How’s That Marketing Plan Coming Along?

I didn’t get the memo – when did marketing planning take on the emotional maladies of tax preparation? As it relates to blueprinting your business goals for the year, you likely fall into one of two categories: procrastinator or producer. Which are you?

Many of us are procrastinators in this regard because marketing planning is an intense and often times emotional investment of time, energy and ego. Casting a swath of marketing tactics into a spreadsheet with random budgets is easy for any of us. Heck, it’s even fun when you think of it like a shopping spree – I’ll take one these, three of those, two of these… and throw in a dozen microsites too. However, if your boss is not easily impressed with colorful pie charts void of substance, you recognize that a serious planning effort is in order. The biggest challenges are quite simply creating the time and getting over the fear. Here are a few general tips to help you get out of the starting blocks:

Commit yourself and your team – put it on the calendar and stick to it.
Understand that your plan will evolve but a solid first iteration is the goal.
Be honest and assess your previous year successes and challenges.

Now that you’ve taken the leap, begin to build a marketing planning foundation that you can leverage in future iterations and future years. Development of a planning checklist is another great place to start. Moreover, producing a repeatable format or template that is both qualitative and quantitative will allow you to present strategic as well as tactical plan elements with succinct clarity.

Now that you’ve overcome the fear and gotten comfortable with the logic, let’s get realistic.

In every professional environment various levels of political maneuvering blossom during the marketing planning process. It’s not in your job description, but how you hurdle these challenges will speak volumes about you. Here are a couple of tips that should help you manage egos and personal interests. First, schedule 15-minute meetings with relevant, key stakeholders to not only gauge their needs and wants, but also get their advance commitment and buy-in. I recommend avoiding the department wide meetings at this stage and keeping these sessions one on one as much as possible. Second, make a concerted effort to remove the omnipresent chasm between sales and marketing departments. Note: this will not happen overnight, but regularly engaging and being an active in sales and the sales management process is important. Succinct and regular dialog with sales personnel and associated executives – in writing and in person – will get you on the right track.

Positioning yourself as an irreplaceable resource rather than needy is critical. During your sessions, get specific and outline the marketing function as it relates to supporting business development and Driving Revenue. Perhaps refresh previous year learnings with a 30-minute exercise of the definition of a lead and the scoring or weighting of different kinds of leads. Assess the sales team’s ability to “carry-out” lead generation by regularly updating internal systems in effort to keep sales and marketing in alignment. It’s a bit of a slippery slope, but the bottom line is that the sales team is responsible for producing the numbers, and synchronized marketing support will create a healthier, more accountable environment on the whole. When it comes to the plan elements, trust your instincts. You’re in the driver’s seat because you are a trusted resource. Rely heavily on the previous year metrics. If you don’t have metrics, instill them and actively monitor the sales and marketing scoreboard. When you’re ready, get feedback on your standard components and your leaps of faith. And always hold a few trump cards back for the big presentation. If your plan is logical, practical and measurable you will do just fine. Lastly, enjoy this time of year as it might be the only time when you can truly be a creative marketer rather than a proverbial fire extinguisher.