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Completing the Annual Planning Process

Imagine an office without a desk, or lights, a computer, or even something as simple as a chair. When the architects and designers started planning a building or office space they knew they would have to make concessions for these items during each of the building activities. As marketers, we take part in many activities, much like a builder or designer does.

Of these activities, there is one that precludes each of these; the annual planning and budgeting process. One part of planning often gets left out though, measuring the effectiveness of the activities we plan. Yet plans without metrics are like offices without chairs, conference rooms without tables, or buildings without a foundation. Parts of each exist, but there is a major component missing.

Recently surveys have concluded that 55% of business to business marketing executives face the challenge of measuring marketing's effectiveness. A recent survey conducted by Unica made this statement: "However, survey respondents also said they faced numerous challenges, chief among them measuring marketing effectiveness, which was cited by 55% of respondents." It was also stated that many executives don't believe marketing is measurable. And 63% of them don't consider marketing to be measurable. So it should be no surprise to learn that as many as 57% of marketing plans overlook metrics and that plans are more about counting activities rather than measuring the impact on business outcomes as was determined the fifth Business Readiness Survey conducted by VisionEdge Marketing.

Can we measure marketing's effectiveness? Does it really make a difference?

It certainly does for many companies. One company in particular, VCON, found incorporating a metrics framework into their planning process to be extremely valuable. Founded in 1994, VCON develops and manufactures collaborative communication solutions that include videoconferencing and audio conferencing products. VCON's entire portfolio is integrated together with a suite of management systems and development tools, providing a unique and fully integrated conferencing experience for the user. The company relies on an indirect channel to sell their solutions worldwide. For the past decade, VCON has consistently been the first to market with innovative products and technologies, both in the conferencing market and in the solutions needed to manage and deploy conferencing systems.

The marketing team realized that securing a larger marketing budget would require taking a more metrics-related approach as a means to demonstrate the marketing organization's contribution to the company. So when they realized the need for a metrics-based approach, they hired VisionEdge Marketing to help them develop the right set of metrics. VCON turned to an outside resource to help create a framework for their plan. They chose VisionEdge Marketing because the company's metrics expertise and a model ties marketing metrics to the goals of the company.

Laura Shay, VCON's Global Product Marketing Manager, wanted an approach that went beyond tracking results from a variety of marketing activities, such as metrics associated with web site visits, click-throughs, and participants at a webinar. Rather she wanted a way to connect the marketing initiatives to the company's market share, partner development, and up-sell objectives. "We had a good idea of the adoption process for our technology and we were monitoring dozens of activities and outcomes. What we didn't know was whether these were the right things to be monitoring and how to tie activity tracking to the success of our marketing objectives and strategies," added Laura.

VCON's limited marketing resources were overwhelmed with the number of things that were possible to track. The challenge was getting the team out of the weeds of tracking various marcom activities and more focused on identifying metrics that would really indicate whether the marketing initiatives were moving the needle for the business.

Prior to the metrics development and framework session, VisionEdge Marketing examined the metrics currently being used by the company and the company's business objectives for the coming year. "This preparatory stage was very helpful," commented Laura. "It enabled us to start thinking about tying our marketing initiatives to very specific business outcomes such as market share, order value, and repeat business." The business goals were used as a framework for the plan. By understanding the specific business outcomes, the session could focus on where marketing could make an impact and how to measure this impact. Within a half day or so the marketing department was able to develop a manageable set of metrics. A key part of the process was to clarify what outcomes have real impact on the business.

The metrics focused on two primary areas: The channel's role in VCON's success, and a goal of achieving 25% quarter-to-quarter growth from new products across all sales regions. Three metrics were selected: revenue/partner, qualified leads/region, and new products sold vs. previous product sold. Key indicators were defined for each of these and appropriate objectives and strategies were then incorporated into the annual plan. A side benefit was that the planning session was far more productive. "We didn't get bogged down in discussing the nuances of each region and why tracking certain activities would or wouldn't work. We could keep our eye on the larger picture and each region could address its individual differences," added Laura.

The process enabled the VCON team to achieve two important outcomes:

1. A set of key metrics that crossed markets and regions

2. A plan and budget the management team could evaluate based on business outcomes

Of course the best outcome was the team was able to deliver a plan and a budget request the management team could relate to. "We were more successful in securing faster approval and a better budget, because the plan very clearly connected the dots between marcom activities and business outcomes," said Laura.

VCON has learned the importance of a complete marketing plan and have already reaped the benefits by securing a higher marketing budget. They have learned the importance and ability of metrics to measure the effectiveness of marketing to show how their efforts impact business goals.

Since working with VCON, VisionEdge Marketing has continued to educate companies and individuals on the importance of metrics to a marketing plan and communicating marketing's effectiveness to the company. By using VCON as an example, they are able to show how completing the planning process pays off for the company, as well as the marketing department; just as adding all components to a building, makes it complete.

To learn more about strategic metrics that align marketing with business goals, check out VisionEdge Marketing's latest book, Measure What Matters by Laura Patterson, President of VisionEdge Marketing.

VisionEdge Marketing is a strategic marketing consulting firm that helps organizations develop metrics-based marketing strategies and processes that create a competitive advantage designed to attract, secure and retain profitable customers to maximize the value of the organization.

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