Working on a Marketing Plan? Don’t Pass Go Until You’ve Achieved Alignment and Accountability
Limited resources and high expectations make it easy for marketing leaders to fall into the habit of ready – fire – aim. Of course there are times when immediate action (ready/fire) is needed. Creation of a marketing plan upon which your organization’s and your success depends is not one of those times. Taking aim first, helps ensure that your marketing efforts will move the right business needles to create value and that there is enough wood behind your arrow to be successful.
Alignment and accountability help you take aim. Inextricably linked, they are the cornerstones of successful marketing organization and its plan.
Achieve alignment as the first step in your marketing plan process
Every marketing objective, strategy, program, and associated tactics and activities in your plan need to ladder up to a quantifiable business outcome. This level of alignment brings the visibility needed to do the right things right because priorities and direction are clarified. When properly formulated, each outcome, objective, and program captures a customer-centric performance target that when looked at holistically creates the data chain and metrics needed to measure marketing contribution, and monitor and optimize performance and processes.
Without business alignment, it’s impossible to quantify marketing’s value and to select the right metrics. Even the most sophisticated data collection and analysis can be completely undermined by poor alignment.
Consider the bottom-up approach to planning some marketing groups take that focuses on developing programs that include some combination of what’s always been done or what they best know how to do. As a result programs are disconnected (not aligned) from the business and metrics fall primarily into activity or output categories, such as number of campaigns or events produced or email open and click through rates. These metrics make quantifying marketing’s contribution to the business difficult, jeopardizing continued investments and obscuring the steps they should, and shouldn’t, be taking.
Now compare that to the outcome-to-activity approach that Best-in-Class marketing organizations take creates a direct line-of-sight between programs, investments, and the business outcomes. This approach facilitates alignment and enables Marketing to clarify the strategic intent of all the investments it makes and to measure and communicate the degree to which marketing delivers on its commitments. It also helps determine the marketing effort and resources required.
Tackle accountability next
Once you have alignment, you’re ready to tackle accountability – the measurement and metrics aspects of your plan. You really cannot optimize your marketing by skipping metrics and measurement, the foundation for performance management. Understanding the impact of marketing on your business starts with selecting the right metrics and accurate measurement. When you incorporate the metrics into the plan, you establish the performance targets and relationship that will serve as the building blocks for your dashboard.
Follow these 7 steps for a successful plan
Alignment: Establish direct-line-of sight between marketing initiatives and investments and business outcomes. Armed with the business outcomes and clarity around how marketing is expected to impact them, you can develop the appropriate strategy and associated integrated program.
Metrics: Create outcome-based metrics and develop and maintain a metrics catalogue.
Data: Leverage accurate, timely, data. Develop a Data Dictionary and Data Source Inventory, Store this information in an accessible format, and update it regularly.
Analytics: Hone your analytics skills so you can gain insights from your data and build models.
Performance Setting & Tracking: Commit to set outcome-based performance targets for every program and track results.
Dashboard: Produce an actionable marketing dashboard that quickly and visually conveys your contribution to the organization and facilitates course adjustments.
Optimization: Keep in mind that continuous improvement takes an iterative process. What you do today will feed back into the process in the future. In this way we learn from each activity and adjust our future actions accordingly.
Choose your approach and get started now
It’s never too early to start the planning process, especially if your prior plans have not been successful. Developing and adopting a new planning methodology can be challenging. But from our experience working with many companies across many industries, we know it’s worth it! Here’s what Salina Wuttke, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Safe Systems had to say after our project with them: “We now have a set of quantifiable outcomes on which to build a more strategic, measurable marketing plan and a set of metrics for the dashboard that more clearly communicates marketing’s impact.”
by Laura Patterson – VisionEdge Marketing