8 Essential Marketing Planning Questions You Forgot to Ask

Don't overlook research and introspection in a rush to drive 2019 growth.

Research and introspection—the first steps in marketing planning—reveal your superpowers. Unfortunately, we often skip these steps in a rush to drive growth–and it’s worse during a strong economy, when success can hide alot of mistakes!

I’m amazed by the number of senior marketers who forget to ask some key marketing planning questions. Others are familiar with them, and simply ignore them. They stay in their comfort zone, and focus their energy managing day to day demands.

As we approach 2019, it’s the perfect time to invest time in these important planning stages. I developed 8 questions to kick-start the process.

  1. What business are we in? Try this dyad exercise. Take 5 turns with someone from your team. Sit across from one another, and keep asking the same question. Do not nod your head, disagree, nor comment when they respond. Just take notes. Then switch places. Capture notes and review them with your peer(s). The insights will help you get more precise on your unique identity.
  2. What are our organization’s top 3-4 goals? If you don’t know the answer, then press for answers from your CEO and board. This is not a “nice to have.” It’s the only way you can align your marketing plan with the organization’s priorities.

If your executive team has more than four high priority goals, prepare for team attrition, role overlap, and profit dips.

  1. Where are the biggest revenue synergies that will help us reach those goals? According to McKinsey Consultants John Chartier, Rui Silva, and Nikolaus Raberger, companies can optimize revenue by focusing in seven areas. A few include setting realistic targets, changing salesforce behavior, enabling cross-functional support systems, tracking financial impact, and getting the organization to focus on a limited set of priorities. (See their recent McKinsey article for greater detail).
  2. What is our marketing vision? In today’s world, a two to three- year vision is more practical and realistic than a 10-year vision. Too much disruption, coupled with the accelerated pace of change, reduce the need for only taking a longer view. The Vision must be stated in present tense and express your burning desire to make a dent in the universe. It is NOT a sales or revenue goal.
  3. What percentage of our time in 2017 did we spend interacting directly with customers? This question makes some marketing leaders feel defensive. Some will blame the Sales team for blocking them from direct customer contact. I experienced this when I worked for two global B2B software companies between 1991-2001.

These artificial guardrails are nothing more than excuses and power trips. Find a way to team up with Sales and get in front of your customers. Online surveys, focus groups, and text messages don’t count.

  1. What percentage does it need to be? Pull out your calendar and make the appointments now. Find customer conferences you can attend in the coming year. Schedule two customer calls a month (phone, Zoom or in person). Why wait? Build the new habit now. As James Clear says in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, “Your habits are a vote for your identity.”
  2. If we do not have a monopoly in our sector, where can Marketing build “moats?” * Examples of moats include:
  • Proprietary customer or market data
  • Technology or marketing stack (think AWS)
  • Network (e.g. partners, alliances, and value chain)
  • Intellectual property
  • Switching costs (e.g. ERP software, your health insurance provider)
  • Speed (Amazon Prime)
  • Extraordinary talent (e.g. Netflix, Sales Loft, and Zappos)
  1. What must Marketing stop doing in 2019 to make more time to:
  • accelerate those revenue synergies
  • deepen customer impact and loyalty
  • build stronger moats

I encourage you to guide a discussion around these questions during your next team meeting. Invite key sales executives too! I guarantee they will strengthen your strategic clarity, competitive preparedness, and critical thinking abilities.

They may even make 2019 one of your most memorable marketing career moments.

P.S. Want to know how high performing marketing leaders plan for success? Visit our LinkedIn Learning course, “The Effective CMO.” Download your free sample courses here.

Another version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse – go here for the full version.

Copyright 2018, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

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