When B2B marketing leaders start their annual planning, they often lack some critical input. That keeps their plans from being as effective as they could be — and often, it means that marketing activities won’t support business objectives.

In my previous post, I explained how the Forrester B2B Marketing Planning Process provides a structure for annual planning efforts. In this post, I will share the three types of information that need to be gathered, distilled, and integrated into a marketing plan.

The Business Strategy Is An Input Into Marketing Planning

Marketers building a plan need to understand the company’s strategy and how it translates into what the company wants to become, how it plans to get there, and how it will reach buyers. In addition to aligning with the strategy in the plan year, the strategy indicates what needs to be in place in subsequent years, and that may require marketing action in the current year.

This information often comes from your C-suite. In an ideal situation, it is part of a documented strategy that has been developed and that coordinates vision, growth, routes-to-market, and operational realities across the sales, marketing, and product functions. But often, this information is not communicated beyond the executive team. And to make it even more challenging, it is aspirational, spans multiple years, and may be too vague to use for planning.

Marketing leaders must translate this strategy information into brand, audience, value, and operational terms to know how this will affect marketing priorities, team alignment, marketing annual goals, and resource requirements in the coming year or two.

Target Audiences And The Offering Portfolio Are Inputs Into Marketing Planning

A marketing plan needs to reflect an understanding of the audience for the company’s offerings and how the offerings will evolve over the plan’s time frame. If new product offerings or competitive initiatives are in the cards, marketing needs to prepare.

Audience and offering information usually can be found by working with your product management and product marketing teams and through your business unit leaders. Ideally, there is a timeline for new product introductions as well as target buyer personas, clarity around buyer needs, and an understanding of the buyer’s journey. Sometimes it can be challenging for marketing to gain access to this information, but clearly conveying how this information will inform near-term and intermediate-term marketing efforts should make it easier.

The Business Revenue Plan Is An Input Into Marketing Planning

Without an understanding of the revenue plan, marketers are flying blind. It is essential to understand the proportions of revenue that will come from both prospects and existing customers, including retention, upsell, and cross-sell. It’s essential to understand the distribution of planned revenue by route and geography so that the marketing programs that come from the marketing plan are pointed at the right regions and on the right sales teams, partners, and marketplaces.

Also important is setting expectations for executive leadership as to what marketing will achieve to support the revenue plan. While we at Forrester try to get our clients to think about measuring marketing engagement that drives desired revenue outcomes, we also know that many companies are still focused on marketing-sourced and -influenced revenue. Without a clear view of the overall revenue plan, committing to contribution levels is a wild guess.

The next step of marketing planning is to figure out what to do with all this information. (Hint: You use it to gain alignment on objectives, set an overall approach to interacting with the many audiences you are targeting, set priorities and quantifiable goals, determine action plans, and identify risks.) In my next post, I will outline how this information is brought into the B2B Marketing Planning Process and used to develop the B2B-Marketing-Plan-On-A-Page Template.