Is Annual Marketing Planning Dead?

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
September 26, 2022
Annual Planning

Despite an increasing need for mobility, the annual marketing plan isn’t a relic of a lost age. It provides a clear path for strategic marketing plans that align to company business goals and targets.

However, it isn’t always easy. 

We spoke to marketing leaders about planning best practices to determine the ‘right way’ to go about it—thanks to our amazing customers for some insights!

Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to note the two main types of marketing planning.

  1. Annual planning involves static timelines, actions, and goals which are arduous to develop, but still viable and necessary.
  2. Continuous or agile planning is the day-to-day adjustments made to stick to your annual plan.

The following 6 phases describe the annual marketing planning process:

6 phases of annual marketing planning

Phase 1: Marketing Planning Starts with Your Business Strategy

Starting at the corporate level, the business strategy planning phase allows companies to iron out company priorities with a 1-3 year horizon. The CMO and board drive the process as they determine and re-evaluate goals for the next fiscal year. This phase is all about the big picture and orienting priorities. 

Timing: Start 6-9 months before your go-live dates.

 

Tips: Don’t get hung up on chasing perfection at the expense of actually being productive and getting your plan in place. At the end of the planning process something has to be published, but as we all know there are always pivots.

Phase 2: Organize Marketing’s Strategy Around Key Plans

Once company-wide objectives are determined, it’s time for the marketing executive team to step in. Overarching marketing goals are determined here. Whether it be campaigns, key milestones, or product launches, this phase is where marketing determines what markets to focus on. In addition, it determines industries to note, or positioning to be sought after. The revenue targets and projections are also determined in this phase and applied to specific markets and growth goals. 

It’s also time to kick off budget conversations in Phase 2. Initial conversations about funding should be discussed with marketing leads and aligned with plans.

Timing: Start 4-6 months before your go-live dates.

 

Tips: Focusing only on revenue or campaign themes will be detrimental as the your plans for both need to be outlined in order to make progress in the next phase.

Phase 3: Bring the Whole Marketing Team Together for Integrated Planning

Integrated planning allows a second level of marketing leadership to get their hands on plans and align them to execute key goals. It is the bridge between strategy and team planning. When approached correctly this allows functional and regional leaders to define their own plans alongside company priorities. This helps determine ideal targets and resources needed. 

This phase also gives teams the opportunity to identify points of collaboration and dependencies. In short, in the integrated planning phase, teamwork makes the dream work.

Timing: Start 3-4 months before your go-live dates.

 

Tips: Without integrated planning, second-level marketing leaders may not buy into goals set by marketing leadership or understand their importance. Skipping this stage risks removing second-level voices and decreased clarity of priorities.

Phase 4: Every Team Builds Out Their Plans

The name says it all. This stage is for your teams (think regional marketing leaders) to consider their marketing strategy and build their own plans. These plans include team goals and metrics. It also includes individual growth and revenue planning that aligns with the overall marketing goals of your organization. 

The majority of resource negotiation was completed in Phase 3, so this phase is focused on specific team details including plans, budgets, and timelines. Areas of collaboration from the previous stage are also built into plans now. Also, marketing systems are put into place but not finalized.

Timing: Start (at least) 6-8 weeks before your go-live dates.

 

Tips: Don’t wait for budgets or targets to be 100% complete before planning or you might end up waiting too long. Set a baseline and allow for adjustments.

Phase 5: Execute Your Strategic Marketing Plan

Initial plans are published, actions are set, and marketing systems are loaded with all the necessary information. Executing your strategic marketing plan is the last step. Execution begins the process of carrying out actions, testing, measuring, and adjustment. Implementing the new plan and providing a space for agile marketing activities to be implemented is an ongoing process.

Timing: Start (at least) 2-6 weeks before your go-live dates.

 

Tips: Ensure plans are connected to budget to avoid chaos when they’re implemented and remember that execution is an ongoing process not a plug-and-play.

Phase 6: Keep Marketing Plans Flexible with Ongoing Planning

As referenced above, ongoing planning is the planning that occurs constantly. It exists separate from the annual plan. To accommodate it, one must ensure the annual plan has adequate flexibility. 

We have another blog all about implementing agile planning tips and tricks to check out. In the meantime, the snap shot view is that an agile marketing plan takes account of multiple plausible scenarios and balances both no-regret moves and scalable options. Having these options and an agile framework allows marketers to quickly adjust to unexpected changes.

Developing a rock-solid annual plan is a daunting task, but breaking it up into manageable phases will allow you to ensure that your strategic marketing plan provides a straight shot to company objectives and marketing impact.

Timing: Continuous, this will go on after the go-live dates.

 

Tips: Make sure agility doesn’t affect the overall path to key targets. Instead, flexibility allows marketers to continue moving towards them despite turbulence.

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