The fourth quarter of 2023 is only a few weeks away, and that means many B2B marketing leaders will soon begin planning for next year.
Marketing planning processes vary considerably across companies. The planning process in large enterprises can be quite formal, and the output is often a lengthy document replete with spreadsheets containing budget details and financial projections. The planning process in smaller companies tends to be less formal.
Regardless of whether your planning is formal or informal, one key to having a sound planning process is to start the process in the right way. Fortunately, a proven technique from military planning can help marketing leaders get their planning process started on the right basis.
For years, US military commanders at all levels have used a framework called METT-TC as an integral part of their planning process. METT-TC is a mnemonic that is designed to help commanders remember and prioritize what to analyze when planning a military operation.
METT-TC stands for mission, enemy, terrain, troops available, time, and civil considerations. These six factors define the environment in which any military operation will be conducted, and commanders must thoroughly analyze each of these factors to develop sound operational plans.
When I work with a client to develop a marketing plan, I begin with an analysis of four environmental factors, and I’ve created a mnemonic for these factors that serves much the same purpose as METT-TC. My mnemonic is MEC-R, which stands for mission, economic/legal environment, competitive landscape, and resources available.
Mission Is “First Among Equals”
These four factors are all important, but mission is clearly the “first among equals” because it provides the critical starting point for a sound planning process. Mission occupies this pivotal position for two reasons.
First, to maximize impact and effectiveness, all marketing activities must be aligned with, and supportive of, a clearly defined mission. With every proposed marketing initiative, you should ask: “How will this initiative help us fulfill our mission?” Obviously, you can’t answer this question if you don’t have a clear picture of what your marketing mission is.
The second reason is equally important. To be a successful marketing leader, you need the support of your CEO and other senior company leaders. Your chances of gaining and keeping that support will be higher if you and the other members of your company’s senior leadership team have a common understanding of marketing’s mission.
Therefore, before you begin any detailed planning for next year, you need to have an open and frank discussion with your senior company leaders about the core mission of marketing in your organization.
More specifically, you should prepare a clear and concise high-level description of your proposed marketing mission and share it with your senior management team. The goal, of course, is to have your senior leadership team endorse your mission description.
The Core Mission of Marketing
So, what is the core mission of marketing? I’m always skeptical of marketing principles or methods that purport to be universal. Competitive conditions can vary considerably across companies, and that usually requires a company to develop business and marketing strategies that fit its unique circumstances. But, this is the “exception that proves the rule.”
Every marketing organization in a for-profit company has a twofold mission, both aspects of which are linked to revenue growth. It must run programs that will generate revenue in the short term, and also design and execute programs that will lay a solid foundation for long-term revenue growth.
The need to focus simultaneously on the short term and the long term is not unique to marketing, but this can be particularly challenging for marketers. For the past several years, marketing leaders have faced increasing demands to prove the value of their activities and programs. Overall, this has been a positive development, but it can have a dark side.
Marketing programs that produce a quick impact on revenue are relatively easy to measure, and their results can be seen in a matter of a few weeks or months. However, programs whose impacts are several steps removed from the buying decisions that generate revenue are much more difficult to measure, and they may not produce visible results for a year or more.
Under these circumstances, marketing leaders often face pressures to shift resources to marketing programs that can deliver quick and easily measurable results. Unfortunately, such a shift can cause companies to under-invest in longer-term marketing activities and programs, thus placing future revenue growth at risk.
Producing both short-term and long-term revenue growth is the core marketing mission at any for-profit company, and the company’s senior leadership team must understand and endorse this mission. Therefore, communicating this mission to your company’s senior leaders and obtaining their buy-in is the essential first step in your marketing planning for 2024.
Image courtesy of fdecomite via Flickr (CC).