Agile Marketing Planning: Is There a ‘Silver Bullet’?

Betsy Lillian
October 10, 2022
richard w

Marketing planning is hard. There’s not one correct way to do it, but marketing leaders are tasked with figuring out which marketing efforts work best for their organization. That’s why we’ve connected with some of our customers across industries to get the lowdown on some of their best planning strategies.  

For this edition, we chatted with Richard Wasylynchuk, VP of Revenue Operations at Visier Inc., an HR analytics platform provider. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Visier offers cloud-based solutions for workforce analytics and planning. 

Richard has served in demand gen, marketing ops, and revenue operations roles at Visier for more than eight years. Leading the company’s new rev ops group, Richard is now focused on accelerating revenue generation through technology, data, and processes.  

With decades of experience as a marketing operations professional, Richard offers a unique and veteran perspective into marketing planning. Read our Q&A to learn how and why planning has changed for Visier over time, important things to look for in your data, and a few secrets to agile marketing planning.    

What does the term “planning” mean to you? 

I think it’s about how your activities and programs are waterfalling from a larger corporate objective. If you have corporate objectives and key results (OKRs), how are those waterfalling through the business? From a marketing perspective, you look at those OKRs and goals, and then you look at how marketing is supporting and enabling that go-to-market strategy, and then your planning comes down from that.  

 You want to make sure that your programs and tactics—and then the budget you’re investing—are ultimately supporting those corporate OKRs (which are typically pipeline and revenue goals). It’s very much a top-down, bottoms-up approach to make sure the OKRs are making sense as they come down to marketing. 

What do you focus on in your planning, particularly as it pertains to the new rev ops function? 

Typically, at the executive level, they set the OKRs, which we take and translate to our go-to-market strategy—really, what marketing is going to be running with. 

With the formation of the rev ops function, we are now looking at things more holistically. In the past, planning might have looked like this: you take your corporate OKRs, and it comes down to a pipeline and revenue number, and then you divide and conquer. Marketing is going to take 50%, sales is going to take 50%, and then you waterfall that down.  

As we look at things more holistically, we say, “This is the pipeline and the revenue goal. And this is our marketing investment. What do we need to invest in from a full-funnel approach to achieve those goals?” So, marketing programs are no longer just lead gen, top-of-funnel pipeline. We’re looking at programs that impact velocity further down the funnel.  

A lot of what has changed is that we’ve been more collaborative and looked at things at a broader level than just “we need leads, we need MQLs, so here’s the budget, and here’s how we’re going to do it”—i.e., an approach to just fill the top of the funnel.  

Now, it’s really that omnichannel approach: How do you get more value out of your data cross-functionally and across the revenue funnel? 

With a centralized rev ops function as well, you start to drive more conversation around how to impact things like annual contract value (ACV). You open up a lot of conversations to really understand what things are going to impact your funnel, and then how you can resource them from a marketing budgeting and planning perspective.  

What’s your planning process like? 

So, the corporate OKRs are set, and then it comes down to the executive leadership and the program managers, and then it layers up back and forth. Pretty much everyone is involved in the planning process. Whether they’re marketing budget holders or not, everyone still has to develop their plan in terms of what they’re going to be accountable for, and all of that has to ladder up to make sure it’s supporting our OKRs and go-to-market strategy. 

In terms of how it’s spread out across marketing departments, it’s been a big transition for us over the years. Earlier on, we were very channel-focused. For example, we had someone running events and webinars, and they were given budget to go plan them.  

Now, we’ve made the marketing operations model more collaborative. We’re running integrated campaigns that involve everyone in marketing. Across the board, it’s the same conversation: What are our larger campaigns or themes? What are we running for the year in support of our go-to-market strategy? And how do we want to resource and fund things? It’s very much a cross-functional conversation with the marketing leaders. 

How often are you planning? And has that changed as a result of the pandemic? 

Pre-pandemic, there were two major milestones. We would plan at the beginning of fiscal year, and then halfway through, we would do some revisions for the back half. 

With the pandemic, we’ve had to be a lot more flexible, nimble, and agile with our budget and our approach, particularly around the shift toward digital. Having gone from physical to virtual events, we’re relying a lot more on digital channels to activate prospects and customers.  

There’s a lot more data and visibility into what’s happening in marketing. We’ve had to really have a lens on our budget and plans, enabling us to move when we see things that need to be adjusted. 

How do you ensure you can be agile and change plans easily? Are there certain trigger points you watch for to know when you need to pivot? 

There’s not one real silver bullet we watch for. There are a number of things we keep an eye on, such as market trends or conditions. If there are topics that are trending in the market, we decide if we should find budget to take advantage of them from a digital marketing perspective.  

We’re also always watching the quality of lead and pipeline generation. If we’re finding that certain channels aren’t performing well, we determine if we should make adjustments.  

We have an attribution model set up as well, where we want to see some sort of payback coming through our campaigns. If we’re not seeing that, we ask if it’s the right mix of channels, if it’s the right targeting, or if we should decrease or increase funding anywhere. 

Again, there’s no easy silver bullet in terms of what we’re looking for. From a rev ops perspective, I think it’s critical we’re looking across everything. It’s always about having that balance and looking at what’s going on from multiple data points to understand where you might want to make some adjustments. 

When we do our planning adjustments in the back half of the year, that’s where initiatives change. It might be that a different campaign is being prioritized, or there are some additional initiatives that have come up that we need to fund.  

Personally, as a budget owner, my secret is to always keep a little bit of budget tucked away somewhere. We make sure we haven’t committed contractually to everything for the year so we have the flexibility to re-allocate funds as needed in the back half of the year.  

Do you have any other planning advice?  

Data is power and knowledge.  

I think the more data points you can look at—how things perform and how they will perform—will be helpful in getting a plan that is closer to the reality of what you wanted and will deliver the results you expected.  

In the past, when we haven’t used data and gone with a more gut approach, that’s when we had to have a lot more conversations around re-allocating: e.g., how do you move things around so that you can achieve your goals from a planning perspective? My advice is to always look at data and make sure that you’re understanding past performance. 

What kind of data should you be focusing on? 

There are two layers I would look at, the first one being operational program data points. Are your webinar registrations trending up or down? This is more about the basics of a program.  

Then there’s the more strategic lens. Are these webinar registrations converting to pipeline in a particular amount of time? Are they a short- or long-term play? Do you have to bolster them with nurture programs to make sure they’re moving through the funnel?  

From an impact level, you then look at things like attribution. How are these leads impacting the overall business?  

In terms of a feedback loop to discuss trends and take action by adjusting plans, that’s where a lot of people struggle.  

It’s about establishing a regular cadence of reporting and insights, whether that’s quarterly or monthly—it shouldn’t just be yearly. And tie it into that cadence around managing your budget.  

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