partnership across the org.

Join The Newsletter

Get occasional emails from me when I publish new projects and articles.

Published By Alex

I am a seasoned SaaS marketer and leader who has helped Carrot grow to an 8-figure SaaS business. In my free time I enjoy reading business and personal growth books, hacking on side projects and hunting.