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How to Develop a Strategic, Outcome-Based Marketing Plan

How to Develop a Strategic, Outcome-Based Marketing Plan

It’s that time of year—planning season. Marketers dread the process and the conversation because the company’s top down budget allocation is rarely what they know they need to achieve the expected results. It’s the great divide. A great deal of the consulting work we do at VisionEdge Marketing involves reviewing budgets and Marketing plans so that we can assist clients in determining how to better bridge that divide. The best strategic marketing plan is measurable, outcome-based, and customer-centric.

Many of the plans we review lack performance targets, primarily reflect a list of tactics with delivery dates and costs, and seem disconnected from the business and its strategy. A big part of our practice is helping Marketing leaders get on track with a better aligned, highly defensible budget. In doing so, we equip them with proven practices so that they can create a much better plan themselves in the next budgeting cycle.

Below is a high-level primer on what to do to improve your Marketing plan. The “how to” details are unique for each company, but the basics are here. Let’s take a look.

How to Design the Blueprint for an Effective Marketing Plan

A Marketing plan identifies priorities, prioritizes resources, and articulates how and what Marketing will do to enable the organization to select the best customer and market opportunities. The Marketing plan encompasses the objectives, programs, and activities that create and nurture your organization’s promise of value to the customer. Properly constructed, the Marketing plan is a living roadmap that is anchored to the overall business outcomes and focuses on customer value, growth, and profitability.

It’s not your template that matters. Marketing planning is a process, not an event, and your process for creating your plan matters. Revising the Marketing Planning process is among the top priorities for Marketing organizations this year, according to the 2017 CMO Study by Sirius Decisions. Why? Lack of alignment, measurability, and methodology are among the biggest drivers for revising the planning process.

How to Improve Your Marketing Planning and Results

Follow these four steps to improve your planning process, your plan and ultimately your results.

  1. Anchor Your Plan to Your Company’s Strategy. Avoid rushing to create a list of programs and tactics. A solid Marketing plan is grounded in your company’s overall strategic plan. Your company’s strategy and outcomes are the foundation for an effective and measurable Marketing plan. This is your first step in achieving alignment.
  1. Sync Measurable, Customer-Centric Objectives to Quantifiable Business Outcomes. This is the second essential step in achieving alignment. Revenue and profit are financial targets. Outcomes are what your organization must achieve to produce the targets. Revenue and profit are derived from how well you create value in the markets and the customers you choose to serve. As value creators, Marketing must establish measurable objectives tied to
    • which customers to acquire, retain and grow
    • what markets/categories to penetrate and dominate
    • what solutions to develop or promote and how

Your Marketing objectives define Marketing’s scope and priorities, including what. Marketing will and will not resource. When your objectives are measurable and synched to the outcomes you have the basis for what Marketing is expected to contribute to the organization. This second step to alignment is your first step to accountability.

  1. Build the Bridge from Activities to Results. Your company’s strategy, outcomes, and Marketing objectives guide your decisions regarding your Marketing strategy, programs, tactics and activities. This is where methodology comes into play and truly makes a difference.  The right Marketing plan framework enables you to create direct line-of-sight between the work and investments of Marketing with business results.  It is essential that you have performance targets for each “leg” of your plan.  This bridge and your performance targets are your path to measurability. These performance targets are comprised of the metrics and measures that create the metrics chain to support performance management and dashboard development.
  1. Keep Your Plan Regularly Updated. As you gain new insights into markets, customers, competitors and program performance, update your plan.  Use your plan and your performance against the plan to support your operational and business reviews.

These four key steps are what will enable you to move from creating a plan to stay within a budget to creating a plan to execute a strategy. An outcome-based plan structured around the company’s strategy is less likely to get cut if revenue falls. This right planning process improves Marketing effectiveness, supports outcome-based budgeting, and facilitates Marketing performance and agility.  Yes, this approach requires process changes. Such changes will allow you to transition from a repetitive conversation about outputs and costs to a productive conversation about value and impact. You don’t have to do it all at once. You may not own the entire plan, but everyone owns some type of plan. And if you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Photo Credit: shibgamedia Flickr via Compfight cc

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