Stop making the same mistakes: Start your annual planning now

We all start the planning season, usually in the final stretch of the current year, with a B2B marketing version of New Year’s resolutions. This year will be different. I won’t fall into the same traps that have tripped me up in years past. Just like that treadmill in the corner collecting dust, we begin with the best intentions. And then life happens. We have a plan, and like Mike Tyson famously said: “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

I just hope in our case that’s a metaphor. But knowing that we’ll all get derailed, here are some guidelines to make this coming year more successful.

Start with a blame-free look at the current year.
This can often go against our inclinations to take credit for success and assign blame for failure.

Keep this informal, because this can make marketing managers start updating their résumé. Every year some things work, some don’t. Everyone can acknowledge that. Make a chart with three columns. On the left, put the things you tried to accomplish. The middle column is for the activities undertaken to achieve that objective. The column on the right is for all the people that have ever done you wrong. Kidding. The column on the right is a score you give on each activity’s results. The process is intended to simply look at where you allocated resources, and if that investment achieved what you hoped.

Insert your favorite cliché about setting goals here.
We all know the importance of setting goals. We’re all too busy, but avoid rushing into tactics without a clear idea as to what you want to accomplish. Sure, there are always things that are easy to measure in the digital world, but as we’ve said many times, sales revenue is the only metric that matters. Lots of other metrics are important to be sure, but they need to be pointing towards sales. Though the C-suite may disagree, it’s important to keep goals realistic. Goals that seem too far out of reach tend to get ignored. Take, for example, my aspirations to run in the Boston Marathon.

Great, you’ve made a sale. Now what?
The most important part of any sale comes after you have a purchase order. Sales and revenue come in a lot of flavors. But every business development pundit will tell you that repeat business represents your lowest cost of sale. When you are planning for your stellar year to come, be sure to adequately fund the things that keep a customer around. Things like new customer onboarding, technical training, and warranty processes are all critical when trying to turn a new customer into a loyal customer.

Yes, you should involve your sales channel.
This thought often makes marketing directors cringe. But before you skip to the next section, consider that if sales goals are important then it only makes sense that you gather input from your sales team. Salespeople have a front row seat to the market you serve, and are able to give you direct insight as to the voice of your customer. Then on a more practical note, getting early buy-in from your sales group will amplify your efforts. Everyone prefers to feel like they’re part of the same team.

Remember the brand.
As you’re going through your planning process, take a close look at your brand. The multi-channel-always-on-digital world we live in runs a real risk of presenting a fractured brand. Everything the brand does and says needs to reflect what your brand represents. There was a time, not that long ago when the brand belonged to marketing. But the lines between sales, marketing, and customer service have blurred to a point where everyone in your organization represents your brand. And depending on how well everyone understands your brand, that thought is either comforting or terrifying. This is everything from email signatures to Power Point presentations. Each tiny element either will reinforce your brand or chip away at it.

How should you evaluate your brand?
Start with our free tool, Brand Driver B2B brand assessment. From years of successfully untangling marketing messages and building brands for complex B2B products, we’ve identified six key indicators that support a healthy B2B branding program. Think of these as the vital signs of your brand.

Take the assessment now.