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Blog calendar    Oct 20, 2014

5 Tips for Effective Marketing Program Planning

Five tips, supporting tactics and a template for effective 2015 marketing program planning and budgeting.

In 2015 Planning: First Things First, I reviewed the importance of sanity-checking your TAM and go-to-market strategy, and modeling how many leads and opportunities are needed to hit the revenue number. Now that you've done this, it's time to dig in on budgeting for program spend. From a top-down perspective, you and your CFO will assume a percentage of next year's revenue number, which, as a high-growth B2B technology company, should range from 7-20 percent, depending on growth and revenue objectives, cash position, your competitive environment, etc. (to calculate this for yourself, check out SBI's B2B Marketing Budget Calculator). A bottom-up exercise ensures the activities in which you invest are driving the required results.

Following are five tips for effective bottom-up B2B marketing program planning.

1. Align programs to strategic initiatives

In order to bring focus to next year's plan, no doubt the executive team has set key strategic initiatives with goals and success criteria. As an example:

1. Maximize contract value
  • Land & expand penetration in all customer accounts
2. Improve customer retention & stickiness
  • 100% annual renewals
  • 30% of bookings from new products
3. Increase competitiveness
  • Reduce sales cycle by 50%
  • >90% win rate in competitive deals
  • Channel impacting 20% of bookings

Marketing programs map to one or more of these initiatives. In the case of the first example initiative above, you may run periodic upsell/cross-sell campaigns to existing customers. For the second initiative, your plan may call for a first annual customer event (which may also serve the first initiative) timed in conjunction with the release of new products. In support of the third initiative, perhaps you'll institute a competitive intelligence program and increase your PR agency's retainer to include proactive pitching on competitive themes. Whatever the initiatives, every program and program dollar should map cleanly to them. 


2. If you can't measure it, don't do it

For marketers in growth-stage companies, pipeline and revenue contribution are paramount. While it is difficult to know which marketing programs will result in actual closed deals, informed projections for MQLs and SQLs can be made on a per-program basis and translate into the portion of the revenue number for which Marketing is responsible. When working in $2M-$50M companies, my general rule was for 85-90% of the marketing program budget to be focused on driving revenue. If you can't measure it, it's not likely to be driving revenue. And if it's not driving revenue, don't do it.

The following program planning template is designed to map out budget categories, program activity, spend and projected results. Click on the image to download and adapt for your purposes.

This can also be a useful tool to align with the CFO on budget categories and projected results.


3. Get Sales involved

As discussed in Four Strategies for Strong Sales & Marketing Partnerships, Sales and Marketing collaboration is key. Over the years, some of my teams' best campaign themes and approaches have come from sales reps. Brainstorm with them early on ways to attack the company's strategic initiatives for the year. Consider how new territories, new verticals and new geographies factor into your plan and engage relevant members of the Sales team to share ideas and what they have seen work in prior companies.

4. Use as many levers as possible per program

Marketing programs are most effective when every possible tactic is leveraged to surround your target audience and compel them to raise their hand. A couple of examples:

  • Tradeshows: Securing a booth, submitting your logo for the booklet and showing up is generally not worth the expense. Think of tradeshows as three buckets of activity: pre-show, at-show, post-show. Pre-show, identify who will be there (budget for potential acquisition of registration lists if not already part of your sponsorship - many events will be happy to take an extra $2500-$5000 on the side), and use your Lead Development Reps (LDRs) and/or sales reps to set meetings with relevant targets in advance. At-show, if you can land a speaking opportunity (paid or unpaid), that will elevate your company's position. Unveiling a new product is an at-show opportunity to generate press coverage and leads, too. And any list acquired pre-show will also come in handy in support of post-show campaigns. 
  • Content marketing: Assuming that you're setting regular campaign themes and publishing content supporting each theme, you will want to use more than your website/blog, social and email channels to engage your audience and generate leads. You might consider syndicating your content. Is there an opportunity to line up campaigns with events - whether your own or industry tradeshows? And think about how your PR efforts can be aligned to leverage your content.  

The devil is in the details in terms of which levers to pull for which programs based on objectives, but think through all of the possible levers -- be forethoughtful -- during the budget planning process, else you may be limiting the budget and results.

5. Don't forget the data

Marketing program dependency on quality CRM data cannot be underestimated, particularly when focused on enterprise and mid-market segments. During the program planning process, be sure to budget for contact discovery and validation. Targeted, accurate data (aligned with your TAM) eliminates bounce rates and improves engagement rates for marketing and prospecting campaigns. 

That said, avoid the all-too-common mistake of cleansing your database (or a large segment of it) all at once. If you are not going to make use of that data right away, then you are wasting time and money. Instead, your marketing managers should be planning/budgeting for contact discovery and validation in conjunction with program execution, e.g., discover and validate the consumer banking list prior to kicking off the consumer banking prospecting campaign, or if the tradeshow producer gives you a registration list with only titles and company names, have the contact names and details discovered in time for those meeting-making calls to be made prior to the event. Establishing this discipline will ensure greater data quality over time, and therefore, stronger campaign results.

Avoid buying lists from media outlets and the likes of US Data. Instead, leverage quality-oriented technology and service providers that help you assess, discover and validate. To name a few:

  • NetProspex has an end-to-end marketing data management platform that ensures ongoing data health. 
  • Salesify discovers and validates data based on role and uses several layers of QA, including live validation with the actual contacts, so to guarantee accuracy.
  • ZoomInfo's self-service database tool has a reputation for reasonable quality at low cost.

I hope these five tips and supporting tactics will prove useful for CMOs and marketing managers alike, as you dig in on bottom-up budgeting and program planning. Next up in this 2015 Planning blog series: Organizational Design.


Kelly leads firm operations, including investment development, value creation, portfolio management, finance and marketing. She also manages investments in enterprise SaaS and fintech, serves on Edison’s investment committee, and is the pioneer of our Edison Edge value creation platform.