A B2B annual planning template will improve the less than optimal annual planning process in many companies, both large and small. Within large firms the process consumes at least a quarter or two and the amount of process and procedures is overwhelming. In contrast, within many SMBs there are so few resources that the annual plan is left until sometime in the fourth quarter – thereby competing with closing out the year and the holidays.
In terms of the B2B annual planning process, this is how it usually goes:
- The team reviews the prior year’s revenue, bookings, ACV, etc.
- A growth percentage is decided (the head of sales proposes something and the CEO adds a little on top – we can do it)
- The CFO then backs out the expense numbers / budgets for each function
- There is some back and forth but no function feels great about the target or the budget
- Numbers are finalized sometime in Q1
The Optimal B2B Annual Planning Process
The best annual planning process is grounded in actuals, intelligent assumptions, SMART objectives, plus integrated and cohesive strategies and tactics that cascade down from an organization’s goals.
The best advice for an effective annual planning process is to focus only on the criteria that directly impact the business. A rule of thumb is that the topics that will significantly impact the business (positively or negatively) should fit onto a page. Each topic can then have a supporting page of content but do not fall into the trap of analysis paralysis. If each topic requires more than a page then the topic may not be fully understood or is not framed properly. All the details do not need to be regurgitated. It’s also important to answer these fundamental questions:
- What is the current state?
- Why is it important?
- What would we like this the state to be?
- How can we get to that future state?
- Does reaching that state provide the desired financial outcomes?
B2B Annual Planning Template – The Framework
Below are the key areas the team should focus on for an optimal annual plan that will support the overall go to market strategy:
- Market Summary – describe the market and the changes in the market over the past year
- The Value Proposition – determine the prevailing business problems, what customers believe are the relevant use cases and agree on the best technological solution for those business problems
- Strengths – an organization’s strengths are usually within the organization’s control – here the team describes positive attributes (tangible and intangible)
- Weaknesses – weaknesses are inhibitors that prevent an organization from performing at its optimum level. Weaknesses are areas that competitors can use to attack or that may attract a new competitor to the market
- Opportunities – identify what has a moderate to high probability to positively impact the business
- Threats – determine what has a moderate to high probability to negatively impact the business
- Systems, Process, People Highlights – to drive growth, identify the necessary systems, processes and / or people
- Key Assumptions – these are the fundamentals underpinning the plan. They may be assumed cause and effect relationships, estimates, facts, intuition, etc. They may be quantitative and qualitative but the key is to document them and update them with reality.
- Drivers of Growth –
- Critical Success Factors – determine the factors necessary for an organization to achieve its goals. CSFs are the things that must go well for the organization to be successful.
- KPIs, Metrics, Dashboards – these are the quantitative measurements that summarize how effective or ineffective an organization is relative to the achievement of their business objectives.
B2B Annual Planning Template – Operationalize the SWOT Matrix
Create a two by two matrix by placing Strengths and Weaknesses as the column headers. Next, add Opportunities and Threats as rows to the matrix. The resulting four quadrants can be summarized as:
- Strengths / Opportunities – this quadrant includes the areas that are a good fit for the organization and have a high probability to positively impact the business. Which of the organization’s strengths can be used to maximize the opportunities that have been identified?
- Weaknesses / Opportunities – in this quadrant, the focus is to overcome weaknesses and to pursue opportunities with the greatest value. What actions can be taken to minimize the organization’s weaknesses by employing the opportunities that have been identified?
- Strengths / Threats – the focus for this quadrant is to identify ways the organization can use its strengths to reduce or eliminate external threats. How can the organization’s strengths be used to minimize the threats that have been identified?
- Weaknesses / Threats – this fourth quadrant should be used to craft a defensive plan to prevent the organization’s weakness from making it vulnerable to external threats. How can the organization minimize its weaknesses to avoid the potential threats that have been identified?
Summing up the Need for a B2B Annual Planning Template
The most effective annual planning process is one that never ends – i.e. a rolling annual process. Treat the end of every quarter like the end of a full 12-month year. This way there is a rolling annual plan that is updated each quarter and is intertwined with the go to market plan. In short, combine annual planning with quarterly operations reviews. And be sure to include an analysis of the competitive set — this should include other companies that produce a similar offering but also the companies that are most admired and could cause a disruptive element to your industry.
A rolling annual process has many benefits. Don’t confuse quarterly updates with the need to make 180 degree changes in go to market strategy. And, do not focus 100% on investments made in the current quarter providing results in the following quarter or growth will be linear, at best. Changing the annual planning process to a quarterly process will keep the carrot in constant view. Rather than creating an annual plan and then waiting an entire year to review and create another, the plan is systematically reviewed and managed each quarter to adapt to ongoing technological, market and competitive changes.