For companies operating with a calendar fiscal year, Q4 is annual marketing planning season. If you have a role, planning responsibilities can collide with your usual day-to-day frenzy of meetings, calls and “just getting the work done.”
Preparation is key.
With more than 30 years’ experience partnering with some of this country’s most successful companies, we’ve learned a few things about navigating the annual marketing planning process. We tapped CBD Marketing’s senior executive team to suggest the foundational things you can do now to make your 2022 planning process run smoothly and efficiently. Think of it as the prep work that precedes the main course!
- Name the team and build the schedule
As a first step, identify the planning team lead (it’s not always a CMO or Director) and everyone else who will be involved. Clearly define roles and responsibilities. Build out the planning timeline with deliverables.
“Planning teams can change every year. They are multi-disciplinary, multi-level and cross-departmental—at the company as well as at the partner agency,” says Mark Shevitz, CBD’s EVP and Director for Client Strategy and Planning. “Every person who has a role needs to understand their deliverables to keep the entire planning enterprise on track.”
Beside the team lead, Shevitz recommends immediately identifying who will develop schedules, set up the meetings and wrangle people and process. Online team collaboration tools are invaluable.
- Reiterate this year’s goals and objectives
You can’t plan where you’ll go in 2022 until you understand where you’ve been in 2021.
“Be sure to have this current year’s goals and objectives available for the team—by department and in total for the marketing area—including quantitative and qualitative measures,” advises Doug Davila, SVP for Agency Strategy & Development. “Include sales goals if you can, since marketing in the service of sales is very much the point of what we do.”
- Collect, summarize and asses current year data
Current year performance data vs. goal is foundational information for planning for the next year, as is assessing what worked, and what did not. Because—often—a new annual plan is about keeping what works and improving it incrementally; ditching the things that aren’t contributing.
Each department or practice area that’s part of an integrated marketing plan should have at the ready—before planning starts in earnest—a performance summary, with metrics, for their area.
“As an example, it’s very easy for paid media discussions to get into the weeds just given the amount of data available to digital marketers,” says Mark Robinson, SVP for Digital Marketing, Media and Analytics. “It’s critical to summarize performance data related to media choices made as well as campaign performance stats. Details are important, but you also need to ladder up to broader learnings that will impact any new plan.”
Bob Musinski, SVP for PR, Social Media and Content Marketing agrees that “presenting reams of detail on individual initiatives or projects does not necessarily advance an annual planning agenda. Understanding patterns, trends and cumulative performance metrics does, as does determining why performance was—or was not—on target.”
Collecting, summarizing and assessing current year data applies across every discipline and is often found in performance reporting that departments are already providing. Below are just a few examples:
- Results of creative testing
- Results of any brand identiy, positioning or messaging work
- Audience stats, CTRs and CPMs for paid media
- YOY earned media placements/audience for PR
- YOY audience and engagement numbers for social media platforms
- YOY MQL and SQL numbers for CRM programs
- YOY visits, downloads, GA performance metrics for websites; landing pages or other digital properties
- Build the case for new ideas
One of the most energizing parts of annual planning is discussing new ideas with the potential for big rewards. Use this preparation time to organize your insights and ideas for game-changing 2022 initiatives that you can champion at the planning table. These could be things like:
- Marketing content in formats you haven’t used before—webinars, podcasts, new social media platforms.
- Research that takes macro trends and addresses applications or implications for your particular audience. An example might be what sustainability means to your customers and end users, and how would you market that?
- Addressing a particular customer challenge. This could be more transparency about shipping and production schedules; helping the small contractor be a better business person.
- Proposing creative lead gen alternatives to trade shows and live events.
- New paid and social media strategies to include programmatic, influencers, You Tube ads, TikTok videos.
- And more based on your intimate knowledge of your company, customers and market!
- Refine your customer segments
So much has happened in the last year—to people, companies, markets and categories—it’s unwise to think the customer profiles of the current year will be exactly the profiles for the year ahead.
“At CBD, we talk about wearing the hat of our customers as a way of understanding their rational and emotional drivers and to inform creative development, media plans or any other program,” says Mary Olivieri, EVP and Executive Creative Director. “Developing that understanding can involve demographic profiles but also first-person customer research, persona development, sales team input or insights from third party sources. It’s so important that—as part of your preparation—you understand your customers’ motivations now, in this particular and unusual time.”
Hopefully, you’ve been collecting this information throughout the year and will bring it to the planning process.
- Obstacles and stoppers
This has been a crazy year and 2022 is looking to have similar characteristics. As part of your planning preparation, summarize the economic, competitive, industry and company conditions heading into 2022 that can impact your marketing plan.
The classic SWOT analysis can play a big role here.
- Budgets matter
An integral part of planning preparation is understanding the components of this year’s budget and, ideally, knowing what is likely to be allocated for 2022, even if that is a ±TY calculation.
“Budgets inform goals and, ultimately, the overall plan including tactical components,” says EVP Mark Shevitz. “If management is unable to provide specific numbers for 2022—or even budget ranges—while you’re in this preparation stage, then consider a ‘good-better-best’ model of estimating so that you can plan at varying levels of investment.”
Shevitz also advises earmarking some percent of budget for contingencies—trade shows get cancelled and that budget needs to pivot to another channel, a great media opportunity presents itself and so on. Having a contingency budget allows for the unexpected.
Do this prep work—even if you’re waiting on division or corporate
Everything we’ve mentioned can be done ahead of formal planning—like the homework that prepares you for the big test.
So even if there’s a delay in getting 2022 division or corporate goals—which clearly will impact 2022 marketing goals--you will have ready and available the strong foundational information to make a fast start once ALL the information you need is available.
“We’ve seen marketing teams wait to start their annual planning until they have the division or corporate goals in hand,” notes Liz Brohan, CBD Marketing’s CEO. ”That can create a crush of work in a compressed time frame for the planning team, which only compromises everyone’s best work.
“That’s why advance preparation of the type we’ve talked about here is so important. Having this information available, organized and already assessed solidifies the planning team’s knowledge and optimizes the process of creating an annual marketing plan that is insightful, creative and strategic. One that the entire team—and department—can be proud of.”