This post is the second of a 2-part series on the annual planning process for marketers. The first part can be viewed here. We’re talking about the craziest time of the year, planning time, and some high-level steps you can take to establish and communicate your plan.
Ensure team buy-in: Your team should iterate on the plan until they agree that it is comprehensive, achieves the goals, and makes logical sense. As a manager, this will require facilitation on your part. You may have inputs such as a budget range that may be approved, that impact the plan and, in some cases, you may need to make a hard call as a leader. Your goal for this iterative planning process is to finalize a plan that:
- supports the goals of the business
- helps your team understand their commitments, contributions to the team, and why decisions were reached
- reflects collective effort
This approach ensures your team has bought into what they’ve signed up to do next year.
Present your plan: Based on your organization and your planning process, you may have a different list of folks you need to present to and I’ll leave that judgment up to you. In my experience, the marketing leader first presents to the senior executive team in order to make the case for the budget. To do this, you will want to have all of your supporting documentation as well (e.g. funnel calculation spreadsheets, tradeshow costs, ROI of each major activity planned.) Once the budget is approved and the senior team is on board, it is time to share your story more broadly.
Treat your plan presentation like you treat your marketing; consider persona! Create different versions of your presentation tailored to your audience and what they care about. For example, present the sales team with the plan at their kickoff meeting, highlighting how you are going to support their selling efforts. As a rule of thumb, I’ve always tried to follow this rule: Tell them what you’re going to do, deliver on what you promised (and be honest if you haven’t), remind them that you delivered it, repeat. (I love this)
Make it actionable: Chances are there are other artifacts that your team will need to be able to execute against the plan. One of the most helpful tools I’ve used is a spreadsheet or matrix-style calendar that lists the months across the top and the channels (PR/AR, social, web, advertising, email, events, etc) down the side. Activities for each channel are mapped across the calendar to help find economies of scale, common themes (create once and use cross-channel), and potential workload imbalances. You’ll want to indicate important dates, such as product launches and holidays (don’t want to do a send on Christmas, but it might be fun to do a St. Patty’s promo in March). Using this document early in the planning process helps your team integrate their efforts, and leveraging it later to share planned future activity helps to keep other departments in the know about what’s happening in marketing (eliminates “what is it that marketing does, anyways?”). Just be aware that it is an eye chart and if you’re planning to share with others in the organization, you may want to share a month or quarter at a time.
Review your progress and course correct: In marketing, the ability to be nimble and course correct is an important part of keeping your efforts aligned with the organization and on the path to success. You should periodically present marketing’s progress against plan, say quarterly, to make sure your team’s progress is understood and to provide opportunity for input regarding the plan to other departments. This can be easier to execute than you might think. You can simply leverage your original plan deck and update with your progress against your commitments.
While it is considerable work, the planning process does not have to send you to the funny farm. Taking control of the process with a clear vision of the steps you wish to take and the outputs you should create prevents the planning process from taking over.
I hope these ideas were helpful and good luck with your planning!