As we wrap up the end of summer, executives around the country will be returning to their offices to start the all-important 2015 budget planning process this fall. If you’re a marketer, this can be one of the most challenging yet exciting times of the year. You will reflect on key successes and failures over the past year, and think back on compelling opportunities you came across but couldn’t fund due to budget restrictions. So in the spirt of making this one of the most successful budgeting seasons possible, here are my top to-dos and considerations as you enter into the 2015 planning season.
1. Confirm Business/Company Goals
Be proactive and confirm the company’s top priorities and objectives for the year ahead. Start early so you not only get the critical input you need to shape your planning, but also get involved in the executive-level planning discussions and negotiations.
2. Meet With Key Business Partners
There is little doubt five years from now that chief marketing officers (CMOs) will spend more on IT than the chief information officer (CIO) on technology. With integration, risk, and compliance issues a growing reality, coordination and communication between these two functions has never been more important. I also believe the best CMOs spend a substantial amount of their time in the field with sales leaders hearing about the challenges and opportunities firsthand from customers and prospects. As a result, alignment across sales, marketing, and technology leaders is an instrumental component to budget planning and investment decisions. Invest the time and effort needed to build and grow these internal relationships and partnerships. Get aligned on key product builds that help sales sell more and marketing tell a compelling and differentiated story in the marketplace. This creates and accelerates interest and demand which leads to impressive growth.
3. Vendor Roadmap Reviews
Don’t be complacent. Just because you selected the market leader in a given area or technology and signed a LT contract doesn’t mean your job is done. In fact, it’s just begun. Press existing partners to share their product roadmap, join their advisory board, and help shape the features and functionality that will help you deliver on your organization’s goals and objective in the years ahead. In addition, continue to be on the lookout for emerging providers that can bring new/innovative thinking into the mix. As CMO, set a goal to meet with at least one new, interesting vendor a quarter (and be sure your team’s goal is higher) to make sure you see the best of the best with promising ideas/solutions. You will not only learn something new but you may even find a critical new partner that can provide you with the edge needed to help you exceed your goals in the coming year.
4. Assess Team and Needs
Review your team needs, talent, and staffing. Share the goals and objectives with team members and make them feel part of the planning process. Encourage them to share and submit ideas or suggest vendors. Evaluate and re-evaluate performance and staffing needs. Are top performers excited and enthusiastic about contributing? Are those with performance issues making progress and improving? And finally, is staffing sufficient in terms of both the skill set and work load required to meet and exceed company goals?
5. Plan for Innovation
Set aside an experimental budget, which should be no less than 10 percent of your total budget. Be assured – you will see a hot new vendor or identify a new trend that you didn’t plan for. You may also hear of or consider a new approach worth testing based on new insights from existing programs – therefore plan for it.
6. Identify Key Trends and Overinvest in “Critical Innovation Areas”
The rapid shift toward more customer-central digital marketing is undeniable. There are very few brands not committed to building highly targeted, customer-centric marketing focused on improving customer experiences across channels and driving greater marketing ROI. To do that well, consider overinvestment in high-growth areas in your planning process. Those areas include:
- Data and Tag Management: Are you collecting data from key digital touch points? Can you identify known users in a particular channel and more importantly across channels? What is the brand’s strategy toward tag management and have you linked these IDs to really know and understand your customers throughout the journeys? And what partners are helping you do that efficiently and effectively?
- Multi-Channel/Multi-Screen Marketing and Orchestration: The value of orchestrating digital messaging in terms of its uplift on campaign performance is well documented. Several platforms do this well and I believe this number of platforms will grow, In addition, their sophistication will expand to create not only great experiences, but optimized experiences across devices. This requires not only expertise in data/tag management and orchestration, but better capabilities in real-time data flows and content optimization.
- Content and Community Marketing: Building a strong foundation starts with a solid and engaged community. At the heart of any prospering and vibrant/engagement community is an effective content strategy. Great brands invest in unique content that is not only engaging but aligned to the brand and customer journey, allowing it to offer up value along every step of the way – awareness, interest, intent, purchase, post purchase/loyalty.
- Mobile Everything: We’ve witnessed the growth and explosion of several new and powerful channels – Web, email, and more recently social. However, mobile is and will be the biggest and most compelling of all. The rise of mobile solutions will continue to accelerate allowing brands to build mobile-centric campaigns, run targeted mobile advertising, and gather and analyze interactions from countless devices ranging from smartphones to gaming consoles and wearables. Invest in collecting critical interactions and insights across these devices. To do so, CMOs must over invest in mobile like never before.
- Analytics: Data will increasingly drive marketing decisions, thus requiring a major investment by marketers. As marketers are challenged by more channels and devices in our highly fragmented customer-centric work, strengthening key customer relationships and growing marketing ROI will require a new level of competence in the organization. Investing in real-time data analytics that allow marketers to make decisions faster and smarter will become a key differentiator in a highly competitive marketplace. Marketers and their IT partners will need to redefine their approach and processes to make decisions quicker, create better customer experiences, and ultimately increase ROI.
As the dog days of summer wind down, now is the time to ramp you planning efforts up like never before. Hopefully, the tips above serve as a reminder and check list of sorts to help the process move along as smoothly and effectively as possible. Until next time – happy planning.