December 17th, 2012
Dwight Eisenhower, World War II General and our 34th President, once said: In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Have you started planning out your 2013 initiatives? Maybe you have some rough ideas of what you’d like to accomplish but have not taken the time to really put together a plan. Trying to look a year out is especially challenging if you have spent most of 2012 “behind the 8 ball”.
Believe me, we’ve been there. Our 2012 plans took a big detour when we merged mid-year. In marketing, we dedicated a full quarter to the merger alone. Then, suddenly it was mid-October. Merger activities were complete and year-end was starring us in the face. We had ten weeks left in the fiscal year and had been treading water in our demand generation activities.
What did we do? We grabbed a marker and went to the white board as a team.
In just a few hours, we were able to identify and prioritize our future initiatives. What we discovered in the process is that the act of planning was as valuable as the end product. This is the method our team used—with great results—to brainstorm and organize ideas for our Q4 plan.
Step 1: Define measurable goals.
Before you can start any kind of planning, you must first decide what big picture items you would like to accomplish. Think of 3-5 measurable goals that you would like to reach, write them down, and then move to Step 2.
Step 2: Whiteboard any and all ideas.
With your marketing team, create a giant, working list of everything you can think of that you would like to do in 2013. These can be anything from basic house keeping items to the most outrageous marketing idea possible. At this point, you do not have to be too detailed as long as your team is on common ground with the scope of the project. For the Sales Engine team, we broke our board into six categories: Inbound, Outbound, Events, Blog, Content, and Miscellaneous.
Step 3: Plot effort vs. impact.
Once you have a list of the things you’d like to do in 2013, plot them on an Effort vs. Impact chart. You need to rank each item for how much effort must go into it to finish AND the impact that finished item will have on your marketing goals (Step 1). To make it easier, we started with three levels (Low, Medium, and High) and then became more specific from there.
Physically plotting these ideas on a chart provides your team with a clear, visual representation of what they want to accomplish and how hard they will have to work to get there. It will also help you prioritize initiatives based on the ultimate impact they will have on marketing goals. If there are low impact/ high effort activities, for example, you may move those to the bottom of the list.
Step 4: Consider resources.
Look at everything in your plan and determine where you may have a deficit in resources. You may not know your budget for 2013, but if high impact activities will require additional funding, you’ll want to start thinking about how to make that happen. Also, don’t forget about staff. If you have a big SEO project slated for Q1 but have not hired anyone to manage it, you may need to bump that project back to Q2.
You might also want to look at what marketing or organizational tools are out there. In Q4, we began using Rally, an agile planning tool, that has helped our team better organize our tasks, prioritize what needs to be done, and measure the effectiveness of our team and our initiatives.
Step 5: Commit to the plan and make it visible.
Take picture, write it out, and keep it in a central place wherever your team goes to collaborate on ideas. We use Central Desktop as our collaboration tool. When you are ready, share the plan out with your entire organization. This not only provides visibility between the departments in your organization, but it can also push your team to work a little harder now that the entire organizations holds the same expectations.
It’s a no brainer that planning makes goals more achievable, and it’s not just because you have a plan. Planning invariably helps us identify obstacles and challenges in advance and think through them when we are not under the pressure of an immediate deadline.
In today’s competitive environment, you really need to leverage any advantage you can find to help you win in the battle for market share. So, arm your team with some markers and head for the whiteboard.
Who was it that said, “I really wish I had not taken the time to plan in advance”?
No one – ever!