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How to Effectively Build a Corporate and Marketing Plan

Too often the new fiscal year comes upon us but there was never really any down time to build the new Corporate and Marketing Plan. As a “shortcut”, many organizations extrapolate historical performance into the future. From a top down financial planning perspective the mandate night be to shrink 10%, stay flat or increase 10% based on Q4 or the prior FY number. In some cases, 3 scenarios will be requested (best case, worst case, what you can live with). The issue with planning is that it requires time, thought and a group effort. However, if you don’t have a coherent plan to get from point A to Point B, more often than not, you will spend lots of time and money undoing, redoing and struggling with tactical decisions that would have been avoided by having a plan. And, you can’t build a realistic Marketing plan without a Corporate Plan.

What’s a Marketer to Do?

My suggestion is that you dovetail into the Corporate planning process or you become the champion of the planning process. Here are some steps you can follow to facilitate the creation of a Corporate and Marketing Plan.

Corporate and Marketing Plan – Step 1: Market Overview

The goal is to provide a brief overview of the market(s) that your organization competes in. Typical information that would be included is: market size, market share, market growth rates, market segments, competitive landscape, technology, products, distribution strategy, pricing, etc.

There should also be some internal reflection that summarizes the assumptions that were considered when originally entering this market and highlight any changes that have taken place since. The basic use cases that summarize the business problem and the solution to solve the problem, the value proposition, the customers and their satisfaction levels, the product road map and the profile of the prospects that you are targeting for continued growth should all be reviewed in a succinct manner. At the end of the day, does the market opportunity available today still support the business model or do there have to be changes?

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Corporate and Marketing Plan – Step 2: SWOT Analysis

One useful way to organize information is in the form of a SWOT analysis. The purpose of the SWOT Analysis is not to create a binder of information that will take forever to complete and that no one will ever read. The intent of the SWOT is to document what trends and developments will actually affect (competitors, products/services, geography, distribution channel, etc.) the organization. A SWOT should be completed for each segment that is being invested in or is a target for investment.

The SWOT analysis should only contain a couple of paragraphs of commentary of key weaknesses of competitors, market opportunities (new products for existing markets and new markets) and threats (competitors, economy, regulation etc.).

Corporate and Marketing Plan – Step 3: Setting Corporate Objectives

Setting objectives for the organization for the next year is the most important and difficult task for any organization. The objectives should be based on a detailed plan for a one-year timeframe and should include the responsibilities, timing, revenue, expenses, profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction levels to be successful. If clear objectives are not set, there will be no “True North” and the organization will struggle with tactical execution. Setting objectives for the organization involves balancing what is required by the organization and what is requested from each functional area. There will have to be some give and take but an objective, quantitative approach to the planning process will act as a guiding light to ensure that the entire organization is aligned and that scarce resources are intelligently allocated.

Corporate and Marketing Plan – Step 4: Marketing Strategies and Objectives

An organization typically can set and attain 3-5 key objectives for a year. Once the objectives are set by the management team and approved by the board, each functional head then focuses their attention on aligning their functions priorities to support the Corporate objectives that they can impact.

Marketing strategies in the Corporate plan then become operating objectives within the Marketing function. If there are departments within Marketing then the cascading continues with Marketing strategies becoming operating objectives for a Marketing department–this ensures that the objectives and strategies within an organization are interrelated.

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Corporate and Marketing Plan – Step 5: Marketing Audit

The objective of the audit is to provide direction around what the organization’s marketing objectives should be for the coming year. An audit is a structured approach to the collection and analysis of information that is a prerequisite to problem solving. The need for an audit is to establish a benchmark that Marketing can then objectively measure itself.

When conducting an audit, first, identify the capabilities the function will need to provide to support the organization’s achievement of its goals. Next, provide a score for each capability based on current performance. Third, identify what the desired score should be for this capability. Then, provide a relative weight for this capability–relative to all other capabilities. Fifth, highlight what it would take to move from the current to desired state. Finally, rank and prioritize the list of capabilities. The goal is to guide investments in people, projects, systems and processes that will facilitate the organization reaching it’s stated objectives.

Corporate and Marketing Plan – Step 6: Structure, Staff, Systems, Process

Once the vision for an organization is established, the goals and objectives clearly communicated, then it is time to actually do the work and that means bringing the strategy down to structure, staff, systems and process.

Organization structure is critical and it should change as company’s objectives change. Structure describes how an organization is formally organized, makes decisions and shares information–this includes roles, responsibilities and accountability relationships. When the structure changes it is not necessarily a best in-class approach to find a chair for everyone on the team. Staff is the headcount (FTE, PT, contractor’s), workforce plan and talent management.

Systems are the technical infrastructure that employees use on a day-to-day basis to accomplish their tasks that are derived from their goals. Systems will increase productivity, decrease costs and facilitate communication, assuming the right systems are selected, implemented properly and behavior changes to embrace the systems. Systems will bring some order to the business and will drive new processes. Process will bring structure to tasks and that will provide a high level of certainty that the desired outcome will be achieved again and again, with minimal supervision.

Step 7: Marketing Tactics

Once there is alignment between Corporate and Marketing objectives then attention should turn to building out the strategies that will drive the tactics. In general, Marketing will be asked to build or maintain the brand, help build better products or drive pipeline to generate sales and these initiatives will tie back to increasing revenues, decreasing costs, increasing profitability, increasing productivity and increasing customer satisfaction.

The Marketing strategies documented in the Corporate objectives become objectives for the Marketing function and Marketing then develops strategies to achieve these objectives. After marketing documents how they will achieve the objectives then the detail of the specific tactics (who, what, when, where, how much) are developed and become the operational plan.

Corporate and Marketing Plan – Step 8: Marketing Metrics

Like a pilot flying a plane in inclimate weather, a Marketing organization needs to rely on instruments to efficiently and effectively manage resources and outcomes. Many successful organizations use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics to manage people budgets, ROI, awareness, customer satisfaction, conversion ratios, etc. The most useful Marketing metrics and KPIs should be numbers that have meaning, are provided in context, are actionable and can be interpreted from an industry perspective. Many organizations establish KPIs and utilize dashboards to monitor performance.

Determining the right KPI is dependent upon having a good understanding of what is important to the organization and how to measure it. When it comes to KPIs, more is not necessarily better. It is critical that the KPIs align to the functions and organizations objectives. Dashboards gather, synthesize and present useful data for the organization that supports key metrics and KPIs. Dashboards enable organizations to measure, monitor and manage business activity by using both financial and non-financial measures. The dashboard provides analysis into the progress of the organization toward achieving defined objectives.

As you can see, the progression from a Corporate Plan to a Marketing Plan can be rather quick. At one moment the focus is on market trends and then the next moment, metrics and KPIs are at the forefront of the conversation. Starting with a process will facilitate planning and the alignment of resources so the organization can go execute effectively.

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