Money Is the Root of All Marketing Plan Evil

marketing plan evilToday officially marks the half way point in the year.  Which means your 2011 marketing plan has just a few more chances to be analyzed, reviewed and refined in order to help you meet your objectives for the year.

As you look at your results, how are you doing? Are you on track to meet your plan? Or do you see wasted effort, tactical thinking and a reactionary culture.

One of the biggest reasons I see B2B marketing plans veer off course starts right at the beginning. The problem lies in how we distribute budgets.

Or to put it more plainly: money is the root of all marketing plan evil.

Well I think I’ve got the cure right here…it’s called a business case: If you want money, create a business case. If you want to hire people, create a business case.

The Road To Hell

We all start with good intentions, right? Many marketing organizations look across all the competing needs of the business. We look at the people we have and the budget reduction we know is coming. Then we decide where to make a few cuts.

Sometimes the cuts come out of a specific area. Sometimes, everybody gets a haircut. But it’s what happens next that causes all the problems.

No Plan Required: What You Got Is What You Get

Now don’t get me wrong, there are many ways in which we allocate budgets. And no model is perfect. But at some point, most organizations engage in evergreen or what I call “left to right” budgeting: what you got last year is the precedent for what you get this year – plus or minus a few percent. No business case needed. Ughhh!

Here’s What You Really Get

When you don’t have to justify your budget, bad things can happen quickly. And it can happen in a vicious cycle. Good money literally chases after bad! We fund teams simply because they exist. And with no strategic business plan, these teams quickly start producing content and campaigns no one wants or securing media that is ineffective.

Then an entire army of people are required to create governance and policies and to police compliance of brand standards and corporate guidelines…I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

How to Build a Business Case For Your Budget

OK, so let’s all take a deep breath, close our eyes and think ahead. Imagine a world where we are aligned to strategic business outcomes. We have a clear marketing objective. And we know how we are helping our company to get there. We are not spending money to justify our jobs. We are getting results that prove our worth.

In Whatever Happened to Marketing Strategy? I talk (actually I sort of rant) about the need to stop fighting today’s fires and focus on what we need to accomplish in the future. This requires:

  • Quantifiable goals tied to the overall business strategy
  • An articulated high-level plan to achieve those goals
  • The resources required to execute the plan
  • A detailed project plan that defines actions, owners and timing milestones
  • The flexibility to monitor and adjust

So don’t wait! It’s never too early to start planning for 2012!

5 Steps to Focus On Your Marketing Plan:

  1. Identify your business goals for next year and evaluate them in context with the latest marketplace realities.
  2. Ruthlessly evaluate what worked and what didn’t in the recent past. Pick winners and prune the losing tactics, techniques and processes. Shift people to where they are needed most.
  3. Model the appropriate marketing mix in order to achieve a higher return on marketing spend.
  4. Define your Content Strategy based on the needs of todays’ buyers. Create an audience-first marketing mentality.
  5. Define an always-on, inbound marketing approach that produces more efficient and effective marketing outcomes.

But enough of my rambling. What do you think? Is this a real problem inside B2B Marketing?

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

6 thoughts on “Money Is the Root of All Marketing Plan Evil

  1. Michael, well said. It started with good intentions. There was a reason, once, for the budget distribution.

    But the business case isn’t the cure. The business must start to expect the business case. I have worked with clients that feel they cannot make a business case even to change the allocations within the marketing budget. The business makes decisions too slowly and cannot respond to the business case.

    Businesses must be agile in marketing, responding to the market around them and at times anticipating it. The business case says where we are going, but requires an expectation from the rest of the business that change is the constant and we are always pursuing the best changes.

    Let’s get back to having a reason for what we do. You are right, let’s be ready with the business case.

    — @wittlake

    1. Thanks Eric, you are so right. The flexibility is so important in our fast-moving world. That’s why I am such a fan of the planning cycle and starting, well now, to plan for next year. Get the business case prepared, presented and approved so you can start on day 1, 2012. Because by day 2, you will need to start making optimizations. As a digital marketer, you get this intuitively.

  2. Love this post! It really is about articulating your objectives first. Everything else, including budget, should come from that! When we don’t start at the beginning, the distractions and waste begin!

    1. Thanks Allison! Objectives setting is so often forgotten in this process. Or the objective is just to do +X% more than last year which just allows the vicious cycle to continue. Makes…me…crazy!

  3. Definately can relate to the whole ‘what you got last year is what you are going to get this year’ statement. The way I have gone about overcoming this is to show what I did with last year’s budget. What were the outcomes in terms of leads, pipeline and actual revenue? My justification to ask for more is ultimately to ask back to the company if THEY want more. The answer is usually yes.

    But back to your original point about the budget really bringing down the plan. I am not sure I agree. I tend to map a budget on a quarterly basis and place things strategically throughout the year to get a more rounded idea of the the entire plan but I think companies fall short in the execution of the plan tied to the budget. So let’s say you plan out 12 months given your budget. You have themes, plans for content, third party and affiliate sites lined up but do you actually do everything you set out to do? Most times I just dont see this part getting done.

    1. Hey Christina, And thanks for the RT and comment! It sounds like you already have a plan based on a results-justification (more than half the battle) and then you distribute budget accross the year. My point is that too often in B2B I see people get budget because they did before not based on results or outcomes.

      Bottom line is that no money should be distributed based on what you had last year or because you have people that “need something to do.”

      A colleague made a good comment on Twitter that this is more often the result of a lack of strategy and I would agree that lack of strategy is most often the cause and this is a symptom.

      So I think you clearly already avoid this mistake just by using results to justify your budget. Keep it up!

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