Annual marketing planning is tricky on a number of fronts, and in this blog post series, I’ve addressed a few of the main challenges that B2B marketing leaders face. In the first post, I shared an outline of a marketing planning process. In the second, I described the critical strategy, audience, product, and revenue information needed for an effective marketing plan. Here, I’ll share how that information is incorporated by the marketing planning process and transformed into the elements of a marketing plan.

Setting Marketing Plan Objectives

One of the most important steps in marketing planning is to make sure you’re on the same page with the sales and product functions. That’s why our marketing planning process starts with an alignment step. Use your strategy insights to confirm growth and brand objectives. Use the audience and offering information to confirm what you’re targeting, competing with, and launching. And use the revenue plan information to confirm that your audience segments are aligned with where sales intends to drive their efforts.

Orienting Marketing Planning Priorities

Marketing needs to select the initiatives it will execute, and it needs to balance the urgent projects that will affect the business right away with the important efforts that will yield value in the long run. Marketing can’t do everything, and every marketing plan is a trade-off between near-term initiatives such as new product launches, competitive response actions, and demand efforts and longer-term priorities such as developing new partner programs, brand efforts, and shifting focus to customer retention.

Determining Marketing’s Definitions For Success

For a marketing organization to show that it is delivering value to the business, it must set objectives and meet them. From strategy, marketing can call out business and corporate initiatives and establish metrics that will show how they have been met. From the audience and offering information, define market penetration and retention objectives and set contribution and engagement goals aligned to the revenue plan.

Capturing Dependencies And Risks In The Marketing Plan

The marketing organization is an important cog in the corporate gearbox, but to yield overall value, the other gears must work, too. In many cases, marketing plans are built on the assumption that other parts of the business are meeting their commitments. If achieving success with planned initiatives depends on planned investments, infrastructure, product availability, access to segments, and sales priorities, then they should be called out.

Using The Plan On A Page To Guide Marketing Initiatives

A good marketing plan should be a combination of a communications tool and a step-by-step outline of what marketing will do over the coming year. At Forrester, we help our clients take the output of their planning activities and produce a streamlined marketing plan in a template we call the Forrester B2B Marketing Plan On A Page. It’s a direct output of the marketing planning process that we use for:

  • Communication. It’s a powerful tool for sharing a marketing plan with the CEO, laterally with the peer C-suite, and inside the marketing organization with the marketing leadership team and down.
  • Cascading. The Marketing Plan On A Page can be extended to cascade into campaign, geographic, distribution channel, and business-unit plans. We don’t recommend cascading it into marketing team-level plans, though, because that risks losing the synergy of alignment to specific business objectives.
  • Operating model. The Marketing Plan On A Page is an excellent starting point for ensuring that the overall marketing operating model is aligned. It helps with validating the structure and focus of shared services and centers of excellence.

In these three blog posts, I have outlined a marketing planning process, identified key information that you need to develop a marketing plan and where to find it, and described how this information can be distilled into an easily readable form using the B2B-Marketing-Plan-On-A-Page Template.

Want to dive even deeper? Join me for a webinar on July 21, where I will walk through the marketing planning process and provide more insights on building an effective plan. I hope to see you there!