What are the Most Useful Metrics for Planning Season?

June 20, 2018 Sam Melnick

When marketing planning season comes around each year, is your team ready? Do you come to the table armed with all the data and metrics needed to make sound, data-based choices for the year ahead?

Planning season seems to cause a surprising number of companies to scramble for the data they need, but if you prepare right, it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.

I knew Ken Evans, Director of Marketing Operations at Fuze had some terrific insights on this topic, so I decided to hold a webinar and pick his brain.

Ken is a 20-year marketing veteran, having held senior marketing ops and demand generation roles at a variety of B2B technology companies. He’s one of my favorite folks to chat about marketing with due to his wisdom, pragmatism, and great sense of humor.

Here’s a recap of our conversation.

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It’s that time of year!

Time after time over the course of his career, Ken witnessed marketing teams scramble when marketing planning season came around.

In order to plan effectively, a marketing team needs a significant amount of insight into last year: where the organization spent and why, and what the business impact was. But this data takes time to compile, and when the CMO calls asking for a marketing plan in two weeks, it can cause major fire drills.

To avoid that phenomenon, Ken developed a set of metrics and practices to help him get a head start before each marketing planning season rolls around.

The metrics help his team discover the valuable context information about what went on in their organizations the previous year, so they can make informed decisions for the coming year.

Those metrics and practices are what we’ll share in this post today.


Three Truths About Marketing Planning

Before diving in, Ken wanted to impart three things he’s learned over the course of many planning seasons as a marketing ops practitioner.

  • Truth 1: There will be some non-campaign activities which must be prioritized, but which may not be easily measurable. It’s just a fact of life in marketing — some very worthy marketing efforts are not very quantifiable, yet they’re critical to our marketing plans.
  • Truth 2: Despite the above, a data-driven approach to marketing planning is truly the only viable, defensible one. Data is the ultimate tool in your marketing planning tool box.
  • Truth 3: Your goal is to help your CMO make decisions more easily. You can accomplish this by knowing your business even better than she does.

Now, let’s get into Ken’s specific recommendations. These are the metrics he recommends assembling as you prepare for marketing planning season. They fall into four buckets, which happen to align very well to my Hierarchy of Marketing Measurements!


1. Metrics for Planning: Core Investments

“Where did we spend our money and our time last year?”

Questions answered

  • Where did we place our bets last year?
  • How was spending distributed?
  • Which items have the flexibility to change next year, and which are committed?

Example Metrics

  • Marketing spend broken out by activity types
  • The ratio of spending on people vs. programs
  • The ratio of spending on demand generation activities vs. brand awareness
  • Marketing spend broken out by quarter, geography, business unit, or other factors relevant to your particular business

Audience
Here are the stakeholders that will care about these results:

  • CMO
  • Marketing Ops
  • Marketing Leadership Team
  • Finance

Technology Involved

  • ERP systems (Fuze uses Netsuite)
  • Allocadia

Ken’s Notes

  • It’s a good idea to compare the metrics in this category against benchmarks from SiriusDecisions (or other analyst groups).
  • Forge relationships with the finance team for help in getting these answers.
  • All we’re doing at this stage is collecting information; we’ll get to the judgements later.
     

2. Metrics for Planning: Tactical Results

“What were our frontline results (a.k.a. tactical results) last year?”

Questions answered

  • Which activities garnered responses?
  • Where were we active in our market?
  • What personas and/or accounts responded?

Example Metrics

  • Inquiries/marketing responses
  • Account engagement
  • Geographical breakdown of activity
  • Media impressions

Audience

  • Here are the stakeholders that will care about these results:
  • Campaign managers
  • Field marketers
  • Department leaders

Technology Involved

  • Marketing automation and CRM systems
  • Marketing attribution tools
  • Web analytics software such as Google Analytics
  • ABM software such as Engagio

Ken’s Notes

  • Don’t expose these metrics to the CMO yet; it’s important to gather the full context around the business impact of these numbers before presenting to the executive suite.
  • For these metrics to be useful, the marketing and sales groups in your company must have agreed-upon conventions, such as the definition of an MQL. These common definitions are essential in making sure different departments don’t come up with conflicting measurements.
     

3. Metrics for Planning: Advanced Measurements

“What was the impact of our marketing efforts last year?”

Questions answered

  • What produced the most initial meetings? Qualified pipeline? Deals?
  • What did we spend across campaigns or stages of the buyer’s journey?

Example Metrics

  • SALs/SQLs driven
  • Pipeline generated (sourced) and/or influenced
  • Cost per campaign or buyer’s journey stage

Audience
Here are the stakeholders that will care about these results:

  • CMO & marketing leadership
  • Campaign managers
  • Department leaders
  • Sales operations

Technology Involved

  • Marketing automation and CRM systems
  • BI Tools/Excel
  • Allocadia
  • Pipeline analysis tools

Ken’s Notes

  • When measuring pipeline, the issue of whether to measure pipeline-sourced or pipeline-influenced becomes a tricky thing. It’s not possible to recommend one or the other, since the more appropriate will have to be decided according to how your company does business. If you use an account-based (ABM) model, for example, pipeline influence becomes very important since it may take 25 activities to achieve the overall goal of getting a target account into a sales opportunity.


Metrics for Planning: Business Impact

“Based on last year’s results, where should we spend our next dollar?”

Questions answered

  • What is the right context of all our actions?
  • What is the most efficient way to drive pipeline or revenue?

Example Metrics

  • ROI (aggregate & attribution-based)
  • Planned/predictive ROI
  • Market share & total addressable market

Audience
Here are the stakeholders that will care about these results:

  • CMO
  • Marketing leadership
  • Sales leadership

Technology Involved

  • Marketing automation and CRM systems
  • BI Tools/Excel
  • Allocadia
  • Your marketing brain

Ken’s Notes

  • These metrics aren’t to be gathered by a single marketer in isolation. Rather, this is where the big meetings happen, where senior marketing and sales leaders talk about context, strategies and goals as you head into marketing planning season. The other three groups of metrics support this discussion.
  • Wondering how to frame these conversations? Start with whichever questions the CMO is typically asked by the board.

Summing up

If you’re reading this thinking that compiling all this data sounds like a lot of work, there’s just no two ways about it: you’re right. You may need one, two, or even more months to gather the data. However, your efforts will be worthwhile: in Ken’s experience, preparation like this truly makes the difference during marketing planning season.

We left readers with an analogy: when you prepare these metrics, you’re setting the table for marketing planning season. The goal isn’t to assemble every single metric on these lists. Rather, it’s to apply judgement, insight and context to know which metrics will truly help set the marketing team up for success as they go to build their plans for the coming year.

 

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