Whatever Happened To The Business Case

There is a graveyard of good ideas in the corporate world. And fields overflowing with the weeds of bad ideas grown from the seeds of false assumptions…

A couple of months ago I experimented with a blog rant on Whatever Happened To Marketing Strategy. That post is still one of my most popular. All despite the fact that I did no keyword research. I didn’t base it off a recent study. It wasn’t inspired by anything other than the main challenges of my peers across the diverse world of corporate B2B Marketing. Well this is another one of those posts…

A corporate “survivor” will tell you to swim with the political tide: follow the flow from “corporate” and align your plans to theirs. In this approach you start your planning with corporate assumptions as accepted facts, then you simply align your plans to theirs. Use the lingo and latest buzzwords. Or you can take a more courageous approach. You can be a leader by starting with those big business challenges and present a strong business case on how to solve them.

Too often, budgets and marketing plans are simply based on last year (minus some standard percent). Or we look at all the people we have and determine who should have funds based loosely on the priorities those people represent. I have recently met and spoken to people from companies far and wide who have shared this experience! And this makes me want to scream: whatever happened to the business case?

Building a business case is hard because it starts by questioning the conventional wisdom. It can mean challenging those above you. But if it is done right, this approach can mean better results and accolades for you and your management team. Higher risk – – higher reward. I don’t even believe there are risks. Challenging conventional wisdom in a respectful way can lead to the kind of insights that most people miss. And that can bring huge rewards.

In the marketing strategy post I referenced above, I mention an old boss. He was the marketing leader of a former company. I actually followed him on my own career path as he rose through the ranks. He was respected in some cases and in other cases he was more feared. I just thought he was smart. And here’s why: if you wanted funding, you had to create a business plan. If you had a new idea and wanted to propose a change in strategy, you had to present a clear and concise business case.

What I am talking about is an actual document, not a series of slides. And the document had to include words in complete sentences and financial calculations and projections performed by a financial business partner in our company. Sales projections? These had to be validated by the sales folks. Operational dependencies? These had to be agreed to by the Ops folks with the expected costs and required resources identified.

That can all sound very intimidating. And here is what he used to say: I know it sounds like a pain.  But it will force you to focus your ideas. And at the end of the process, you may find you don’t have a strong business case. Great! Move on. But if you do, then you have not only proven the potential, you have also practiced how you will sell it to your organization.

So as you finalize your marketing plans for 2011, ask yourself if you have a solid business case. Are you solving the harder but more pressing issues faced by your company? Or are you surviving and going with the flow?

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.