A great marketing plan is like a brain that directs, aligns and activates your marketing team and its available resources around the right collective goals. Conversely, teams that don’t have a functioning plan risk wasting resources, time and energy working on the wrong things. So why is it so rare to see marketing teams executing against fully functional, real-time, connected marketing plans?
While 29% of marketing budgets are spent on marketing technology, according to a recent Gartner study, marketing planning remains a neglected area. In practice, less than 1% of martech spending is invested up-front to perfect the marketing plan or provide the technology that enables teams to access and apply it – let alone to inform or improve future versions.
If companies are concerned with major digital transformation projects – increasingly a watchword of progressive corporations — marketing teams often find themselves on the front line, translating them into messages the target market can understand. Yet, according to Joe McKendrick, writing in Forbes this year, 45% of business executives don’t know where to start when developing business transformation strategies and 41% think any business transformation done so far had been “a waste of time”. But while 75% of executives cited in the same study referenced by McKendrick were investing in AI, fewer than one in three were investing in planning, or getting better visibility over their processes.
Without proper planning, marketing is subject to costly invisible challenges, including:
- Communication – Directing the team to act as one across the plethora of channels, audiences and activities in play
- Compliance – Managing risk, maintaining brand governance and regulatory standards, and providing an audit trail if things go wrong
- Accountability – Providing visibility over marketing activity and demonstrating how it achieves key commercial and strategic business objectives
- Budget – Showing ROI and protecting marketing from being the first area to experience cuts when money is tight.
Planning standards are generally so average that increased investment in better marketing planning is actually a competitive advantage.
Betting on a plan
Take Sportsbet, one of Australia’s biggest bookmakers. The company runs its internal studio and turns out more than 400 marketing jobs a month using Simple’s intelligent marketing resource management software to plan, manage and allocate work.
This focus on improved planning and visibility enables the team to ensure its resources are always being put to best use, handovers within projects are managed efficiently, and approved assets are used effectively.
“The platform was giving stakeholders the resources to be better at requesting creative, and giving them vital visibility as well,” says Scott Walker, former Sportsbet head of design.
Taking it to the bank
Meanwhile a major Australian banking group undertook a recent audit of its marketing process and found more than 80 different documented workflows in use, many of which duplicated other processes.
These were streamlined during the audit, and the number reduced by 69%, dramatically simplifying marketing operations, making it easier to follow, reducing errors and fewer delays in getting to market.
The silos inherent in the creative process, which can see many different agencies working from the same proposition supplying similar content, often create duplication and inefficiencies in marketing teams.
Implementing a standardised briefing process also significantly reduces lead times, shortens approval times, saves cost and facilitates best practice when it comes to executing your marketing plan efficiently and effectively.
Most marketing teams create annual plans, updated quarterly to account for changing priorities or schedule slippage, but in reality, these are little more than budget allocation spreadsheets – easily ignored or forgotten, hard to access and prone to data entry errors and inaccuracies.
But a marketing plan is worth little unless it’s the team’s north star: a framework that drives activity and keeps everyone on track, working towards common goals, completing them on time, staying on brand, and ultimately helping teams reach their targets.
When projects, timelines or objectives change, an effective marketing plan should reflect this, as well as the impact on budgets, resourcing and outcomes. Ideally, content and dashboards are role-appropriate, so stakeholders see only the information they need but can reference all the assets and information they need to do their job.
This is not about centralisation for its own sake: it’s about establishing standard operating processes and the systems and tools that underpin them to enable a marketing organisation to reach its full potential.
Six features of effective marketing plans
A proper marketing plan is much more than a list of colour-coded activities time-stamped with a proposed launch date. It should include the following:
- Insight – Why is the planned activity the right activity?
- Investment – What is being spent in terms of money, people and time to ensure success?
- Alignment – How will the activity achieve the organisation’s commercial and strategic goals?
- Adaptability – How is change communicated and what is its impact on big-picture outcomes?
- Collaboration – How are stakeholders, team members and suppliers brought together to do and review the work?
- Accountability – What work was actually done, and what was the impact?
Effective marketing planning can be transformational for an entire business. One of the costliest aspects of the marketing function for any organisation is executive churn; and according to LinkedIn, marketing staff turn over faster than any other function at 17% per year.
CMOs themselves change jobs every three to four years: so where does that leave the corporate memory of what has worked, and what hasn’t, in marketing? Typically marketing activity stagnates while new people are hired, creating a marketing vacuum that costs companies dearly in terms of lost opportunity and momentum.
But a plan that is accessible across an organisation – including by the COO and the CFO — means valuable corporate knowledge is stored and retained – saving millions and protecting current and future profits. There needs to be a mindset shift within organisations to achieve this – one requiring the change management needed if people and processes are to be reviewed and streamlined against an overarching marketing activity plan.
In short, without the signposts, collaboration and direction that a proper marketing plan provides, you’re wasting not only your own creative energy, but your team’s time and your company’s money.
This article first appeared as ‘Prepare to be productive’ in Catalyst, the magazine for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Simple’s intelligent Marketing Resource Management platform can help your marketing team plan better. Reach out to one of our friendly consultants for more information.