Death by PowerPoint: Why Most CMOs are Failing to Plan (and Planning to Fail!)


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Budgeting and planning are among the most frustrating exercises marketing teams go through each year. Every organization’s planning season is different, but the objective is the same: Set up a marketing organization to properly support the business for a successful year.

One common sentiment shared among many organizations is that planning is often seen as a painful process that takes marketers away from execution, and fails to deliver the kind of alignment and operational excellence it should be driving.

At Allocadia, we believe one of the biggest reasons for this struggle is “Death by PowerPoint.” In a world of SaaS technologies and innovative approaches, why is a PPT deck or Excel spreadsheet the way comprehensive marketing plans are created, documented, and communicated throughout the business?

When plans exist in multiple versions that few actually access, the result is misinterpretation and misalignment on downstream goals and plans, with serious consequences:

  • Misallocation of limited marketing resources
  • Inability to steer effectively in the right direction
  • Lack of accountability at the department, or team level


Strategic planning is critical to CMO perception

This is too important to be relegated to hard-to-find Excel files and PowerPoint decks. While planning might be a process many marketing leaders dread, it sets the stage for changing how their team is perceived, either as a cost-center or growth-driver.

To run marketing like a business, the marketing organization must be in lock-step with the rest of the company. Strategic plans allow CMOs to lay the foundation of what marketing must accomplish and hold teams and people accountable throughout the year to these business goals.

Research shows that 83% of marketers who expect revenue growth “often or always” align marketing plans to their company’s business objectives. The opposite is true for those who fail to plan strategically, as only 50% of companies with flat, or negative growth do the same.

“The key to a good marketing plan is to make sure that it’s aligned with the objectives of the business,” says Craig Moore, Marketing Operations Strategies Service Director at SiriusDecisions.

Planning done right can be a CMO’s best opportunity to demonstrate leadership, maintain a commitment to corporate objectives, and deploy strategy.

Where CMOs falter today in marketing planning

Our industry today suffers from a lack of standardized processes and templates for effective marketing planning. Many CMOs simply rely on last year’s plan to set the roadmap year after year, causing them to lose focus on the reality of what’s driving results. Looking in the rearview mirror is not a reliable way to plan the journey ahead. Instead, marketers should be learning from their activities throughout the year, and should be able to understand where investments will result in the most long-term revenue gain.

Another common misstep marketers make when creating marketing plans, especially at large, global, distributed organizations, is to build multiple, siloed versions that are held hostage in PowerPoint documents. Doing so makes it nearly impossible to collaborate effectively, work against the same set of shared priorities, or enable visibility throughout large marketing teams. Ultimately, these static plans make it difficult to track alignment with priorities in real-time, keeping CMOs from being agile enough to adjust strategies on the fly, or teams from making the right decisions day-to-day in the field.

Strategic planning is a combination of high-level guidance combined with the actionable steps needed to make that strategy come to life at every level of a marketing team.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” holds true here, as teams must create accountability up, down, and across the organization, clearly defining who is responsible for what. Otherwise, marketing’s actions throughout the year have little chance of supporting the business as a whole.

National Instruments brings sanity back to the planning process

National Instruments (NI) is a $1.5B high-tech hardware and software company with over 600 marketers worldwide. Like many organizations, its planning process changed every year, and it had many cooks in the kitchen during planning season. Each region created its own version of their marketing plan in Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint templates. Marketing investments were disconnected from their go-to-market plans, and were organized by products and regions, rather than global campaigns and goals.

Sound familiar?

Here’s why this matters – their marketing organization struggled to gain consensus against a common set of shared priorities, and were prevented from a holistic view of global marketing. The static documents used prevented them from effectively connecting field and corporate activity during planning and budgeting season, making it impossible to deliver clear guidance on priorities for day-to-day decision-making.

To gain some control over a chaotic planning process, the marketing team at NI took steps to align their global team under one plan, one that was carefully aligned with business objectives and customer needs.

They implemented a structured and governed taxonomy across all marketing technologies. This was a common set of words and descriptors for plans, investments, and activities across all of their marketing systems, giving their team the opportunity to describe all marketing-related activities in a similar way.

By doing so, the team was able to show how marketing campaigns and initiatives, even those spanning multiple products, contribute to product group goals and revenue targets. Ultimately, this connected the dots to give NI an end-to-end view of how campaigns tie to investments, and how these are aligned to their plan and strategy.

By giving the marketing team access to the same Marketing Performance Management tool (Allocadia), NI ensured everyone was working in lock-step against the same, global plan, instead of segmented, product and region-based planning stuck in static documents. When combined with campaign outcomes in Eloqua and Salesforce, NI’s global marketing team could achieve the end-to-end visibility they needed to plan and allocate resources in the best possible way.

Today, the team has better insights, and greater transparency, greater accountability into how marketing is performing, and can have more informed, strategic conversations about optimizing marketing performance.

Marketing leaders operate in an age of accountability as we navigate our teams towards the strong expectations placed upon our departments. Every marketer must make every dollar count. To achieve this, the chaos of disconnected plans must be managed, and marketers must instead lead with strategy.

Sam Melnick
Sam Melnick is the VP of Marketing at Allocadia, the leader in Marketing Performance Management software, managing over $20B in marketing spend to-date. He is an award-winning and analytically driven marketing professional with experience as a CMO industry analyst at IDC, and marketing practitioner at firms including Vivox and Lattice Engines. Sam is a frequent speaker at marketing industry events and prolific author of marketing research.


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