marketing strategy and planning: the road less traveledIt’s that time of year again and I have to ask the only question that matters for those of us involved in marketing strategy and planning:

Do you know which marketing programs have worked and which ones didn’t? And what was the return on the investments you made?

I am always completely amazed at how few of us can answer this question.

And I understand this is hard. Accountability is tough on B2B Marketing organizations. We are complex beasts with many forces at work. But is this really an excuse as you lead into your 2013 budget and planning process?

Marketing leaders have to stop throwing good money after bad, based on assumptions that are never validated. Based on decisions that are never revisited. Based on politics and business cases that have no numbers in them. It’s just math! And we all know the nerds will win.

So get ready to take a new approach to planning…

What Is A Marketing Strategy?

It’s the approach you take to achieve your marketing objectives. It should be followed by a business plan. If you want funding: write a business plan. If you want to pitch a new idea: write a business plan.

Instead, we look at last year’s budget and add or subtract a few percentage points. Or maybe we look at which Sales VP is barking the loudest lately and throw him a few bones.

Here’s an idea: Zero-based planning. Take all your old assumptions and throw them out. Fund nothing without a business plan. Question every dollar and require that good old fashion business plan. Then, make sure you re-visit the assumptions and projections so your team knows they cannot just make up the numbers.

One of my greatest work-life lessons: is to never lack a strategy. Just as important: be able to articulate it. And if you really want to get something done, have a plan for it.

Do you fund teams and projects simply because they exist. With no strategic business plan, you will quickly start producing content and campaigns no one wants and spending money that is ineffective.

How to Build a Business Case For Your Budget

Imagine a world where your strategy is aligned to your customer’s buying process and then your business outcomes. Data drives the decisions. You have a clear marketing objective. And you know how you are helping your company to get there.

In that ideal world, you don’t spend money to justify jobs. You seek to get results that prove your worth.

So don’t wait! It’s never too early to start planning for 2013!

5 Steps to Avoid a Marketing Strategy and Planning Disaster:

  1. Identify your business goals and evaluate them in context with the latest marketplace realities and customer research. Start with the customer problems you can solve and take their perspective.
  2. Ruthlessly evaluate what worked and what didn’t in the past. Pick winners and prune the losing tactics, techniques and processes. Shift people to where they are needed most.
  3. Model the appropriate marketing mix in order to achieve a higher return on marketing spend.
  4. Define a Content Strategy based on the needs of todays’ buyers. Create an audience-first marketing mentality.
  5. Define an always-on, inbound marketing approach that produces more efficient and effective marketing outcomes.

What do you think? Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow the conversation on Twitter,  LinkedInFacebook or Google+.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

4 Comments

  1. Bhaskar Sarma said…

    Michael I would like to chime in with a specific point related to inbound marketing.

    Since an inbound marketing strategy typically takes more time to display results than outbound there should also be a change in the expectation of a quick fix and overall, a change in the internal corporate culture.

    In my experience even a perfect content strategy is not enough unless the entire organization is on board with implementing it. You might produce great content on the corporate blog but if your own employees are not committed to sharing it with their own professional networks that content will get buried.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      It’s a great point Bhaskar. We are having this discussion inside SAP as well. How do you “fix the plan while it is flying” so to speak. Especially when it comes to the expectation from sales that you will deliver x number of leads of execute x number of events.

      It’s a tough question to which I do not have the answer, I agree having the entire organization on board is a good start but when you have 1,000 or more marketers, in a large organization, that can be tough. I would welcome any thoughts on how others are managing this transition?

  2. Nick Robinson said…

    Hey Michael, just reading the comment thread. While I have not dealt with getting large adoption of content marketing and inbound, is there any type of incentive a company can give employees? Not necessarily monetary, but rather a heightened personal brand for example. If the company can attribute x impressions or leads back to an original author source within a given time period, the author gets to do a company sponsored workshop with industry influencers attending. Just one idea, but wanted to get your thoughts on that.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hi Nick, I’ve written about this from a couple of different angles. First, is that in order to become a truly social business, companies need to have a culture that highlights the importance of active and engaged and passionate employees. It also needs executives who are leading the way in social.

      Second, there needs to be formal “encouragement” programs that go beyond just training and enablement. I don’t think there needs to be any motivation other than the one you mentioned. An active employee gets to advance their personal brand and in doing so, helps the brand advance a position of leadership.

      I like your idea. I think the more influential the personal brand becomes, the more effective their content will generate results.

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