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5 Derailments to Your Marketing Strategy (And How to Fix Them)

5 Derailments to Your Marketing Strategy (And How to Fix Them)

marketing strategy derailments 2

There are five ways that even the best marketing strategies get derailed. Let’s talk about how to fix them.

There are a lot of moving pieces to your marketing strategy. What ties them all together is your plan.

Planning is the foundation that everything else is built upon, so if you get it wrong, there can (and will) be many cascading consequences. But, if you get it right, you’ve got a really well-aligned team and are on track to hit your targets.

We’re sharing insights from conversations with our customers about five too-common blockers that derail your marketing strategy and how you can fix them.


You’re not speaking the same language

When it’s time to execute your marketing strategy, it will be chaos if people are working from different definitions. And when it comes time to report on your performance, it will mean nothing.

“We learned the hard way that if we want the plans to be executable and reportable, we need to make sure they’re all talking ‘apples to apples.’”

Lisa Cole, VP corporate marketing at FARO Technologies

This is (unfortunately) a large problem within marketing teams. As a former Forrester and SiriusDecisions analyst, Cheri Hulse, VP of strategy and research at ON24, knows exactly how powerful alignment on language and terminology can be. In fact, it’s now part of the onboarding process for marketers joining ON24 to become well-versed in the taxonomy they’re expected to use.

But it doesn’t end with the marketing department. For FARO, their consistent language and process was connected to creating a clearly defined lead process workflow between marketing and sales. They aligned on each key term, the definition, and the source of truth where that data would come from. While taxonomy and language can seem insignificant, clearing up those definitions was a critical foundation layer for Faro’s award-winning revenue transformation, which led to a 93% increase in marketing-sourced revenue, with marketing spend cut nearly in half.

Your planning process doesn’t align to corporate goals

Strategic alignment starts at the top; it’s important that marketing plans are relevant to corporate goals. This means an integrated planning process that takes into account your three-year strategy, annual marketing operational planning, and the “always-on” activities.

Marc McNabb, VP of marketing operations and strategy at Hyland Software, shares his planning processes for enterprise marketing organizations that were honed from his years at Siemens and SAP.

Setting your three-year strategy starts by forecasting where you think marketing is going as a discipline against your company’s three-year plan and vision. A good place to look for trends around marketing best practices is an analyst firm like IDC or Forrester, or CMO surveys.

The three-year strategy feeds your annual marketing operational plan, which is also aligned to the corporate goals for the year. This is where you start to break down go-to-market campaigns based on industries and audiences.  Alongside the annual marketing operational plan are ongoing activities like paid ads or nurture programs. These activities can be mapped out for the next six months to prioritize the campaigns within each segment. At your quarterly performance reviews, these can be adjusted and optimized based on market trends or the company’s performance.

There’s no feedback loop for your marketing strategy

It’s standard for marketing strategy to come from the top-down. That in itself isn’t the problem. The problem is not incorporating bottom-up feedback.

The last thing you want to do is plan a quarter’s worth of activities that don’t drive the kind of results you were looking for as a company.

“The leadership team of Cisco understands the need of the business to form an opinion that’s directional from the top. Then, working down into those global functions, into the regions to then understand any nuances and what’s actually happening in their markets—how are their buyers responding and how do we tweak those plans?”

Thomas Gunter, director growth marketing and planning at Cisco

It has to be a dialogue; your marketing strategy will fail if it’s a one-way conversation. Because while strategy comes from the top, pivots to your plan come from the bottom. Ignoring feedback from marketers on the ground, who understand what works in their markets and geographies, is the fastest way for plans to drift off course and off target.

Your performance review cadence is wrong

In this climate, no marketing plan survives its first activity. Annual planning may still be around, but most marketing organizations are iterating on their plan every quarter.

However, reviewing campaign performance at only a quarterly rate isn’t frequent enough. Any given month can be marked by several events and learnings that necessitate a pivot as the realities of marketing execution come to bear.

Checking in once a quarter leaves too much space for missed opportunities or plans drifting when you’re working at a large organization. While you should definitely keep an in-depth quarterly review on the calendar with executives and cross-functional peers, you should augment those with lighter, monthly plan reviews based on the learnings from the previous month.

These monthly meetings are a great time to identify what’s working and what’s not. It’s a good time to check how you’re performing against targets for the quarter, and how marketing is contributing to sales segments. Then look at new opportunities in the market and consider how to pivot to take advantage of them.

The quarterly meetings are when you should take a holistic view of the business with cross-functional peers like sales review campaign performance to see if they are meeting their objectives. This is the time to assess any issues and identify how to change or update your marketing strategy to address them.

You’re investing in tech, but not the processes

Many marketing teams’ planning is simply done in a spreadsheet or an Excel document. Marketers seem to accept that the status quo for planning and budgeting is 26 different spreadsheet and PowerPoint decks that are maintained and used to varying degrees.

“Since about 2005, from a technology standpoint, marketing would invest in better event technology, email technology, and digital technologies, but they’d never invest in the technologies to help them run better.”

Marc McNabb, VP of marketing operations and strategy at Hyland Software

As marketers, we can get used to doing more with less, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Investing in making planning better and more efficient will make your marketing organization and the individuals much more productive.

It’s critical that people understand why there’s a process and why there’s a need to codify and formalize things. Once that understanding and acceptance clicks, it becomes much easier to get activities and campaigns off the ground and running fast.