The fast pace of marketing means maintaining your position at the forefront of innovation can be next to impossible. With the time investment required to execute day-to-day operations and a dizzying number of collaborative processes, maintaining the status quo can seem a lot easier than making big changes.
One specific process that is often chiseled in stone is annual marketing planning. In many enterprise companies, the planning process has been jumbled between team hierarchies and cross-departmental responsibilities. The resulting marketing plans are often disconnected from corporate objectives which can lead to major problems, including:
- Misallocation of limited marketing resources
- Inability to steer effectively in the right direction
- Lack of accountability at the department or team level
In order to align marketing activities to corporate objectives, strategic planning is a must. Those that get it right reap the benefits. 83% of companies expecting strong revenue growth (over 25%) “often or always” align marketing performance goals to their company’s objectives, according to our benchmarking data on the subject. To get here, organizations must often manage internal resistance to changing “the way things have always been done.”
In our Marketing Planning Master Class with Ken Evans, Senior Director of Marketing Operations from the award-winning marketing team at Fuze, he explained how the team had found itself in a rut when it came to marketing planning. The company’s planning season, which falls in July and August, historically began with various teams receiving a top-down budget number before going their separate ways to put together individual plans. Once complete, the teams would then reconnect and present their plans to peers in the marketing organization. With this semi-siloed approach, these plans were mostly a lather, rinse and repeat version of the previous year’s plan, with only minor adjustments and minimal additions.
Several years ago, aside from a handful of employees, Fuze’s entire marketing department was rebooted, presenting a major disruption to the company’s momentum. However, like everything else in life, there was a silver lining. The full stop provided an opportunity for their team to break out of a less-than-optimal planning process.
Ken’s team set out to start creating plans that were led by corporate objectives, while bringing transparency and accountability to Marketing’s game plan. Fuze maximized their fresh start and, in just a few short years, they went on to develop a process that won the coveted ROI Award from SiriusDecisions.
So how did Fuze do it? Here’s a quick summary of key learnings from Ken’s Master Class that are useful for any organization making the shift to strategic marketing planning.
1. Make the business case for change
Fuze’s internal restructure and rebrand provided a window of opportunity to revamp outdated processes, but you don’t have to restructure a department to adopt a new approach. What you will need is support from executives and buy-in from colleagues, as some may not understand the value of strategic marketing planning. Before you hit the brakes on the current methodology, clearly show the benefits of strategic marketing planning to make change more palatable, especially when people are entrenched in the current way of doing things.
Check out our Gold Medal Planning Playbook to learn about the benefits of strategic planning.
2. Clearly define the new methodology before making changes
Remember, a marketing planning strategy doesn’t need to be created from scratch. Research what already works and start from there. Ken found the SiriusDecisions Campaign Framework to be a helpful resource for best-in-class marketing planning. He was able to adapt this framework to fit his organization.
Once you’ve decided on your new methodology, it is extremely important to be thoughtful about how you roll it out to the team to minimize disruption during implementation. Of course there will be some naysayers, but your job will be to find people’s source of resistance and address it. The more transparent you are in the rollout, the more buy-in you’ll have; don’t be afraid to LISTEN to others concerns so you can address them head-on.
Learn about some common marketing planning pitfalls to avoid.
3. Align with sales and the rest of the business
At Fuze, they quickly recognized that corporate objectives would be hard to meet without alignment between Sales & Marketing. To create shared KPIs with your sales team, you must agree on the definitions of important terms, like what qualifies as an MQL, as well as on targets for revenue generation and pipeline creation. Teams should set top-down revenue targets and bottom-up MQL targets.
Throughout the planning process, keep your KPIs in mind and loop Sales into the campaign plan so they can prepare for go-live dates. You also need to understand that alignment is more than getting on the same page about your goals, it has to be part of your execution strategy.
(Hint: We help over 150 organizations do this within the Allocadia Marketing Performance Management platform. Building your plan in Allocadia, as Ken and his team do, helps to track your continual impact on revenue and lead generation.)
Here’s exactly why Sales & Marketing MUST align!
4. Build a partnership with Finance
Building a partnership with Finance is a huge component of strategic–and successful– marketing planning. Without a proper relationship between the two teams, reconciling the numbers at the end of the month or quarter can be painful for both parties. Finance must understand how Marketing looks at invoices (and vice versa,) so the two teams need to work together to eliminate reconciliation pains. Ultimately, an improved relationship gives Finance the confidence in Marketing required to increase budgets and trust.
(Hint: Allocadia is a helpful tool in building trust between the CMO and CFO. From PO splitting, to automatic import of actuals across line items, and linking between Allocadia ID and GL account, Allocadia works off real numbers and helps eliminate reconciliation pain.)
Want to dive deeper into the Marketing & Finance relationship? Here’s an excellent library of resources.
Today, the marketing team at Fuze is set up to support the continual progress of one of the world’s fastest-growing B2B technology companies. Their commitment to strategic marketing planning means they are aligned to corporate objectives, they’re creating a revenue stream and building pipeline for sales, and they’re working seamlessly with their counterparts in Finance. Whether a re-org is in your future or not, Ken is quick to point out that there are other ways to hit pause so that you can introduce strategic marketing planning in your organization.
Watch the full Marketing Planning Master Class video featuring Ken Fuze, or check out our entire Marketing Planning Master Class series here.