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Happy Hour Will Resume After Q2 Planning

FML it’s end of quarter again.

It’s late. I have so many tabs open I’ve lost track of where I am. This would be waaay better with wine (yanks laptop off docking station, runs for door).

I’m pretty sure you can relate to late nights during end-of-quarter planning. Of course we track throughout the quarter, but the EOQ round up is a big deal—and rightfully so. Your plan for the upcoming quarter is only as good as your audit of the past.

It helps to focus on a few key questions, like:

  • Did the company achieve its revenue target? What was marketing’s contribution?
  • Which campaigns generated the most leads? The fewest?
  • Which campaigns had the highest impact on pipeline?
  • How did the funnel perform compared to your assumptions?
  • Did anything unexpected happen? What and why?

Whether your team adheres to a lead target, an opp target, or an ABM strategy that focuses on engagement within key accounts, ask the right questions, get the answers, and document that data in your quarterly plan. When you gather the team for a marathon planning sesh, the “Look Back” slide should be your starting point—inviting the team to unpack what worked and what didn’t.

In this on-demand webinar, three CMOs discuss how they set the marketing vision, inspire their team, and create plans that drive growth. Watch Planning for Growth in 2017 now.

Stop. Start. Adjust.

Stop, Start, Adjust is an annual and quarterly exercise that forces brevity and clarity around where you’ve been and where you want to go. Assuming your lead and opp targets don’t fluctuate wildly from quarter to quarter and you know your goals, dedicate a session to outline the practices that need to go away completely, that need to begin in earnest, and that need to be optimized for better performance.

Here’s an example of how the exercise can take shape:

Once you’ve nailed Stop, Start, Adjust, move on to budget. Do you have the budget to support new initiatives or fine-tune what you already have? Can you reallocate anything from the Stop column? Here’s a few practical tips that’ll help you stay on track:

3 Guidelines to Throw on Your Whiteboard Right Now

1. Be bold enough to kill anything that isn’t working

Seriously. Do not be afraid of losing leads. If you have campaigns or channels that generate leads with abysmal conversion, take them out back and shoot them. Free up that budget to try something new. You have nothing to lose.

2. Revisit your target personas

Funny how we lose sight of who we’re actually marketing to in the midst of all the number crunching. Make sure everyone is clear on who your target personas are and aren’t—and evaluate whether your programs do a good job of reaching them. Be prepared to abandon generic offers that cater to everyone and no one.

3. Budget with agility

Start with the big buckets and assign budgets accordingly, then follow through with a budget review every two weeks and adjust as necessary. Give your team the freedom to spend smarter on campaigns that move the needle.

 

Planning doesn’t have to be painful. Read The Modern Marketer’s Guide to 2017 Planning and learn how to create effective plans, inspire your team, and put some damn fun back into B2B marketing.

 

Staying on Top of Your Metrics

Marketing plans vary so wildly from team to team, it’s amazing we have a common language at all. Yet how we codify our roles and our contribution to an organization are very similar—whether we’re B2B, B2C, or in entirely dissimilar industries.

What’s one thing we all have in common? The very real need to change quickly when we have to.

Marketing goals are tied to the goals of the business: if leads are lagging or not converting, you need to spot the problem and make changes. Access to real-time metrics is key to data-driven, agile marketing.

When planning for the year ahead, any marketing team should consider flexibility. Let’s say you plan to roll out two big campaigns in the first half of the year with multi-channel programs rolling up under those campaigns.

What if your campaigns are on track, but you’re not hitting the number of leads you planned? Your goals and themes won’t change, but your channels and strategies might have to—and that’s what agile marketing is about.

Apply the 80/20 rule to your marketing plan: 80% of your campaigns and activities should be planned in advance, while the remaining 20% can be committed later as you test, learn, and iterate.

For example, if social is proving ineffective for driving leads, you’ll need to rethink your social strategy or consider replacing it with another tactic to close the gap. A tight relationship with sales and a pulse on real-time metrics are key—if something’s not working, you need to react quickly to turn things around while there’s still time to impact pipeline.

The diagram below shows an example of opp targets, lead targets, and two BACs (big ass campaigns), with channels for promotion:

Your marketing plan will most likely include an estimate of how many leads you’ll generate from each channel for each campaign.

But what if the leads you bring in from content syndication don’t convert? And what if you hit a snag in your email marketing due to list exhaustion or a blacklist? Take it from experience, it can happen, and when it does, it’s ugly. You’ll need to find a way to close the lead gap as quickly as possible.

