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Marketing plans come in many shapes and forms—ranging from razor-sharp and specific details to broad brushes with plenty of room for interpretation. To predict the initiatives that eventually will carry fruit, you can divide them into three categories suitable for high-level predictions of the success your marketing teams can expect this year.
The marketing plan conundrum
Modern marketing requires extensive collaborations across diverse marketing and sales disciplines. You can unlock growth by finding growth markets or ways to grow market share in flat or declining markets. The third source for growth comes from superior internal alignment, starting with strategy via goals to execution plans.
Goal alignment is harder to do in marketing organizations. You mix initiatives on wanted positions 3-5 years out for your brand with daily requests from sales teams and shifting priorities. You build classic one-year plans and gradually improve your agile planning and execution skills. Marketing plans are your weapon in driving alignment.
Solid green on the outside and the inside, plans ready to make you shine in the limelight. The final result stems from the sum of all parts and additional value from collaborations in teams. A few characteristics stand out:
- Plans start from the business opportunities your marketing shall impact and articulated outside-in the way your customer sees it.
- Alignment made around outcomes and customer value-adding assets resulting from crucial activities.
- Build from a menu where most content assets rely on proven repetitive execution models, with a set ambition for growth into a handful of new prioritized content types.
- Specific objectives are formulated as SMART goals or OKR guiding execution in cross-functional teams.
- Progress reporting on a players’ scoreboard, where teams grok if they win or lose daily.
When your marketing plans fall in this category, green on both the outside and the inside, you have a high probability of reaching your marketing goals. Your team is well-aligned with market dynamics and excels at breaking down revenue-generating opportunities into concrete marketing objectives and associated assets.
Bigger and more exotic. Green on the outside, yellow and a bit sour on the inside. Where you need sharper tools to reach the end goal, these types of plans have:
- They usually have bigger ambitions and represent more significant shifts from the previous years’ execution.
- They contain more ambiguity between executing what you know well and bold ambitions for the future.
- You are expanding into new marketing initiatives your organization did not perform before.
- “Business as unusual,” with changes in roles, responsibilities, ways of working, and success metrics, rather than a business-as-usual reality.
These plans can be executed and require a willingness to take on large execution and change jobs.
Big, green, and hard on the outside, red and slushy on the inside, with a risk of offering a watered-down taste:
- Bold long-term ambitions, but weak on substance for the upcoming quarters.
- Rich on trending buzzwords but unclear on the opportunities you are going after.
- Crisp on products and solutions but fuzzy on scenarios you sell are selling towards.
- Many seats at the table, driving agreements around the least common denominator rather than the most wanted impact.
- Dominated by inside-out perspectives.
- Centered around output rather than outcome
- Large numbers of performance indicators.
- Struggle to align business opportunities with marketing initiatives.
Watermelon plans have significant gaps between wanted positions and execution capabilities.
Great questions for you and your team
- In which category do our current plans fall?
- How can we best improve our plans and move up a class?
- How far into the future can we predict execution?
- Can we make our plans simpler to ensure all team members understand them?
- How has our planning been affected by the pandemic?
- When do we aspire to be in the limelight?
Addition reading suggestions
- The 1-page marketing plan [BLOGPOST] – by Allan Dib, Successwise
- Align marketing goals with your business strategy [BLOGPOST] – by Randy Fougere, Think2Grow
- How to create an effective marketing plan [BLOGPOST] – by Annmarie Hanlon
- 5 critical steps to developing a marketing plan [BLOGPOST] – by Lee Chapman
- Marketing OKRs: Practical examples and how to use them [BLOGPOST – by Mari Luukkainen