The Metrics You Need to Create the Best Marketing Plan

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
April 23, 2019

Is your team ready to tackle marketing planning? Any other year, you might be coming to the table armed with the data and metrics needed to make sound, data-based choices for the year ahead. 2020 is a little different.

New Era Sigstr

While we’re all learning to be more agile in our marketing plans this year, the annual marketing plan isn’t going anywhere. Planning season seems to cause a surprising number of companies to scramble for the data they need, but if you prepare right, it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.

Ken Evans, VP Demand Generation and Marketing Operations at Fuze, has some terrific insights on this topic. Ken is a 20-year marketing veteran, having held senior marketing ops and demand generation roles at a variety of B2B technology companies.

It’s that time of year!

Over the course of his career, Ken witnessed marketing teams scramble every time marketing planning season came around.

In order to plan effectively, a marketing team needs a significant amount of insight into last year: where the organization spent, why they made certain investments, and what the business impact was. But this data takes time to compile, and when the CMO calls asking for a marketing plan in two weeks, it causes major fire drills.

To avoid that phenomenon, Ken developed a set of metrics and practices to help him get a head start before each marketing planning season.

The metrics help his team discover the valuable context information about what went on in their organizations the previous year, so they can make informed decisions for the coming year.

Those metrics and practices are what we’ll share in this post.

Three Truths About Marketing Planning

Before diving in, Ken wanted to impart three things he’s learned over the course of many planning seasons as a marketing ops practitioner.

Marketing Planning Truth 1

There will be some non-campaign activities that must be prioritized, but may not be easily measurable. It’s just a fact of life in marketing—some very worthy marketing efforts are not very quantifiable, yet they’re critical to our marketing plans.

Marketing Planning Truth 2

Making an exception for Truth #1, a data-driven approach to marketing planning is truly the only viable, defensible one. Data is the ultimate tool in your marketing planning arsenal.

Marketing Planning Truth 3

Your goal is to help your CMO make decisions more easily. You can accomplish this by knowing your business even better than she does.

Now, let’s get into Ken’s specific recommendations. These are the metrics he recommends assembling as you prepare for marketing planning season. They fall into four buckets, which happen to align very well to our VP of Insights & Growth, Sam Melnick’s Ultimate Hierarchy of Marketing Measurements!

1. Metrics for Planning: Core Investments

“Where did we spend our money and our time last year?”

Questions to Ask

  • Where did we place our bets last year?
  • How was spending distributed?
  • Which items have the flexibility to change next year, and which are committed?

Example Metrics

  • Marketing spend broken out by activity types
  • The ratio of spending on people vs. programs
  • The ratio of spending on demand generation activities vs. brand awareness
  • Marketing spend broken out by quarter, geography, business unit, or other factors relevant to your particular business

Stakeholders That Care About These Results:

  • CMO
  • Marketing Ops
  • Marketing Leadership Team
  • Finance

Technology Involved

  • ERP systems (Fuze uses Netsuite)
  • Uptempo

Ken’s Notes on Core Investment Metrics

It’s a good idea to compare the metrics in this category against benchmarks from SiriusDecisions (or other analyst groups).

Forge relationships with the finance team for help in getting these answers.

All we’re doing at this stage is collecting information; we’ll get to the judgements later

Al Growthhacking Webtile

Learn more about the benefits of marketing and finance alignment in our blog about growth hacking!

2. Metrics for Planning: Tactical Results

“What were our frontline results (a.k.a. tactical results) last year?”

Questions to Ask

  • Which activities garnered responses?
  • Where were we active in our market?
  • What personas and/or accounts responded?

Example Metrics

  • Inquiries/marketing responses
  • Account engagement
  • Geographical breakdown of activity
  • Media impressions

Stakeholders That Care About These Results

  • Campaign managers
  • Field marketers
  • Department leaders

Technology Involved

  • Marketing automation and CRM systems
  • Marketing attribution tools
  • Web analytics software such as Google Analytics
  • ABM software such as Engagio

Ken’s Notes on Tactical Results Metrics

Don’t expose these metrics to the CMO yet; it’s important to gather the full context around the business impact of these numbers before presenting to the executive suite.

For these metrics to be useful, the marketing and sales groups in your company must have agreed-upon conventions, such as the definition of an MQL. These common definitions are essential in making sure different departments don’t come up with conflicting measurements

3. Metrics for Planning: Advanced Measurements

“What was the impact of our marketing efforts last year?”

Questions answered

  • What produced the most initial meetings? Qualified pipeline? Deals?
  • What did we spend across campaigns or stages of the buyer’s journey?

Example Metrics

  • SALs/SQLs driven
  • Pipeline generated (sourced) and/or influenced
  • Cost per campaign or buyer’s journey stage

Stakeholders That Care About These Results

  • CMO & marketing leadership
  • Campaign managers
  • Department leaders
  • Sales operations

Technology Involved

  • Marketing automation and CRM systems
  • BI Tools/Excel
  • Uptempo
  • Pipeline analysis tools

Ken’s Notes on Advanced Measurements

When measuring pipeline, the issue of whether to measure pipeline-sourced or pipeline-influenced becomes a tricky thing. It’s not possible to recommend one or the other, since the more appropriate will have to be decided according to how your company does business.

If you use an account-based (ABM) model, for example, pipeline influence becomes very important since it may take 25 activities to achieve the overall goal of getting a target account into a sales opportunity.

4. Metrics for Planning: Business Impact

“Based on last year’s results, where should we spend our next dollar?”

Questions answered

  • What is the right context of all our actions?
  • What is the most efficient way to drive pipeline or revenue?

Example Metrics

  • ROI (aggregate & attribution-based)
  • Planned/predictive ROI
  • Market share & total addressable market

Stakeholders That Care About These Results

  • CMO
  • Marketing leadership
  • Sales leadership

Technology Involved

  • Marketing automation and CRM systems
  • BI Tools/Excel
  • Uptempo
  • Your marketing brain

Ken’s Notes on Measuring Business Impact

These metrics aren’t gathered by a single marketer in isolation. Rather, this is where the big meetings happen, where senior marketing and sales leaders talk about context, strategies, and goals as you head into marketing planning season. The other three groups of metrics support this discussion.

Wondering how to frame these conversations? Start with whichever questions the CMO is typically asked by the board.

Summing Up Metrics for Marketing Planning

If you’re thinking that compiling all this data sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. You may need one, two, or even more months to gather the data. But, your efforts will pay off. In Ken’s experience, preparation like this truly makes the difference during marketing planning season.

When you prepare these metrics, you’re setting the table for marketing planning season. Every single metric on these lists might not be relevant to your organization. Apply the judgement, insight, and context to know which metrics will truly help set your marketing team up for success as they go to build their plans for the coming year.

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