Program-Centric Planning

In high-tech, everything moves at warp speed, even in marketing. (Some would say: especially in marketing.) Even the most forward-thinking marketers can find themselves in a vicious 3-month cycle of budget approvals and rapid-fire executions of whatever marketing programs can be rushed out the door before quarter end.

When it comes time to “plan” for the new quarter, many conversations, somewhat inevitably, revolve around programs. Some of this is a matter of servicing different constituencies, for example: field marketing needs a seminar series, the product group needs a launch campaign, and so on.

The most successful companies, in our experience, leave programs outside the planning process and start with numbers. More specifically: objectives. What are our sales goals for the quarter? How many raw inquiries do we need to fill the pipeline? How many sales leads can inside sales follow up on effectively?

If programs drive the planning process, marketing plans often get written on the basis of either a) which group within the company lobbies most effectively, and/or b) which programs can be most easily re-purposed from prior quarters. Not, I hasten to add, those programs that are most likely to achieve the company’s objectives in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Next time it gets time to plan another quarter’s marketing activity, start with a clean slate. Ignore (to the extent you’re in a position to do so) the hue and cry from your internal clients for their own particular pet projects. Determine the true, quantitative objective for the next three months. And then design your program strategy around reaching that number most efficiently.

Maybe the Eastern region needs that executive breakfast series. Maybe they don’t. Maybe what they really need is 50 really qualified leads. And maybe – just maybe – there’s a better, cheaper way to go about getting them what they really need.

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