Are You Taking Your Marketing Planning Seriously?

Don’t half-bake your marketing plan, it’s the most important thing you will do all year

As marketers, we understand that a marketing plan is the most important and strategic document we will produce all year. The problem is we don’t always treat it as such. For many of us, the urgent seems to get in the way of the important and we end up rushing to complete our plans at the end of the year to make deadlines associated with executive team presentations. 

During the marketing planning process, we often create the plans in silos with little input from sales or the product team. For those of you who have been with a company for more than a year, were you lazy and started with last year’s plan and built the current plan off of it?  Be honest.

CMOs that have teams with more than 5 marketers usually have several functions to manage. The problem is that each of these functions are often focused on what they do well and not the greater goals. For this reason, marketing teams can have misaligned goals and campaigns tend to be function-specific rather than focused on the target audience and message. This dramatically impacts the effectiveness of the marketing plan. 

Even when you have a plan, the team doesn’t always follow it or know how to apply it to their function. How many times in the middle of a planning cycle have you heard an event’s person say, “I think we should run a dinner series” without any context to the plan or why or with who? Or a digital marketer says “Let’s do an email program to the database” without thinking about segmentation or tying it to campaigns outlined in the plan?  These are one-off tactical activities that are marketing-channel specific. More probable than not, these efforts failed, or at least did not meet expectations. The question is, why?

There are five primary reasons why marketers run rudderless marketing activities and do not follow the plan:

  1. The plan that was built at the beginning of the year was not detailed enough for the team to use as a guide for their efforts
  2. The team never fully understood how the strategy fit with their function so they defaulted to what they know how to do instead of doing what aligns with the goals and strategy
  3. The plan was solid, but it resides in a presentation deck somewhere, never to be seen again
  4. Each member of the team built his or her own plan, and those were never integrated across the functions
  5. There wasn’t a comprehensive, goals-driven plan

If there wasn’t a plan in place, which unfortunately happens far too often, then there will probably be a change in marketing leadership soon. All of the other scenarios listed above are direct failures of the CMO not setting a clear strategy, getting team buy-in, and continually reinforcing the direction by revisiting the plan.

To ensure you do not get caught in the busywork marketing cycle and are aligned with the marketing strategy, there are a series of questions you need to ask when new ideas, campaigns, and programs come to light:

What is the goal we are trying to accomplish?

  • What is the right strategy to accomplish this goal?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What are the messages we want to deliver to that target audience based on their needs?
  • Does this tie into a larger theme?
  • What are the metrics of success?

If the answers align with the current plan and you are practicing agile marketing planning, then you should consider the new initiative. But caution, if the conversation gets tactical and stuck on the marketing channel of delivery without providing answers consistent with your plan, walk away.

Plannuh is a marketing performance management solution that helps marketers build detailed plans including campaigns, activities, and budget that accomplishes key marketing goals. Learn more about our marketing planning software.