Stop the Madness: How to Simplify Marketing Planning

April 26, 2019

Every marketing action starts with an investment. And every investment starts with a plan. But let’s be honest, nobody in Marketing actually looks forward to the annual marketing planning and budgeting process.

  • Every year it’s tedious, time-consuming, and has a host of challenges:
  • Spreadsheet chaos: Spreadsheets weren’t designed for marketing planning and budgeting. Marketers that use them struggle with version control, massive excel files, and multiple approaches to the same process.
  • Past performance is missing: Businesses often start with last year’s budget and slightly adjust it. Without seeing how well each component of last year’s budget performed, the approval and performance of next year’s investments are at risk.

We’re missing the forest for the trees: Businesses with tons of marketers struggle to see the big picture, and determine if the organization is set up to meet its goals.

Depending on the size of an organization, it can take weeks to bring all of the information together so that teams can have one holistic view of this information. And in many cases, it’s not even possible!

Tips for Stopping the Madness

1. Stop going at it manually

Palo Alto Networks reduced the amount of manual input during their budgeting process by 66%. How? By implementing a purpose-built platform for doing so.

Sales teams have a CRM system–a single system made to manage all their activities. So why are marketers using Excel for such critical items as budgeting and planning? The fastest way to simplify and streamline your budgeting and planning process is by taking marketers out of spreadsheets and disparate systems, and moving them to a single system made just for them.

2. Plan in alignment

Marketing organizations should utilize a common, consistent language (and data structure) across the entire department to organize their plans. Likewise, budget and activities should be organized into hierarchies that align with the way your organization is structured. We recommend a single taxonomy–such as IDC’s activity taxonomy or the SiriusDecisions Campaign Framework.

For example, NI (formerly National Instruments) used the SiriusDecisions Campaign Framework to bring sanity back to their annual planning process for a 400-member global marketing team. A combination of this industry-accepted framework, doubling down on collaboration, and technology from Uptempo led to huge strides in their planning and budgeting process.

“Now we have insight into the overall marketing budget and can clearly see how much is spent on operational expenses and how much is available for marketing execution. With this clear view across all regions, marketing operations can better determine how to drive efficiencies holistically,” says Helena Lewis, Sr. Group Manager of Global Marketing Operations and Technology at NI.

3. Plan against strategic targets and goals

Everyone on the Marketing team—and across the whole company—understands the value of corporate objectives. However, when it comes to creating marketing goals and plans that align with those objectives, many companies fall short.

Uptempo benchmarking research found that 83% of companies expecting strong revenue growth (over 25%) “often or always” align marketing performance goals to their company’s objectives.

If you’re not making decisions about your investments relative to your company’s overall strategic goals, where exactly are you aiming your efforts?

When embarking on your planning process, seek to change the conversation around marketing activities to a strategic level. “This allows all marketers in the organization to plan and track against key goals and performance indicators,” says Neenu Sharma, VP, Marketing Operations & Analytics at GE Digital

4. Plan for different scenarios

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Marketing teams need to map out their strategies and have a dynamic plan that encompasses different possibilities. Your plan should give you the confidence to answer whatever questions the stakeholders of your organization will have.

A CMO once described an experience he had in front of the board, defending his request for marketing budget in the upcoming fiscal year. When a 10% decrease was proposed by a board member, the CMO was able to visualize what impact that budget decrease would have on the actual performance of his team’s marketing efforts against the strategic goals set for him by the board.

A huge part of planning is about expectation setting–the right kind of strategic planning and clean budgeting data makes meeting those expectations possible.

It all starts with the plan.

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