I’m willing to bet that somehow the notion of “annual planning” has entered your world this quarter. No matter where your company’s financial calendar falls, individuals – in professional and personal life – embrace the New Year as an opportunity to set the stage for the next 12 months achievement and accomplishment. January 1 is a fresh start.
I urge you to welcome the new planning year. And, most importantly, I urge you to view any request for plans, goals, and articulated outcomes in a somewhat warped inversion of the holiday spirit: it is just as important to receive the gift of goals and outcomes as it is to give out plans.
This time of year isn’t just about promises you might make to the business, it’s about your role in building an ecosystem that sets you up for success and one that is in – ahem – alignment. Here’s how:
1. Take this moment to set expectations.
I know you do this all the time; you describe what you’ll deliver. But I encourage you to zoom all the way into expectation setting as you plan 2020. It’s your best opportunity to prevent some common points of failure.
- Don’t let a 2020 plan turn into a Q1 plan. Make your 2020 plan visual and highlight dependencies, required elapsed time, and the work you’ll do quarter-by-quarter to achieve your annual goals. Define your realistic timelines in advance so you don’t get crushed by ill-defined expectations in Q1 and Q2.
- Don’t allow KPIs to set you up for a reporting nightmare. As you commit to specific KPIs, ensure you have a plan to report against them – rather than create a scramble for your future self to collect the data you need and conduct the analysis you require at every reporting period. If you view KPIs through this lens, you might just revise the KPIs against which you plan to demonstrate progress.
- Don’t postpone a conversation about talent (or tech) gaps. It might seem like it’s no time to ask for things when you feel pressured to build the plans to support business outcomes, but it’s the exact right time. It doesn’t mean all your wishes will be granted, but it should mean that you can articulate – believably and precisely – what outcomes you are not staffed or teched-up to support.
2. Take this moment to define what you need from the business. Again, it might not seem intuitive to take a list of demands to a conversation in which you are expected to define your contributions. It is, however, your responsibility to understand and communicate what you need to deliver against your goals over the next four quarters – to define and share your vision of cross-functional collaboration. Remind the ecosystem that marketing isn’t an island.
- Launch a conversation about your dependence on other teams. You pull a lot of levers in marketing to make positive results happen, but company goals are appropriately owned by multiple departments. Wherever you depend on other departments or teams for your outcomes, call it out and elevate the inter-dependence. (In a simple example, you need sales support to pull off successful events.) Don’t expect this just to go smoothly when it’s time to collaborate.
- Define what you expect from peers when it comes to reporting cycles. You’re going to make commitments about metrics and KPIs. Be sure to understand who is making a commitment to consume them and own them with you. Who are the stakeholders for these KPIs? Who do you collaborate with to right the course if a KPI starts to spiral?. I’m calling this out because I’ve seen many teams spin their wheels on detailed reports to find that half of the intended recipients do to not open them.
- Speaking of reporting cycles, what do others need to report to you? For example, many of you are accountable for revenue outcomes. In that case, you need visibility to the full life of leads. You need reporting formulas that help you demonstrate your contribution to revenue. What other visibility do you need to know to do your job well? Talk through those requirements now.
3. Take this moment to define how you and your team will be evaluated. Your annual planning process may or may not correspond with review time. Either way, you may find that your review is focused on the goals you set during the last annual planning process – of course, those goals you set will have stayed steady and you will have worked diligently to a plan that everyone understood, and there were no surprises handed to you at all throughout the year.
I’m just kidding. You won’t find that!
Or at least, it’s unlikely. Priorities will shift throughout the year, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Just build change into your planning. Set yourself up to absorb shifting priorities throughout the year and socialize them so you are always clear on your most critical priorities.
- Shake hands, high-five, toast to 2020 – anything to cement agreement on the right outcomes. But still – try to keep the annual plan relevant throughout the year, though it’s common for the planning urgency to diminish and the business of getting critical, short-term work done to become the norm as the new year progresses. Stay aware that the plan defines your requirements for specific projects, talent, technology, and more. If it changes – and it will – ensure you’re having these same conversations about interdependences and what you need to work to plan.
- Make a plan to revisit this quarterly. You know what, just go ahead and put it on the calendar with your manager or other stakeholders. Let’s just assume that the business will change – potentially to respond to unexpected (and potentially awesome) M&A activity, partnerships, or another shift. Worst case scenario – it will be a short meeting.
Planning is about sharing and collaborating. If others are sharing, you will be receiving. Both will be of great benefit to you as you plan for achievement and accomplishments. Cheers to a Happy New Year!
Allison Snow is an advisory Board member of MOCCA and currently the vice president of go-to-customer marketing at Definitive Healthcare. Prior to this role, Allison was an industry analyst at Forrester, where she helped B2B-focused customer insights pros understand and employ analytical methods that facilitate deep understanding of prospect and customer behavior and preferences, identify trends and patterns in data that support revenue growth, customer delight, and operational excellence, and manage performance against efficiency, profitability, and other desirable business outcomes. Follow Allison on Twitter @allisonsnow.