These three beliefs about annual planning are so widely acknowledged in our industry that they feel like a foregone conclusion:
- Annual planning is vital.
- Most annual plans kind of suck.
- The planning process fills most marketers with a looming sense of dread.
What can you do to break this paradigm and generate a winning plan? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.
- It’s that time again. For many of us, October means annual planning season has arrived.
- Many find the planning process time-consuming and difficult. And many business leaders—in marketing and beyond—recognize that the end product often falls short.
- What’s going wrong here? The potential pitfalls are many. Three of the most common: lack of buy-in from the team, unrealistic ambitions and unclear objectives.
- How can you dodge these bumps on the road? Our first tip: avoid the unclear objectives pitfall by closely aligning your marketing plan with company-wide priorities.
- Next: be careful to keep planning distinct from strategy development. Your overall strategy should feed into your plan. But planning and strategy are fundamentally different undertakings. Avoiding this tangle simplifies the process and makes the end result stronger.
- Speaking of tangles, it’s also important to separate planning from budgeting. According to J. Mark Carr “mixing planning and budgeting—or worse, starting with a budget—reinforces the tendency to start making financial tradeoffs early.”
- Another tip: consider the long, medium and short term separately and with equal care.
- It’s also important to find a balance between optimism and pessimism, or what Tom Fishburne calls “hot air and sandbagging”.
- Too often, the root of the problem is the process by which plans are assembled. Teams that map out a well-considered process—including clear roles and responsibilities—are well on their way to a solid plan (and a less painful experience for all involved).
- Who should own the task of defining and managing this process? We agree with Sam Melnick, who argues that marketing operations—a strategic arm of marketing leadership, but also an enabler to marketers in the field—is best placed to lead the charge.
- Interested in upping your annual planning game by mapping a new process or supercharging your marketing ops function? We can help with that.