Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marketing's Planning Process: An Ongoing Activity, not an Annual "Trip to the Dentist"

As your marketing organization approaches the end of its annual planning cycle, remember that it shouldn't end on January 1, 2009. As marketers we must get better at managing our annual and intra-year process as a part of our regular business processes vs. a once per year disruptive event. Doing so could be a helpful step forward in improving our ability to manage investment, shift resources in response to market conditions, and improve alignment within marketing and with the rest of the organization. Based upon interviews with marketing leaders in the technology industry and findings from IDC's recent Marketing Operations Board meeting, I'd like to offer the following "food for thought":

1. Staffing: Do you have an individual or team who's accountable for developing, executing and governing your planning process? The marketing operations function can provide the foundation and discipline for a well-orchestrated and managed planning process. Although this role has been effective in planning and orchestrating marketing's annual and intra-year planning process, marketers' view of planning as a separate activity from their daily job coupled with their lack of financial acumen continues to hinder the success of planning. (email me to receive a copy of our recent mktg. ops. study. . mgerard@idc.com)

2. Process: Marketers have made significant progress in establishing planning processes, such as global marketing leadership boards, a consistent taxonomy, financial tracking and other performance measurement processes; however, the lack of consistent adoption of these processes across the organization including a lack of alignment with finance, sales and regional marketing must be overcome to advance marketing to a higher level of operation and performance.

3. Technology: It is only in the past 3-4 years that most marketing organizations have actually achieved an understanding of how much they spend on marketing across the organization, mostly leveraging highly manual processes and Microsoft Excel. A recent IDC study revealed that 40% of IT marketers in companies >$3B in revenue continue to use Excel and other manual processes vs. a more automated MRM(marketing resource management)-type solution. It is time for us to advance to the next level of marketing, including tracking of investment at a more detailed level. (e.g., by objective, campaign, activity, brand, product, country, or segment) MRM applications offer the opportunity to do this in a more systematized and efficient manner. But remember, process first.

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