Solving the Marketing Planning Conundrum

By admin January 24th, 2012 | No Comments

Over the past fifteen years, first as a software marketing executive and more recently as a consultant to a wider array of businesses, it has become apparent to me that there are a few universal stumbling blocks that virtually every marketing organization struggles with. Without question, Marketing Planning is right at the top of this list. What’s worse is the challenges of effective planning are growing exponentially more difficult as social media, collaboration and mobility are placing increasingly heavy burdens on companies to deliver compelling content faster, rich product features sooner and respond to customer demands instantaneously. Moreover, the need to understand your customer segments more deeply and to engage them in a wider variety of contexts is placing a much greater requirement on planning to be flexible, accurate and agile. However, as I meet with customers on a daily basis I see a collective logic growing in the marketing community favouring less planning over better planning because, “who has the time” or “we’ll plan today and have to change tomorrow”. The reality is these arguments are not new rather they are the original ones we’ve dusted off and applied in response to a more challenging business environment. As a marketing community, we need a new approach to planning that can allow us to become more agile in our processes and systems, more accurate in how we understand our markets and customers, and move faster and with greater leverage through our channels and business partners. Here is a model we have used with great success over the past few years that I believe addresses the current business environment more effectively than conventional marketing planning approaches.

Shaping Business Acceleration (SBA) 

Shaping Business Acceleration is an integrated methodology to marketing planning that provides the transparency to align an organization, the accountability to drive performance and the flexibility to mobilize sales and leadership teams within a rapidly changing and high paced business environment. The methodology is comprised of three phases; “The Marketing Audit”, “Strategic Intent Definition”, and “Change Execution”. These three phases combine to provide a much more accurate view of your internal and external environment, your impact on the organization, your key success metrics and ultimately a well calibrated path to winning. When executed across the organization SBA delivers both visibility and agility which are almost indisputable as the prerequisites for success in the current marketing environment. The marketing audit, which is the first planning phase, considers both internal and external influences on marketing. It includes a situational and environmental audit of the strength and weakness of the current plan to establish a baseline for present and future period planning. The 360 degree audit is focused across three core areas: the team, the target market and access to the market. It is approached uniquely through both structured and  unstructured audits which provide a much richer view of the company’s true strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and success metrics. Strategic intent definition, which is the second planning phase, is a three step process that expands upon the marketing audit to precisely define what success will look like in the upcoming planning period. However rather than focus on historical performance we are forward looking in this phase. There are three steps in the strategic intent definition process: “Alignment to corporate objectives”, “Modelling Success”, and “Strategic Gap Identification” which combine to architect a clear view on how marketing will contribute to goals of the corporation and exactly what needs to be done to affect that change. Change execution is the final planning step and is a two step process for identifying areas for competency improvement in order to bridge the strategic gaps that exist across the three core pillars. For Market Agility we look for key areas of competency improvement across people, processes, and systems. For Market Accuracy we explore markets, customer segments and the partner ecosystem with the intent of identifying the key programs to bridge the gap. For Market Access we are seeking to develop the right marketing mix, routes and metrics to accelerate our core initiatives. There are two steps in the change execution process: “Define Bridge Programs and Campaigns”, and “Ownership, Implementation and Dependency mapping” which combine to deliver a precision operational framework which will guide the activities of the marketing organization and ensure the correct activities are in place to deliver against the success metrics of the department and ultimately the objectives of the company.

Collaborate with Us

As marketing professionals we all realize inherently that the fundamental baseline for an agile marketing organization lies in effective planning yet we continue to struggle each year to establish clear objectives that are aligned across the organization with a measurable operational framework to support it. The problem for us is getting worse as the pace of business is accelerating and the demands to deliver faster and more accurately are increasingly challenging to meet. Shaping Business Acceleration seeks to address this problem and presents a collaborative approach to marketing planning that when executed will maximize your organization’s agility, accuracy and acceleration in the market. Ultimately we feel the solution to marketing planning will come from effective collaboration with our community of experts. We want to hear about your experiences with planning, what works, what doesn’t work, new challenges, new solutions. Please share your expertise and experiences with us so we can help our community of marketing experts continuously improve.

Brendan Reid

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