B2B organizations are typically not given enough time to prepare and understand the proper sequence of actions to produce effective marketing plans that cascade within the organization. Revenue numbers, company strategic vision, product guidance, and important priorities are not cascaded in time to carefully plan, mitigate risks, prepare for dependencies, and develop an organizational plan for effective execution.

Root Causes Of Marketing Planning Problems

  1. Organizations often have a bottom-up, as opposed to top-down, approach. This means that they will have loose connections to company goals and that the output of a plan becomes an extensive tactic or project list. These types of plans are difficult to measure against and make it nearly impossible for marketing to demonstrate value.
  2. Organizations have poor synchronization and sequencing. This happens when marketing plans are built in isolation, when planning layers do not interlock, and when key inputs are missing. Generally, planning activities are poorly or not sequenced at all with teams that have overlapping responsibilities.
  3. Organizations have a short-term focus, only prioritizing quick wins. When a plan focuses only on immediate revenue goals and not customer value realization that results in long-term company growth, this limits focus to only include sales objectives. Marketing becomes support for sales, rather than a strategic function contributing to the value of the overall business.

No matter how solid the planning process, if the functions are attempting to plan for unobtainable or unrealistic objectives, the process will not deliver the required results. It is common to see the executive team announce growth and revenue goals for the coming year and then, with limited guidance, leave each functional leader to determine how to deliver on them. Marketing takes one approach, sales another, and product even another. This can result in suboptimized performance, team turnover, customer churn, and missed pipeline and revenue targets.

Building a marketing plan requires knowledge of the planning inputs but also how the other functional leaders will tackle the objectives, making sure that all inputs are aligned across all functional plans in a meaningful and integrated way to achieve those targets.

While the CMO owns the marketing plan, marketing operations leaders facilitate the entire planning process on their behalf. Unfortunately, most subfunctions treat the start of a new fiscal year as a chance to build multiple disjointed and typically tactical “plans” rather than engage actively in a structured annual planning process. Marketing operations leaders help the leadership team and CMO:

  • Align resources deliberately and proportionately to the areas of the business with the highest impact.
  • Prevent disruptions by clearly mitigating risks and preparing for dependencies.
  • Understand how to pivot. Planning requires more process, more agility, and more adaptability, with the ability to pivot — a critical ask of CMOs.
  • Gather cross-functional inputs, facilitate the creation of cascading plans, and socialize and gain approvals across the business.

How Forrester Can Help

We assist organizations in designing a best-practice planning process across go-to-market functions — marketing, sales, and product. We help align corporate goals and objectives to marketing and sales goals and then plan for successfully achieving those goals.

Forrester clients can follow me for updates, and Forrester Decisions seatholders can request a guidance session with me or my colleagues to go deeper into our revenue planning, marketing planning, and campaign and program planning research. You can also view our recent on-demand webinar, Integrated Planning: Operations Leaders Are Critical To Connecting Dots For The B2B CMO.

Everyone can subscribe to my Forrester blog if you want to be notified when new research and posts are available.

Related Links

Building The Elements Of Your B2B Marketing Plan

Annual Planning Season Is Here — Make It As Productive As Possible

The Three Key Inputs You Need For B2B Marketing Planning

Power Up Your Content With A Plan On A Page

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Role Profile: Global Director Of B2B Marketing Planning

Responsibility Assignment (RACI) Matrix Tool For B2B Marketing Planning

Introducing The Aligned Revenue Planning Process

Introducing The Forrester B2B Marketing Planning Process

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The Forrester Marketing Program Planning Framework