It’s marketing planning season — and given the current economic climate and uncertainties about what’s ahead, sound planning is more important than ever. Even if we don’t know what the coming months will bring, building a plan that supports company objectives and allows for flexibility can help you better weather rough times.

Marketing leaders know what they should do to build a plan in a perfect world: Gather all the meaningful strategy, product, audience, and revenue information into one convenient place, then develop a clear, rational marketing plan that links specific business objectives to a prioritized set of goals and action plans.

The reality of marketing planning is a bit different, though. Often, the process is to pull out last years plan, dust it off, refresh the dates, and treat the whole exercise as the development of a budget proposal. But that’s not useful for anything beyond propagating past bad practices, and it sets up the entire marketing organization for difficulty in showing the rest of the company how marketing is aligned with the companys revenue engine.

Ideally, a marketing plan is a useful tool for communicating up, across, and down the organization so that everyone knows what they should expect from marketing, and for the marketing team members, it tells them what they should be focused on. The challenge for marketing leaders is that building a good marketing plan is hard — harder than it should be, because:

  1. Marketers lack a consistent template that describes the process for building a plan and the information it should contain.
  2. They don’t know what information should be used, where to find it, and how to interpret it.
  3. It’s not obvious how to bring all the information together to transform it into a marketing plan.

In this series of three blog posts, I’ll outline the Forrester B2B Marketing Planning Process, explain the three categories of information that are needed to develop a good marketing plan, and show how everything comes together to produce a marketing plan. We help our clients use the Marketing Planning Process to transform their business objectives and marketing ideas into a solid plan and then leverage the Forrester B2B Marketing Plan On A Page to capture and communicate the plan in a streamlined template.

The Forrester B2B Marketing Planning Process

The Marketing Planning Process helps partition the steps from confirming business objectives to developing the marketing contributions to those objectives to determining the actions that marketing will take.

The Forrester B2B Marketing Planning Process

  • Business objectives. Determine the key business objectives across the revenue engine, and validate that the sales, marketing, and product functions have the same perceptions of them.
  • Intent. Decide the approach that marketing will take to help the business achieve each of the business objectives. This could range from developing entirely new growth marketing initiatives to adopting a retention strategy for a business segment to leaving a market altogether.
  • Priorities. Factor in the marketing priorities that must be woven into the marketing plan, some of which are directly related to revenue-engine support for the planning year and others which may need to be put in place now to support future objectives.
  • Goals. Define and rationalize specific metrics that establish the thresholds of performance that marketing must meet.
  • Actions. Review current and proposed campaigns that comprise the initiatives marketing will execute in the plan year.
  • Dependencies and risks. Document and communicate the resource, infrastructure, product, and investment dependencies that marketing is counting on to make all the components of the marketing plan come together.
  • Governance. Establish a means to audit the plan performance and make adjustments.

Each of these steps have information inputs, and our clients have access to marketing planning worksheets, tools, and templates. Each step concludes with analysis that ensures readiness to proceed to the next phase and a set of outputs, including a section of the Plan-On-A-Page Template.

In my next blog post, I will describe the three critical sources of information that every good marketing plan must consider. In the meantime, I invite you to learn about my upcoming webinar on building an annual plan that enables marketing to deliver on business objectives.