What's in a Best-in-Class Marketing Plan?


  • Research shows that the Best-in-Class marketing leaders (i.e., the top 15 percent) use annual marketing plans throughout the period to measure progress, identify variances and swiftly implement remediation plans.
  • With better marketing plans, these Best-in-Class leaders acquired more 21 percent sales leads and delivered more 24 percent more revenue contribution than their lower performing peers.
  • The Marketing Plan identifies the top marketing goal, develops the actionable strategies and tactics to achieve that goal, communicates the plan so that the team is focused and working toward the same goal, and quickly adjusts to shifting environments and performance variances.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Marketing plans, sometimes called Go-to-Market plans, define the specific actions to achieve forecasted goals. For most companies, the marketing plan is the roadmap that plots the shortest path or most direct route to aid the company's annual revenue target.

Research published in the Marketing Transformation Report shared how Best-in-Class marketing leaders use their go-to-market plans differently than their lower performing peers.

Marketing Plan Utilization

See the research showing how the Best-in-Class leaders applied marketing plans to acquire 21% more sales leads and deliver 24% more revenue contribution than their lower performing peers.

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The difference among performance archetypes wasn't whether they created an annual plan or not; they pretty much all did. The difference was that for most laggards and medians it was a one-and-done exercise. It was limited to a completed document that was thereafter occasionally referenced in quarterly reporting.

That was different than the Best-in-Class cohort who used it as an active operating tool throughout the period to measure progress, identify variances and implement course corrections as needed to meet the target goals.

In fact, when the data was correlated with other marketing performance measures, we found that those who implement remediation plans when results fall short during the period acquired 21 percent more sales leads and delivered 24 percent more revenue contribution than those who did not.

We also found that those who actively managed their plan were 2.1 times more likely to operate either a Marketing Operations organization or a Marketing Center of Excellence.

How the Best Marketing Plans are Made

I've been reviewing marketing plans for over two decades. There's scarcely little consistency and most fail to include the most significant drivers for success. So, to do better I'm going to share what the most successful marketing plans have in common.

First, they are created on a 3-tier architecture.

Marketing Go To Market Plan

The Marketing Plan Goal

The first step is to define the most important goal. The top marketing measurement among Best-in-Class marketers was Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI). Interestingly, the top measurement among most laggards and medians was the marketing budget amount. The first measures marketing's revenue contribution to the company while the second measures the consumption of company money. This contrast makes it easy to understand why some marketers have a seat at the C-suite table and others don't.

The Marketing Strategies to Achieve Success

Once the top marketing goal is set, you need to show how to achieve that goal. The research found that most marketers had an extraordinarily high number of tactics, but few strategies. The Best-in-Class marketers differentiated between strategy and tactics.

The top three strategies were to increase lead acquisitions, the pipeline contribution sourced by marketing and the revenue contribution sourced by marketing. Each of these marketing strategies delivered measurable financial contribution and rolled up to calculate the ROMI.

The marketing strategies identify the most direct route to the top goal. Equally important, they identify what not to do. If you're incurring time or expense on efforts not directly supporting your marketing strategies, you are off course and delaying achievement of the most important goal.

The Marketing Tactics to Execute

Tactics are actions that drive strategies. There are many tactics but the four listed below are essential for execution.

  1. Marketing resource allocation, sometimes called Marketing Resource Management (MRM), positions marketers where they can deliver the biggest results. There's no shortage of roles. Corporate communications, brand marketers, product marketers, fiĀ­eld marketing, digital marketing, and social marketing to name a few. Many times, resources are aligned according to skills or types of campaigns.

While skills are relevant and campaign portfolio management is important, a better approach it align marketers according to strategies. This approach creates better focus, tighter alignment and more accountability to achieve what's most important. If you are looking for help with this task, consider a Marketing Operations implementation.

  1. Allocate investment pursuant to the marketing budget. A good marketing budget is designed to find the least investment needed to achieve a target revenue goal. The budget will schedule the release of funds, measure progress, identify when investments or programs underdeliver and reallocate the budget throughout the year.
  2. Marketing technologies are needed to bring automation, information and performance measurement to the marketing team. There is no shortage of marketing software apps, but the research found the most effective and important apps are Marketing Automation Software, CRM software, marketing analytics and the company's website.
  3. Remediation measures are needed to follow through on the inevitable strategy and tactical deviations. Few plans go according to plan. That's why real-time reporting and relentless remediation are essential.

It was Mike Tyson that said, "Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth." That sentiment applies to marketers who get challenged with day to day fire drills. It's up to the CMO or leader to separate the urgent from the important and not confuse activity with progress.

Tactics are helpful if they support a strategy. Otherwise, they are distractions. Use marketing operations KPIs to identify whether a tactic is directly contributing to a strategy.

Strategies and tactics are symbiotic. Strategies without the right tactics are wishful thinking, normally falter and move at a snail's pace. Tactics without strategies are mostly aimless, never efficient and unlikely to achieve the most important marketing goals.