Where does your marketing plan live today: in a PowerPoint deck, Google Doc, or spreadsheet? Did you run through your plan once with the team at the beginning of the year and then throw it on a shared drive making it hard to reference? Are you certain your team is fully bought into the plan and is prepared to execute it with a clear understanding of the goals and what they need to contribute?
Without the marketing team having a clear understanding of the goals and each member buying in, achieving success will be difficult. Even when your team has a good understanding and you have buy-in, if the goals are not frequently reviewed and the progress against them is not consistently tracked, a counterproductive practice of conducting random acts of marketing in silos will ensue. For this reason, marketing teams need to set up a system where every marketing campaign, program, and channel is being applied to specific goals and measured.
To reach true team buy-in, and not just cautious optimism, you need agreement that the goals are realistic with the human and financial resources you have outlined in the marketing plan. Now that you are in execution mode, map out the execution details so everyone can feel comfortable with their role. For instance, your team may not know that they are light on headcount, skill set, or budget until they take the next step, which is why a greater level of detail will help everyone get comfortable and committed.
Since marketing frequently needs to rely on other parts of the company for success, such as the sales and product organizations, the team must also buy in that other parts of the organization are capable and willing to support marketing’s goals, campaigns, and programs. For example, if the engineering team frequently misses their product release dates, the marketing team may not feel comfortable with product launch goals.
To ensure that you have focus on the goals and strategies outlined in the marketing plan do the following:
Below is a sample agenda your goals-based team meetings should follow:
Follow this same process for steps 1 and 2 with the executive team. Report on your progress against the goals every week. With this repetition, the rest of the organization will understand what marketing is trying to accomplish. When they understand marketing’s focus (which is not always the case) they can be more supportive. If the marketing goals align with the company goals, which they should, then it will be difficult for others outside the marketing team to push back on.
Also, marketers can use the goals as a shield against ideas of the day, fire drills, and random projects being imposed upon them. Marketers just need to ask the question, “Which goal does this idea/project help achieve?” If the idea doesn’t align with any of the agreed upon goals, then you can dismiss it or push it off to another time.
This all sounds simple, so why doesn’t everyone in marketing do it? Too many marketing organizations get distracted by screaming sales teams and overly innovative CEOs. As a result, a focus on the goals starts to diminish a month into the plan and empty calorie marketing ensues.
If you are running meetings this way, the death spiral has begun. Your team will be trained to think tactically. They will focus on doing the work they know how to do and will never check themselves against whether it is the right work to do. Since you will not have clarity as to the progress against your goals at the team level, you will not be able to report goals achievement at the executive level. As a result, you will only be able to report on marketing tactics, and ultimately, it will lead to a loss of strategic equity and trust with the other executives on making business-driven decisions.
To achieve operational marketing excellence, you need to build a culture of accountability. That requires applying goals, structure, and transparency to the following:
Many organizations today are set up by marketing channel or function (i.e. digital marketing, PR, events, etc.). We do this because marketers have become specialized over the years as marketing has become more complex. This has resulted in siloed marketing. The PR team has no idea how or what the digital marketing team is doing. The events team no longer collaborates with the product marketing team due to different objectives. This organizational structure is doomed for failure.
A better way to cultivate a goals focused marketing team is to organize by campaign. A campaign consists of a goal, target audience, pain/want/need based messages, and potentially a theme. A campaign can leverage one or more marketing channels to distribute the messages to the target audience. Finally, all campaigns must be measurable.
Why are using campaigns important? It forces your team to work together to accomplish goals. A campaign, if large and important enough, can involve the whole marketing team to collaborate to achieve a goal. This groupthink will create alignment and collaboration, and ultimately, deliver better marketing results.
Budgets are critical to a marketer’s success, because spending money efficiently and tracking it accurately is critical to company success. Marketing often has the largest discretionary spend of any team at the company. Taking these truths into account, marketing teams tend to produce inconsistent results when it comes to budget management. So why does budgeting not get more attention if it is so important?
Marketers do not have a standardized practice for managing budgets. The regularity with which they update their budgets and the amount of detail included in their spreadsheets varies widely from company to company. Most marketers have not taken a finance class, so practices such as cash and accrual-based accounting are foreign concepts. CMOs and CFOs don’t formalize a budget management process often enough for the marketing team to follow, resulting in a loss of visibility of marketing spend.
Another key factor that hinders spend accuracy is that marketers typically don’t like managing a budget, and they view expense management as an activity that chews up valuable time they could have spent on marketing. Also, marketers in general don’t tend to be wizards with spreadsheets. Fat fingering, wiping out formulas in cells, and incorrectly categorizing expenses are all commonplace. As a result, the plan is over budget, or more commonly, under budget.
Dating back hundreds of years, measuring the true value of marketing has been elusive. Marketers still struggle to determine business value, so they use vanity metrics such as impressions and influence to track marketing’s impact. The problem is few others at the company (outside of marketing) understand the meaning and impact of these metrics. When marketers can’t demonstrate business value, budgets get cut and the function loses credibility with the other executives and the board.
A more important issue regarding the inability to determine the value of marketing, is that without knowing business metrics such as return on investment (ROI), profit, and lifetime value (LTV), marketers make decisions in the dark. How many times have you seen marketers declare victory based on the number of leads created by a campaign only to find out that none of them resulted in sales. Or, the marketing campaign resulted in sales, but it’s discovered that marketing spent 2X more than the revenue generated for a negative ROI. Most humbling is when you think you broke even on your marketing spend only to have the CFO dispute your proclamation because you did not factor in the company’s profit margin.
There are 4 business metrics that will help you understand the true value of your marketing and make decision making much easier:
Cost per outcome (CPO)
Return on investment (ROI)
Business value: Profit
Business value: Lifetime value (LTV)
Interested in learning more about creating goals, visibility, and consistency for marketing team alignment? For a detailed breakdown on how effectively apply goals, structure, and transparency, download the eBook, “How to Execute a Marketing Plan with Operational Excellence” today. It will help you gain a better understanding of how to efficiently and accurately execute your plan to achieve your goals.