What’s Missing From CMO’s Marketing Plans

April 16, 2019

This article from Uptempo’s VP, Market Insights & Growth, Sam Melnick, originally appeared on Customer Think as Death by PowerPoint: Why Most CMOs are Failing to Plan (and Planning to Fail).

Budgeting and planning are among the most frustrating exercises marketing teams go through each year. Every organization’s planning season is different, but the objective is the same: Set up a marketing organization to properly support the business for a successful year.

Planning is often seen as a painful process by many organizations. One that takes marketers away from execution, and fails to deliver the alignment and operational excellence it should be driving.

At Uptempo, we believe one of the biggest reasons for this struggle is “Death by PowerPoint.” In a world of SaaS technologies and innovative approaches, why are PPT decks or Excel spreadsheet the way comprehensive marketing plans are created, documented, and communicated throughout the business?

When plans exist in multiple versions that few actually access, the result is misinterpretation and misalignment on downstream goals. This can lead to some serious consequences:

  • Misallocation of limited marketing resources
  • Inability to steer effectively in the right direction
  • Lack of accountability at the department, or team level


Strategic planning is critical to CMO perception

This is too important to be relegated to hard-to-find Excel files and PowerPoint decks. While planning might be a process many marketing leaders dread, it sets the stage for changing how their team is perceived, either as a cost-center or growth-driver.

Marketing organization must be in lock-step with the rest of the company. Strategic plans allow CMOs to lay the foundation of what marketing must accomplish. Teams and people are held accountable throughout the year to these business goals.

Research shows that 83% of marketers who expect revenue growth “often or always” align marketing plans to their company’s business objectives. The opposite is true for those who don’t plan strategically. In fact, only 50% of companies with flat, or negative growth do the same.

“The key to a good marketing plan is to make sure that it’s aligned with the objectives of the business,” says Craig Moore, Marketing Operations Strategies Service Director at SiriusDecisions.

Planning done right can be the best opportunity for a Chief Marketing Officer to demonstrate leadership, maintain a commitment to corporate objectives, and deploy strategy.

Where CMOs falter today in marketing planning

Our industry today suffers from a lack of standardized processes and templates for effective marketing planning. Many CMOs simply rely on last year’s plan to set the roadmap year after year. This causes them to lose focus on the reality of what’s driving results. Looking in the rearview mirror is not a reliable way to plan the journey ahead. Instead, marketers should be learning from their activities throughout the year. They should be able to understand where investments will result in the most long-term revenue gain.

Another common misstep made when creating marketing plans is to build multiple, siloed versions that are held hostage in PowerPoint documents. This makes it impossible to collaborate effectively and work against the same set of shared priorities. It also limits visibility throughout large marketing teams. Ultimately, these static plans make it hard to track alignment with priorities in real-time. This keeps CMOs from being agile enough to adjust strategies on the fly. It also prevents teams from making the right decisions day-to-day in the field.

Strategic planning is a combination of high-level guidance combined with the actionable steps needed to make that marketing strategy come to life at every level of a marketing team.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” holds true here, as teams must create accountability across the organization. This means clearly defining who is responsible for what. Otherwise, marketing’s actions throughout the year have little chance of supporting the business as a whole.

NI brings sanity back to the planning process

NI (formerly National Instruments) is a $1.5B high-tech hardware and software company with over 600 marketers worldwide. Like many organizations, its planning process changed every year, and it had many cooks in the kitchen during planning season. Each region created its own version of their marketing plan in Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint templates. Marketing investments were disconnected from their go-to-market plans, and were organized by products and regions, rather than global campaigns and goals.

Sound familiar?

Their marketing organization struggled to gain consensus against a common set of shared priorities. This prevented them from a holistic view of global marketing. The static documents used prevented them from effectively connecting field and corporate activity during planning and budgeting season. This made it impossible to deliver clear guidance on priorities for day-to-day decision-making.

To gain some control over a chaotic planning process, the marketing team at NI took steps to align their global team under one plan. One that was carefully aligned with business objectives and customer needs.

They implemented a structured and governed taxonomy across all marketing technologies. This was a common set of words and descriptors for plans, investments, and activities across all of their marketing systems. It gave their team the opportunity to describe all marketing-related activities in a similar way.

By doing so, the team was able to show how marketing campaigns and initiatives contribute to product group goals and revenue targets. Even those spanning multiple products. Ultimately, this connected the dots to give NI an end-to-end view of how campaigns tie to investments, and how these are aligned to their plan and strategy.

By giving the marketing team access to the same Marketing Performance Management tool (Uptempo), NI ensured everyone was working in lock-step against the same, global plan, instead of segmented, product, and region-based planning stuck in static documents. When combined with campaign outcomes in Eloqua and Salesforce, NI’s global marketing team could achieve the end-to-end visibility they needed. This allowed them to plan and allocate resources in the best possible way.

Today, the team has better insights, greater transparency, and greater accountability into how marketing is performing. This allows them to have informed, strategic conversations about optimizing marketing performance.

Marketing leaders operate in an age of accountability as we navigate our teams towards the strong expectations placed upon our departments. Every marketer must make every dollar count. To achieve this, the chaos of disconnected plans must be managed, and marketers must instead lead with strategy.

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