Marketing planning: it’s something every marketer has to go through. It’s especially challenging because there isn’t really a clear formula for success, yet what happens in marketing planning can make or break a quarter, or even a year.
So, what are the best marketers in the world doing around planning? How are they setting themselves (and their teams) up for success once it’s execution time? And what are some steps to take right away?
To answer these questions, Allocadia partnered with DemandGen Report to figure out what the Best Global Marketing Organizations Do Differently in Marketing Planning. To narrow down best-in-class strategies, we interviewed several senior marketing leaders and marketing thought leaders around marketing planning.
The first of four key strategies around marketing planning was the need for marketing planning to align with company-wide strategic priorities.
How to Align Marketing with Company Wide Strategic Planning
Let’s be honest: alignment isn’t a new word for marketers, but it’s often used to refer to marketing and sales alignment. Anyone who has been to an analyst conference and seen a framework knows it should be front and center when it comes to the annual (or quarterly) planning process. What it comes down to is that marketing planning should not take place in a vacuum. We found that the most successful marketing organizations ensure (and can prove) that their plans support one or more corporate objectives.
One of the executives that we spoke was Ken Evans, Senior Director of Marketing Operations at Fuze. Aligning marketing plans with corporate strategic priorities has been Ken’s approach since he joined the company nine months ago.
“(Aligning to 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.”
When you look at a typical company, the tendency is for various departments to do their “own thing” with regard to planning. The problem is, if there’s no alignment with overall business goals, there’s less likelihood of perceived (or actual) success with marketing programs.
How do companies achieve this alignment?
Ken’s point of view is that, first and foremost, leadership needs to create specific corporate goals (if they haven’t already done so). These can be financial goals, such as revenue targets, or process goals, such as boosting customer satisfaction levels or increasing the uptime of computer systems for users.
“The key advantage of alignment is providing clarity of purpose; you can focus your day-to-day activity [on efforts to meet goals].”
For instance, if a goal is to enhance customer satisfaction, part of the marketing plan can include efforts to build better relationships by delivering resources such as content for onboarding new customers, how-to information about the company’s products or customer success stories.
Best Practices for Marketing and Company Wide Strategic Planning
When we talked with Ken about best practices for aligning marketing planning and corporate priorities, we landed on three takeaways:
- Allow sufficient time to determine goals and create a custom plan to reach them.
- Make sure there is a defined process and that key stakeholders are identified. Provide a clear path to move from strategic planning to budgeting to execution.
- If possible, chart a work-back schedule from the start of the fiscal year. For example, seven months before the start of the year, if you need to have a certain program in place, make sure you know what it is and there is a clear project plan outlined.
Regardless of how you take on planning, alignment is imperative. With internal alignment, you unite the marketing team and maximizes effectiveness. With alignment at the corporate level, marketing no longer lives in a silo. Aim for both!