Planning – The necessary Evil

Faced with ongoing economic turbulence, successful companies understand that more than ever, the key to not only surviving but thriving is planning ahead. SiriusDecisions notes that best-in-class sales and marketing organizations were already focusing on strategic “resource planning” to determine their best moves for 2010.

–          SiriusDecisions press release

Around this time every year, if you work on the calendar year, you are facing the planning and budgeting cycle. Or, budgeting and “investment” cycle as I like to call it. Just hate it when organizations see marketing as a budget (meaning “cost”). Investment is a much more accurate word as what you put in should be delivering a return.

Anyway, planning is a critical component if you want to have any chance at success. For marketing, I like to have a series of plans:

  • 5-year plan – the big, vision thing; where you want to be when you grow up
  • 1-year plan – very tactical; where are you going to place your resources (money and people) and HOW in order to meet your goals/targets
  • Next-quarter plan – very detailed; includes items you probably don’t have in your one-year plan (like specific PR or analyst engagements), specific content creation (like a new whitepaper or webinar), and more

When it comes to planning, many organizations make a mistake in doing it alone and in a vacuum. Overall direction (BHAG goals) often comes from on high – the upper management folks. “We need to grow revenue by 17% next year.” Hopefully, they have come to this conclusion based on reality and input from the trenches, but regardless, it will now become your reality. Marketing still should do its planning in conjunction with the rest of the company, especially sales. This is a critical time when marketing/sales alignment can get totally messed up.

Sales is being given revenue goals and is trying to work those goals into individual sales quotas. They will be providing direction to sales reps on how to reach those quotas. But if marketing is seeing growth in different areas and planning on campaigns around products or services that sales is ignoring, you are setting a table of delicious meats for vegans (OK, maybe it’s the other way around – those sales people often are depicted as carnivores). Disaster (or a food fight at least) is sure to follow.

This is a great time for marketing and sales leaders to get together and spend the time needed to figure out the next year. Don’t short change this exercise as both dollar investment and significant human resources will start working on these plans in short order. This is one investment with a very high ROI.

For more on the marketing-to-sales funnel, check out this earlier blog entry.  Or visit my website.


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