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Is Annual Marketing Planning Dead?

Despite an increasing need for mobility, annual marketing plans aren’t relics of a lost age. They provide a clear path for strategic marketing plans that align to company goals and targets.

This being said, it isn’t always easy. 

We spoke to marketing leaders about planning best practices to determine the ‘right way’ to go about it – thanks to our amazing customers for some insights!

Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to note the two main types of marketing planning.

  1. Annual planning involves static timelines, actions, and goals which are arduous to develop, but still viable and necessary.
  2. Continuous or agile planning is the day-to-day adjustments made to stick to your annual plan.

The annual planning process can be separated into the following 6 phases:

Phase 1: Marketing Planning Starts with Your Business Strategy

Starting at the corporate level, the business strategy planning phase allows companies to iron out company priorities with a 1-3 year horizon. The CMO is involved but the process tends to be driven by the CEO and board as they determine and re-evaluate goals for the next fiscal year. This phase is all about the big picture and orienting priorities. 

Phase 2: Organize Marketing’s Strategy Around Key Plans

Once company-wide objectives are determined, it’s time for the marketing executive team to step in. This is where the overarching marketing goals are determined. Whether it be top campaigns, key milestones, or product launches, this is the phase where marketing determines what markets to focus on, industries to note, or positioning to be sought after. The revenue targets and projections are also determined in this phase and applied to specific markets and growth goals. 

It’s also time to kick off budget conversations in Phase 2. Initial conversations about funding should be discussed with marketing leads and aligned with plans: decisions don’t have to be made, but conversations should begin.

Phase 3: Bring the Whole Marketing Team Together for Integrated Planning

The bridge between strategy and team planning, integrated planning allows a second level of marketing leadership to get their hands on plans and align them to execute key goals. When approached correctly this allows functional and regional leaders to define their own plans alongside company priorities and determine ideal targets and resources needed. 

This phase also gives teams the opportunity to identify points of collaboration and dependencies that will be important as plans are enacted. In short, in the integrated planning phase, teamwork makes the dream work.

Phase 4: Every Team Builds Out Their Plans

The name says it all. This stage is for your teams (think regional marketing leaders) to consider their marketing strategy and build out their own plans. These plans include team goals and metrics as well as individual growth and revenue planning that aligns with the overall marketing goals of your organization. 

The majority of resource negotiation was completed in Phase 3, so this phase is focused on specific team details including plans, budgets, and timelines. Areas of collaboration from the previous stage are also built into plans now, while marketing systems are put into place but not finalized.

Phase 5: Execute Your Strategic Marketing Plan

Initial plans are published, actions are set, and marketing systems are loaded with all the necessary information. All that’s left is to execute your strategic marketing plan. Execution begins the process of carrying out actions, testing, measuring, and adjustment. It’s an ongoing process, implementing the new plan as well as providing a space for agile marketing to be implemented throughout the entire new fiscal year.

Phase 6: Keep Marketing Plans Flexible with Ongoing Planning

As referenced above, ongoing planning is the planning that occurs constantly. It exists separate from the annual plan but must be accommodated by ensuring your annual plan has adequate flexibility. 

We have another blog all about implementing agile planning tips and tricks to check out. In the meantime, the snap shot view is that an agile marketing plan takes account of multiple plausible scenarios and balances both no-regret moves and scalable options. Having these options and an agile framework allows marketers to quickly adjust to unexpected changes.

My advice for marketers is to understand your mission and foundational priorities. Then be prepared to be flexible on almost everything else.

Kathleen Schaub, former IDC Analyst

Developing a rock-solid annual plan is a daunting task, but breaking it up into manageable phases will allow you to ensure that your strategic marketing plan provides a straight shot to company objectives and marketing impact.

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