(Note: This is Part 4 of our 6-part series on marketing planning. Part 1, “Making the Case for Higher Spend“, can be found here. Part 2, “Selecting Metrics“, can be found here. Part 3, “Marketers Squeezing Productivity“, can be found here. Check back here every Wednesday in August and September for a new installment!)
As you’re preparing for another year of marketing planning, ask yourself these three questions:
- Do our marketing plans reflect our company’s overall strategic objectives?
- Are our marketing plans based primarily on incremental changes to last year’s activities?
- Even if we know that marketing is making progress, can we tie our activities to business objectives?
We all know what the answers here should be, but how many of us actually get it right?
You may be in the enviable position of not having to justify every expense, but for many organizations, Marketing contribution to firm performance is underappreciated. Critical to overcoming this? Making the link between marketing activities and corporate goals as clear as possible. Here’s how one member organization cracked this nut (MLC members, you can find the full case here):
Step one: Poll all relevant stakeholders –within and beyond Marketing. Survey midlevel to senior marketing leaders to capture their views on the current and “correct” focus (in terms of specific goals, metrics, and activities) for Marketing.
Step two: map the link from corporate goals to individual marketing activities. This is generally low-tech and done with sticky notes, a white board and a facilitator (see the picture for how it looks). This turns out to be easier than you might think. Here’s where you’ll find that a number of marketing goals, metrics and activities can’t actually find a home. Some of these may deserve to go away forever, others just need reconsideration of why you’re doing them. An external facilitator can help ensure the process doesn’t become political
Step three: build a dashboard to allow transparency – and accountability – throughout marketing. While admittedly this is where they spent some money (and used a vendor), solid dashboards can be built even within Excel. What’s important here is transparency.
For the company we profiled (pseudonymed as Vista), this transparency made a big difference. While many business units had come to accept weak metrics or soft goals for many marketing programs, the ability for management to peer into marketing progress practically ensures that all marketing programs are clearly tied to supporting discrete marketing goals. Junior marketing managers suddenly must reassess their mix and devote greater up-front attention to alignment and impact. And in one year Vista saw a pretty big swing in their marketing mix.
The CEO was certainly impressed, saying: “The importance of accountability and measurement is key in everything we do; it’s about making the right investment decisions. Marketing is clearly on board, demonstrating its impact on the achievement of our strategic goals.”
MLC members, take a look at the dashboard here – the full case includes screen shots and more functionality. And, if you’re looking for a little help in your planning process, please check out MarkPlan, MLC’s new software suite designed to help you write strategic, actionable, and impactful marketing plans that fit your organization.