Remove the Barriers to Strategic Planning in B2B Marketing

As B2B marketers enter the 2012 strategic planning season and begin shaping executional plans, it is important that we get it right. The goal is to create a strategy that survives the full year (and beyond) and gives you a framework for more tactical planning, execution and optimization.

Today, many companies have replaced strategic planning with a set of goals and tactics, without a formalized marketing strategy.

There are four barriers I frequently see that keep companies from adopting effective strategic planning.

  1. Value. Many companies simply do not value marketing strategy. Marketing goes from a series of goals directly to tactical planning. While the results may meet the stated goals, your plans are likely a collection of random acts of marketing.
  2. Time and resources. Strategic planning is time intensive and requires people who are already in high demand in your organization. Companies in this position consider strategic planning to be too expensive, even if is valued.
  3. Alignment. There is not one magical strategic plan for a business, there are multiple strategies that will be effective for your business (and a few that will not be). Since strategy cannot be definitively proven right, getting alignment around a strategy may be a challenge in your organization. Companies in this position often begin tactical planning and get into market before the team is aligned around a strategic plan.
  4. Knowledge. Not every organization has people familiar with strategic planning. Particularly in smaller businesses, you may have a knowledge gap. Despite your best intentions, strategic planning will be a struggle.

If these barriers exist in your organization, they are effectively decisions that have already been made against strategic planning. They need to be addressed before a successful strategic plan can be developed.

Next week I will share some of the successful approaches I have seen to addressing these challenges, including value, which in my opinion is the most difficult challenge to address.

Your turn

What other barriers do you see to strategic planning? What are the most significant challenges? Share your experiences in the comments below or with me on Twitter.

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  • Marcus Schaller

    “Many companies simply do not value marketing strategy.”

    Unfortunately this is too true, too often. An important consideration to strategy is the flexibility to change and adapt based on results. But starting without even a basic framework of what to test makes no sense, even if you don’t “know” what the next 12 months will bring.

  • Luis Hernandez

    Nice article. I was able to relate to this right away: “Today, many companies have replaced strategic planning with a set of goals and tactics, without a formalized marketing strategy.”

    Too often we get caught in channel goals without coordinating strategy at a company level. Everyone starts to freelance based on a channel goal and different offers begin to confuse customers.

  • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

    Marcus, you are right, cannot be rigid. One of ways I have defined the difference between strategy and tactics historically is a tactic dictates a single clear path that you can execute. A strategy can be executed on a number of different ways, each potential tactic can be evaluated against the strategy. Although it is a simple definition, it is a line that is difficult for people that are not indoctrinated in marketing speak.

    Luis, you nailed it, everyone starts freelance planning and execution when you do not have a clear strategy. Unfortunate that so many of us can relate to this situation.

  • http://getcurata.com Jessie Zubatkin

    ‘Random acts of marketing’ – we really like your choice of words here, Eric. How does technology fit into your list? We find that many of our customers experience success in marketing planning by making sure that technology isn’t just a line-item in the budget, but part of a strategy to enable customer outreach, prospect cultivation and brand awareness/thought leadership. In many cases, such technology can rescue a marketing program, making it possible to avoid the ‘random acts’ you have mentioned. Marketing content and decision-making must be organized, influential, enlightening and capable of drawing an audience. My company’s product, Curata, helps its users to develop thought leadership through strong, consistent marketing through content curation. The practice is affordable and delivers great results.

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Hi Jessie,

      I see technology as an executional barrier. The closer you get to tactical planning, the more important an understanding of what is possible becomes. However, for high level planning, I don’t see specific technology as having a role. Marketers need to drop the limitations technology can impose and focus on identifying opportunities. If one of those opportunities is targeted content curation, for instance, then the search for the right enabling solution begins.

      I’m a big fan of curation but do not do as much of it as I would like, Curata sounds like a potentially interesting solution. Will watch for more information.

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