marketing planning

3 Planning Mistakes To Avoid For Marketing Success

Written by in Campaign Optimization on November 13, 2015

Just beyond the turkey and smell of pine is 2016. And though we try to savor the season with family and friends, many of us marketers use this time to begin laying the groundwork for success in the coming year.

Before pacing the malls for the perfect gift in the evenings, many of our clients are spending their days constructing their annual marketing plans. Over the years, I’ve observed a few pitfalls that seem all too common.

In the words of Stephen Covey: “The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn from it.”

Most of us don’t like talking about our mistakes, let alone pausing to analyze them openly with our teams. However that is what is needed to ensure we don’t spend the next twelve months on repeat.

If we’re honest with each other, we know we all make them—and it’s our mistakes that teach us. So, let’s set aside our fear of exposure.

This year as we’re creating our annual marketing plan, let’s take a few moments to reflect on the past year before we move forward. This time let’s evaluate what worked and what didn’t, so that we can correct them and learn together.

Mistake #1: Making Program Decisions Without Data

While your gut is great at telling you when you’re ready for lunch, it can’t provide you the insight needed to see what’s working or what’s not. Too frequently this happens with top of funnel programs, because unlike later stage programs, they often can’t be directly tied to revenue.

The blind spot in this thinking is that if you aren’t drawing people in—educating them or establishing credibility in your space—they probably won’t care when you offer solutions to problems they don’t know they have, or don’t trust you can solve.

You can eliminate this blind spot in your planning by taking a moment to consider the goal of each program you ran this year. Categorize the programs by the funnel impact it was aimed at and measure its efficacy at achieving that goal. Then, objectively decide what the best investments are in the coming year.

Mistake #2: Creating the Plan Before Goals Are Set

Until you know what objectives your team’s success will be measured by, it’s hard to prioritize where to put your resources in the coming twelve months.

Start with the end in mind and work backward to determine the best KPI’s to measure your effectiveness toward the larger company goal (often a revenue goal). This doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start (see Mistake #1).

Our Marketing Budget Calculator can guide you through budget allocation, enabling you to separate your resources by program, then taking you a step further to distribute by tactic.

marketing budget

Mistake #3: Setting Goals in a Silo

Understanding the bigger picture is absolutely necessary to determine the key indicators that will tell you and your team if you’re making a positive impact.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are great…

  • IF they have a strong conversion rate to Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).
  • IF those SQLs turn into opportunities.
  • IF those opportunities are won.

I recall working with a new client to create goals for the coming year. The success of this particular marketing department was purely measured in volume of MQLs. Unfortunately this led to a very predictable reality—low-quality, high-volume leads being passed to sales.

Sales began to dismiss leads that came from marketing, generalizing that they were all not worth the effort. Sales teams are results-oriented, as they should be. They will follow the shortest path to success. If a majority of MQLs lead nowhere, sales will start to prioritize leads from other channels.

We endeavored to increase the quality of leads for this client. We started with a conversation with sales about what attributes and behavior would constitute a hot lead worthy of their time. By making them a part of creating the definition of an MQL, they were much more likely to follow-up with those leads when they came through.

Getting sales to follow-up is just part of the challenge. Focusing on quality in an environment focused on volume, the amount of leads will naturally start to decline. Program changes are often needed to nurture leads to a state of sales readiness. Establishing and measuring your conversion rates are key to improving lead quality and increasing volume simultaneously. Because conversion rates can vary greatly depending on the channel, I recommend building a funnel forecast for every program.

You may be wondering what to do in a situation like this, where your conversion rates aren’t a reflection of the future. Or maybe you haven’t tracked them and you don’t have any data.

In the absence of historical conversion rates, benchmark data can be your savior. Fortunately there are many sources for this information. You can readily find broad B2B benchmarks on the web, and these are great for general use.

But when your marketing success depends on it, I’d suggest services like those offered by SiriusDecisions, who narrow the scope and increase the accuracy by looking at companies like yours (size, industry, offering, revenue, etc.).

Facing those planning mistakes together wasn’t so bad, was it? Hopefully you’re better for it and this post helps you create an impactful marketing plan.

But before the sting fades completely…how are your 2016 plans coming along?


Angela Earl About the author: Angela Earl

Angela is an experienced marketing leader who carries a balanced understanding of marketing strategy, execution and operations. An analytical and strategic thinker, she is able to develop marketing strategies that feed pipeline and opportunity creation. Before joining the Response Capture team, Angela led Marketing Operations and Demand Generation and has experienced first-hand the challenges many marketing teams face around automation and lead funnel management. She is passionate about aligning marketing and sales teams through performance measurement, process development and data analysis.


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