Marketing planning is often a scramble. Frequently, the process is set up by finance as a race for marketing and sales to develop their plans in parallel, unfortunately ending with plans that are out of sync with one another. But that is only one of the traps that marketing leaders can fall into, and in this article, we will share seven B2B marketing planning pitfalls that you should avoid and what you should do instead to achieve solid annual B2B marketing plans.
1. Don’t create your marketing plan alone
The key to a good marketing plan is alignment to business objectives and collaboration with your counterparts in product and sales. Getting the fingerprints of your functional counterparts on your marketing plan will inspire them to feel that they had a role in creating it. They will be more supportive of your marketing priorities than they would be if they weren’t involved. They might become marketing evangelists if they feel that it is their plan, too.
2. Don’t dust off last year’s plan
If your marketing plan has been sitting on a shelf gathering dust, then it was probably developed to justify last year’s budget and then forgotten. Take a new approach and identify the key business objectives that your company wants to achieve. List them and then develop a marketing response to each of them, identifying the approach that marketing will take to fulfill those objectives, then prioritize the mix and publish your marketing plan on a page.
3. Don’t make it a repeat of your event execution calendar
Unfortunately, it is true that much of marketing budgets are consumed by events and sponsorships, many of which are locked in well in advance of the marketing planning process. Consider breaking the cycle of event-driven marketing and map marketing resources to specific business objectives that are described in impact-oriented metrics. If achieving these objectives requires participation in an event, that’s fine, but your overall plan can become less dependent on these high-priced tactics if you justify them carefully.
4. Don’t make it a reflection of your organization structure
Often, marketing leaders will build their plans by looking at the disciplines of their marketing teams and allocating resources along these functional lines, then their marketing leaders will develop their own plans along their specialties. This will result in a stream of disconnected marketing tactics, and measuring their outcome and demonstrating their alignment to business objectives will be impossible.
5. Don’t be myopic
We often see marketing focused on growth and revenue, and that often translates into finding new opportunities. When measurement is focused on contribution to pipeline, bookings or revenue, it is easy to become myopic about demand creation. Marketing is more than demand; it cuts across reputation, demand, customer engagement, sales enablement and marketing operations. Don’t forsake the important areas of marketing value contribution for the easily measured.
6. Don’t give in to the richest business unit or product group
In most organizations, there are areas that generate most of the revenue. When planning season comes around, it can be expected that these areas will ask for big proportions of marketing resources and attention for the coming year. The challenge that a marketing leader faces is to make the decisions to invest in growth areas along with the sustaining efforts to support the big revenue generators. In some cases, marketing will have to invest ahead of revenue and profit and, in others, be careful to manage investment in mature areas. It’s a balancing act.
7. Don’t just develop a marketing plan
Often, marketing plans are developed to meet an internal objective, and then they are set aside and the “real work” of marketing begins. Instead of perverting the purpose of marketing planning, make sure that you can translate your marketing plan into action. One way to do this is to use your plan on a page as the basis for your business review reporting template — then, when the quarterly business review comes around, the marketing report reflects the progress made against the plan.
Let’s face it: Planning is hard, and it is not a lot of fun. Most marketers would rather be executing their marketing plans than building them. And in many companies, the planning process is disruptive — forcing a halt to activities while marketing leaders prepare for some internal milestone that leads to getting their budgets approved. But some companies have found a way to take the disruption out of both sales and marketing planning by building a cross-functional planning council that meets periodically. It’s a way to assess performance, extend the current sales and marketing plans in a collaborative way and apply course corrections.
Craig Moore is a VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester. Moore brings 30 years of experience to the marketing executive services team. His three decades of experience span such areas as marketing operations, partner marketing, strategic alliances, product marketing and management, software development and entrepreneurship.