It’s that time of year again! No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving, holiday shopping or Fall apple-picking excursions with the kids. No, it’s 2016 budgeting and planning season! And for marketing leaders, it’s a double whammy – close out the year with bang and secure the funding and resources you’ll need for next year.

You’ll need wrap all your 2015 programs and campaigns and put the last of this year’s money to good use in the annual “use-it-or-lose-it” scenario. My colleague Julie Hopkins calls this the “Brewster’s Million Season” – a reference, of course, to the 1985 movie where Richard Pryor must spend $30 million in 30 days and have nothing to show for at the end in order to inherit $300 million. Since I’m pretty sure we haven’t written any research on how to spend money in a hurry and get nothing in return, let’s instead focus on the second challenge – planning and budgeting for 2016.

Strategic planning is particularly challenging for Marketing. Why? Because your 2016 plan is built on inputs from other teams and you can’t finalize your own plans until theirs are fully-baked. Your CEO knows what’s going on in the market and what (if any) strategic shifts are on the docket. Product teams know what new and improved widgets they’ll be bringing bring to market, but the schedule may not be firm yet. The sales team is busily building new packages, bundles, and offers but they won’t be final until they’ve been vetted against the sales compensation plan. The finance team knows how much money will be available to spend next year and how to divide it up among the business functions that will consume it and IT knows that the vast majority of their strategy is tied to incremental investments (or reduced investment) in familiar technology platforms and the people to run it all. Your strategic plan is inextricably linked to their plans and decisions, most of which are still  being hammered out in November.

So what’s a marketing leader to do? Well, in our recent Gartner CMO 2015-2016 Spend Survey, it was clear that senior management’s expectations are rising for Marketing’s role in strategic planning, innovation and contribution to top-line revenue through lead-to-sales conversion. I spoke to a client recently who uses the month of November  — before the big December push — to take a step back. She shared her keys to success and the simple three bucket system she uses to put current and future plans into perspective:

  • Incremental.  This bucket contains all the planned improvements to ongoing marketing tactics and campaigns, built on findings and experiences from the past year. In the world of marketing, the blocking and tackling of email campaigns and cross-channel promotions should be in a state of continuous improvement and refinement. The challenge of course is the unique nature of each in terms of volume, variety and velocity. It’s good time to ask some questions. What can you do to improve performance against key metrics ? Should you expand or contract particular programs? How will changes in product or business strategy impact those programs? Will you be able to fund them at the same level in 2016? Key to success: Take inventory of all initiatives and do a top-to-bottom review against your big goals for 2016 and axe the bottom 20%.
  • Fundamental. The new year will undoubtedly bring  change and this bucket is filled with new campaigns or programs linked to core business initiatives such as new product launches, acquisitions, rebranding or a major shift in company focus. When senior management says they expect more from Marketing on the strategic planning front, this is what they mean. Take some time in November to meet with executives, business unit leaders and partners to get the lay of the land for 2016. Know what’s happening  — or might happen — in 2016 so you don’t get blindsided at the last minute, leaving you to scramble for ideas, resources, and support. Key to success: Keep your meetings informal and open-ended so that you hear about the possibilities and not just the certainties.
  • Experimental. This bucket is for entirely new ideas not tied to specific products or campaigns but really designed to test ahead of future opportunities and get some baseline data and experience. 71% of survey respondents told us that they have discrete funding for innovation and that it averages about 10% of the marketing budget.  What new technologies and approaches are on the horizon that could significantly impact your business in 2017?  Digital commerce — also a top priority for CMOs in 2016 according to the survey — is one area that is ripe for innovation and experimentation. Kirsten Newbold-Knipp‘s latest blog post, Three Prime Candidates For Digital Commerce Innovation and her report for Gartner for Market Leader clients, points to three great opportunities — shoppable media, personalization, and Internet of Things. Key to success: Unhook the experiment from existing product/service offerings and measure the results to learn not justify.

Do you take time at this time of year to re-align what you did this year against against what you need to do next year? If so, we’d love to hear how you go about it. Perhaps you have a creative or particularly effective approach that you can share?

1 Comment
  1. November 17, 2015 at 5:17 pm
    Tai game java says:

    An enjoyable read– wasted resources on short-sighted pursuits of perfection– a lesson to apply in many contexts! After reading your post, and a chuckle over your description of a data science competition “forerunner of the modern cage match-scape in which teams of competitive modelers throw away hours of their lives like demented ultramarathoners,” I explored Kaggle’s site for the first time. I must admit, I do like the idea of crowdsourced solutions à la Kickstarter. One of Kaggle’s current competitions is to create an alogrithm for NOAA fisheries to identify endangered right whales in aerial photographs. And I understand some Kagglers earn a very decent wage from their prizewinnings…Value to be had in such competitions? Thanks for this post, Marty- you have a new blog follower in me!

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