Contingency Planning in Marketing

Contingency Planning in Marketing

I once met a military man who had an interesting perspective on life and business. He always had a way out, an exit, a second option. In marketing we call this a contingency plan. In his world he called it survival.

We met in a restaurant to talk about business as he had moved into commercial acquisitions since leaving his special forces life behind but I could see from the first hand shake that he was different.

He needed to sit with his back to the room so that he could survey everything with one glance, at any moment he wanted. He clearly knew where the door was and the quickest route to get there. This was a man so finely honed in the art of survival it had become an instinct.

At no point in the meeting was he truly at ease. He was on a mission, with a clear objective and only fleetingly did he allow himself the luxury of deviation from his course.

I felt this was a shame because it didn’t allow him a chance to express, to take unplanned risks or explore creative solutions. To him the mission was set, and he could execute it, safe in the knowledge that if the first planned option was about to fail he could instantly revert to Plan B or make a hasty exit and be gone.

As we talked, he shared how he was using his past training to great effect in business, buying, building then selling commercial assets and each time with 1. a defined and clear exit strategy, and 2. a contingency plan. The idea of exploring and just seeing how things turn out was as alien to him, as to me, his continuous surveying of the room for an enemy.

We were very much like chalk and cheese, polar opposites and yet in the middle we met with a mutual respect that we were comfortable in our own ways of approaching a commercial relationship. The one element we shared in common was our appreciation of contingency plans. The Plan B.

Rather than a sign of low confidence in Plan A, a contingency plan accepts the inevitability of the known unknown and vitally, the unknown unknown, which can appear at any point and in any guise. To be able to make choices on alternative options wherever you are in life and business based on a pre-planned set of considered second choice routes, just makes sense.

I may not be looking to win battles like my military friend but having contingencies allows me to sleep at night without the need to keep one eye open and that works for me.