Looking back at the end of a quarter with a shrug, “Welp, that didn’t work. Should’ve done something else,” helps no one. But using the 80/20 rule, staying on top of your metrics, and planning for agility can. It’s your best bet at staying on track—no matter what comes your way.

What key metrics should you measure? Why should your marketing plan start with company revenue goals? Here you go: The Modern Marketer’s Guide to 2017 Planning.

How to Negotiate a Bigger Marketing Budget

I’ve been talking to a lot of marketers lately, and they all seem to have one thing in common – they could really use a bigger marketing budget. And yet while most marketers agree they’re strapped for funds, there seems to be this resignation that it is what it is, and there’s really nothing they can do about it.

While there certainly are limits to your company’s willingness to spend on marketing, I’d argue that most marketers simply accept whatever number comes out of the voodoo Excel magic your CFO is doing instead of proactively constructing a plan to demonstrate what you can do with different dollar amounts. Here’s how you can change that.

I first learned about this technique a few years ago when I was putting together a proposal for a potential consulting client. I was reading The Consulting Bible by Alan Weiss around the same time, and in the book he talks about how the most common pushback you encounter from potential clients is, “Wow, this is great, but we weren’t prepared to spend this much. Can you come down by x%”. Depending on your personality, your natural reaction may be to simply reduce your price to get the contract, or hold firm and hope they sign anyway.

Instead, Weiss suggests submitting a proposal with 3 options. Option A is the small project, small budget option. Option B is larger scope, larger budget, and Option C is the biggest scope, biggest budget. In this scenario, after seeing your proposal, the prospect may say something like, “We really want to tackle Option B, but our budget is more in line with Option A. Can you come down at all?” To which you respond, “No problem. Let’s start with Option A, and then once we get through the first phase, you can decide if you want to continue working with me to achieve the extra deliverables in Option B.” Almost everyone will bite and sign the contract (whether Option A or Option B).

The key here is you’re giving people three ways to say YES instead of equal options of saying yes or no. You’re also matching budget to deliverable so it’s clear what they get for the money.

You can use the same method can be used to negotiate a bigger marketing budget at your company. Most marketers are handed a budget number and expected to make it work regardless of lead/opportunity targets, but that’s like setting a price without knowing what you’re going to get in return – makes no sense! If you treat your budget as a fixed cost, you’ll end up signing up for targets that you can’t possibly achieve, that you KNOW won’t work out, and yet you’re telling the CEO and VP of Sales that you can.

Guess who’s getting blamed when you don’t hit the target?

Instead, before you’re given this mythical budget number, take charge and demonstrate what you can do for different dollar amounts by following these simple steps:

  1. Get involved in the planning process early. In reality, there’s no voodoo magic happening to determine your budget – you’re just not part of the conversation. To earn a bigger marketing budget, you need to insert yourself into the planning process and demonstrate the value you can deliver with the right funds. Understand the revenue scenarios at play – what are the conservative, moderate, and aggressive plans for the company, and craft marketing plans to support each one.
  1. Demonstrate your ability to get more efficient. This is a big one. It’s hard for a CEO to swallow spending $500k more in marketing, but if you’re showing that you’re actually becoming more efficient (include how you’re doing this) on a cost/lead and cost/opportunity basis, it becomes a much easier conversation.
  1. Make sales your ally. Sales has a big incentive to get as much as they can from marketing. When you’re coming up with the marketing plan, sales should be in lock step from day 1. Make sure you’re on the same page with regard to goals, how you’ll get there, and who owns what so you can go to the CEO and present a united front. If sales is arguing that they really need more from marketing and you’ve presented a plan on how you can do more, the CEO/CFO is much more likely to get on board.
  1. Deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. The biggest factor in earning a bigger budget is trust that you’ll use those funds wisely. You earn trust by doing what you say you’re going to do consistently over time. No more signing up for targets you don’t believe in. Instead, create a plan you really think you can achieve, and hit your targets month over month, quarter over quarter.

Okay folks, that’s all I’ve got. What did I miss? How do you fight for the marketing budget you need to support the sales pipeline? And if you struggle with revenue planning and are looking to reclaim your sanity with a better approach, sign up for the Sponge beta!

How to Create a Marketing Budget [Excel Template]

In this post, I’ll go over how to create a marketing budget and track expenses throughout the year. Managing a budget requires discipline and easy access to the right information, so I’ve created this handy Marketing Budget Excel Template to make life easier. Basically I’ve spent hours creating formulas, formatting cells, and tinkering with design so you don’t have to! If you decide to use it, definitely let me know how it works for you and what you would change – spreadsheets are living documents and I like stealing leveraging other people’s ideas to make them better.

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