By Sam Melnick
“I can’t wait for planning season to start!” said no marketer ever.
Let’s be real, for marketers, planning season can be a grind. It often involves long meetings, bloated documents, and endless debates to (try and) scramble together a plan for the year. Then once this masterful plan is completed, it’s promptly put in a PowerPoint or spreadsheet and saved to a share drive never to be opened again.
In a perfect world, a marketing team would refer to their plan monthly to stay aligned to company objectives, guide their progress through execution and monitor their performance against their targets. But in reality, this is a rare occurrence.
There’s an array of reasons why marketers stray from their marketing plans – they get swamped with execution, there’s a change in strategy, they receive a budget cut, and on and on. But whatever the reason, the fact remains that in order to execute against goals effectively, there must be a sound strategy in place, and that begins with your marketing plan.
So, what can you do to improve your marketing planning process?
Behind the Scenes
Your secret weapon for better marketing planning lies in your Marketing Operations (MOps) team. The MOps team should be the ‘right hand’ of the CMO. They live and breathe strategy, data, and process, making them the perfect steward of the marketing plan. While much of the marketing organization is focused on “doing” or executing campaigns and tactics, Marketing Ops runs the show behind the scene, guiding the actual execution.
Here are three foundational steps your Marketing Ops team can take to set you up for a better marketing year ahead and why this group is right to lead the process.
1. Align Marketing Plans with Corporate Objectives
Creating plans in a vacuum is almost a guaranteed recipe for failure. Without the context of what the business is trying to achieve a plan may never have a chance to succeed. According to Allocadia’s 2016 Marketing Performance Management (MPM) Benchmark Survey, high-growth organizations are two times more likely to align marketing KPIs directly to contribution to the business than those with negative to flat growth.
“(Aligning with corporate objectives) allows you to create a plan that is specific to certain business targets and that is scalable and repeatable and, at the end of the day, can show a return on corporate investments.” Ken Evans, Senior Director of Marketing Operations at Fuze
Why Marketing Ops is the best group to lead: Marketing Operations should be in constant communication with the CMO and Marketing leadership around the current state of Marketing’s performance (e.g. where are we spending, what are our results, and what is the most effective). With this knowledge, they can naturally advise on effective plans that meet the business needs and set realistic expectations on performance.
2.Structure Plans According to Industry Standards
To create alignment across a global marketing organization there must be consistency in the way everyone plans, tracks, and measures their activities. To do this successfully a standardized marketing taxonomy and planning structure is required. Not only does this ensure every Marketing team member reads from the same playbook, but it sets up clear data and measurement structures.
Rather than inventing your own process or terminology, work with an external source. For Investment planning, both IDC’s CMO Advisory Service and SiriusDecisions’s Marketing Operations Group have strong taxonomies and benchmarks. Groups like Gartner and Forrester have similar practices as well. At Allocadia we use the SiriusDecisions Campaign Framework and so do many of our customers including National Instruments.
Here are 3 tips from National Instruments on adopting frameworks to improve marketing planning:
- Implement the framework in bite-sized pieces to avoid getting overwhelmed
- Invest in a cloud-based technology to manage your global marketing plans, investments and returns
- Adopt a formal decision-making process such as the RAPID model so global teams know exactly when, where and which people were involved throughout the planning process.
Why Marketing Ops is the best group to lead: Marketing Operations plays a critical role in building alignment across teams, processes and programs in the marketing organization. They manage everything from improving operational efficiencies to streamlining technologies and reporting on analytics to the CMO. Typically they sit in a central part of the organization, the perfect spot to define taxonomies and processes.
3. Create Top-Down and Bottom-Up Plans
Both top-down strategic plans and bottom-up activity plans are valuable and necessary. But if a marketing organization focuses too heavily on the top-down plan, there is a risk of getting separated from the reality of what goes in the field. Jump too quickly to the tactical activity-based plan and there will be a disconnect between product lines, regions, and the corporate strategy.
Taking the plan on from both angles takes finesse. On one end, there must be communication with the leadership team to set strategic objectives. Then at the same time there must coordination with all the regional and business unit marketing teams on a global bottom-up planning process that lead to hitting those strategic targets. This takes time and effort.
Why Marketing Ops is the best group to lead: Marketing Operations is the the group that is positioned as a strategic arm of the marketing leadership, but also an enabler to the marketers in the field. This allows them to lead the negotiations and reconciliations between the strategy (leadership) and mechanics to actually accomplish the goals (activity plans in the field).
No Better Time
With planning season in full force for those who have a calendar year fiscal, there’s no better time for Marketing Operations to start implementing the three steps to better marketing planning.
For a more in-depth discussion I’ll be speaking on a live webinar with Debbie Qaqish, Chief Strategy Officer at The Pedowitz Group, an Oracle partner, about how Marketing Ops leads the annual planning process. We’ll be sharing real world examples of highly-successful global marketing planning strategies led by Marketing Ops, common planning pitfalls and providing a step-by-step guide on how your marketing ops pros can turn your plan into actionable results.
Now’s the time to lay the foundation for better marketing planning, don’t miss out!
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