Nearly every Marketing organization produces some type of annual plan. Yet some plans are far better than others. What is the defining success factor? A plan’s success can be judged by the process used to create and execute it.
We know from our Marketing Performance research over the past 15 years, that Marketers recognized and rewarded for excelling at contributing to, and impacting, the business, have a best-in-class planning process.
Specifically, they devote the time needed to gain keen insights into their market, customers, and competitors. They have clarity and specificity around the organization’s business outcomes. They’ve connected the dots between the work of Marketing and business results. As a result, their plans and budget are accepted more readily, and are better fortified against cuts if revenue takes an unexpected downturn.
It might surprise you to know that even the largest customers we work with have limited resources: time, money, and people. Yet, no matter the size or industry, some Marketing organizations find a way to create and execute on a plan that produces more and better results – faster.
It isn’t the data, the plan format, or the planning software that distinguishes them. It is the process.
Process, Process, Process
Processes harness your energy. They help you stay focused. The right planning process insures that your plan is salient, relevant, measurable and accepted. Your planning process and how well you deploy the resulting plan are your greatest tools and time savers.
A better plan saves you time in communicating exactly why you are doing each activity and making each investment, both inside and outside of your Marketing organization.
Other research backs up the value of process. A study done by Shelley Taylor and Lien Pham of UCLA showed the impact of process on achieving an outcome. In one group, participants were asked to visualize the outcome and the other group was asked to visualize the process needed to achieve the desired outcome. Those who visualized the process performed better than those who simply visualized the outcome.
Your Process Must Connect Activities to Outcomes
The ability for Marketing to enable the organization to achieve future results lies in stringing together powerful activities, one after the other. The key is knowing specifically what outcomes (e.g. Acquire 50 net new customers within each of our three primary verticals with an average order value of $100,000 by fiscal year end) must be achieved and then determine what Marketing investments and actions will move you closer toward accomplishing the outcomes.
You need to create your logic chains – the actions of today that will create the momentum needed to produce the right results. These chains define the sequence of activities, data, and metrics that forms the links between your activities and the business outcomes.
There are many different planning systems, including our popular Accelance® methodology. Here’s what they all have in common:
- Assessing Your Market, Customer and Business Situation: Before you set a course of action, you must first identify what you already have and where you are. This part of the process is critical to identifying opportunities and assessing and mitigating risks. Creating a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) chart will be helpful in this and the next two steps.
- Defining the Business Outcomes: You have to know where you’re aiming and what constitutes success before you can determine what to do.
- Developing a Strategy: Your set of competitive moves designed to successfully achieve the outcome(s).
- Setting Marketing Performance Targets: The specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific customer-centric objectives Marketing will invest in to achieve the outcomes.
- Creating an Action Plan that Connects Activities and Outputs with Outcomes: The steps and guide that will move the Marketing team toward the objectives needed to achieve the targets and produce the results.
- Implementing and Managing the Plan: Without timely and excellent execution, even the best plan will fail.
- Monitoring and Adjusting the Plan: The market is constantly moving; your organization needs to be both attentive and agile enough to adjust in a timely manner.
For some organizations planning is an ongoing process enabling the Marketing organization to adjust as new information impacting steps 1 and 2 becomes available. For others, it is an annual process that has specific time frames, such as step 1 begins 4 months prior to the planning session, step 2 begins within 1 week of completing step 1 and so on. When the process is completed correctly, the activities of today are connected to the results of tomorrow.
Think your process has produced a plan that connects activities with results, and net you the budget that enables you to be successful? Submit your plan now for a cost effective, fast track review.
LAURA PATTERSON is known for her practical, no-nonsense approach to proving and improving the value of marketing. Inventive and engaging, she quickly gets to the heart of the matter to provide actionable recommendations and solutions. Because her 20-year career began in sales and now spans customer relationship management and Marketing with a capital “M”, her recommendations are cross-functional friendly. Laura is a strategic marketer, data and metrics master. Her company, VisionEdge Marketing, has helped hundreds of companies in a variety of industries fulfill their marketing potential and achieve competitive advantage. An early pioneer on the science side of marketing, Laura is recognized as one of the leading authorities in marketing measurement and performance, content management, operations, and data and analytics.