Posted on November 17, 2015 by Michael Schmid
For some reason, the cool mornings and evenings of November always remind me of budget time. I guess because most of the companies I’ve ever worked for and most of the clients I’ve worked with seem to go into annual budget mode in early November. It’s always a stressful time of year, given the anticipation of holidays compounded by the stress of developing, reviewing or updating corporate or departmental operating plans and associated budgets. It’s also a major relief, followed by a strong sense of satisfaction to go into Thanksgiving break with gratitude and approval after having put a tremendous amount of painstaking work into the coming year’s plans and budgets.
And while planning and budgeting time can be extremely stressful, for marketers it is also a very opportunistic time of year. There are three key departments or areas of the business where marketers should seek alignment, and there’s no better opportunity to make this happen than planning and budgeting time. Those three key operational elements of the organization are finance, sales and product management.
Be sure to loop finance in very early in any planning efforts. In nearly every organization there tends to be friction between finance and marketing, but it can be a very healthy tension and go a long way to generate buy-in when finance is involved early in the planning process. Have finance review preliminary marketing plans and walk through the tactical execution to foster a far deeper understanding and an appreciation for how marketing is helping to drive the company and its brands forward. Seek guidance and input, especially with regard to the budgetary numbers associated with campaigns, trade shows/events, and various media.
While it is true that in many organizations product management is a role within the marketing department, it would be a mistake, however, to assume that their complete alignment with marketing or marketing communications is a given. Product managers tend to be the ultimate internal networkers, because they need the support of nearly every function within the organization to do their jobs effectively, especially engineering (R&D), manufacturing, sales, marketing, customer service and finance. They have a deep understanding and appreciation for each of the functional departments within a company, and it can prove advantageous as a marketer to leverage this internal knowledge and networking.
But be aware that product managers tend to be singularly focused on their respective product portfolios, which limits their ability to think strategically – an area where marketers excel and have an opportunity to significantly aid product management, especially with regard to outbound communications efforts.
For example, marketers can help product managers, particularly this time of year, in the development and communication of product road maps, marketing and campaign plans for product/brand support, press and social media engagement, and market research initiatives to measure and gage product/brand positioning as well as determine appropriate features/functionality for new product development. Achieving alignment with product management is key in ensuring a successful marketing program, and it is paramount, particularly in the budgeting process, to be able to demonstrate agreement and buy-in for actionable marketing plans that support the company’s products in the marketplace.
It may seem like a no brainer that marketing should seek and have alignment with sales, but I continue to be amazed at the number of organizations where sales and marketing seem to develop plans and budgets in a vacuum.
In many cases, senior management and boards are given annual operating plan presentations from sales and marketing execs that seem wholly disjointed and disconnected. It is as if board presentation time is the first time the marketing and sales department heads have spoken. Sales is on the front line with customers every day, and they have a unique and intrinsic grasp of market trends and customer wants, needs, and expectations. Be sure to leverage this intimate knowledge of the marketplace, and work with sales to develop (and budget for) promotional and brand/product awareness campaigns that will resonate with customers, but more importantly, make the job of selling a bit easier and more fluid. Sales will enjoy a far deeper appreciation for the role of marketing when they are involved in the development of marketing plans. Sales involvement helps to engender plan ownership, which leads to their help in campaign and promotional execution, which ultimately drives success in the critical game of revenue generation.