For all of my career in B2B marketing, planning has always been done annually. This past year, I made a job switch and went to work for eSolutions. Given the nature of the sales cycle and shifting trends, quarterly planning makes quite a bit of sense.
Below are a few of the reasons I believe B2B companies could benefit from quarterly planning. I do acknowledge that there is use for annual planning and each team should plan for the events and campaigns they know will occur based on objectives.
The quarterly planning is less rigid – more fluid. Marketing plans aren’t put to rest once developed so it makes sense that the planning follow that idea. Why try to create something that you know is going to change or need to change quickly?
Leadership and teams tend to plan in phases/quarters. I think back to my prior positions and many of the groups I have supported planned either monthly or in quarters. Sure they had their sales projections and goals that were on an annual basis but many of the parts were moving and therefore, annual projects and ideas don’t seem to gain the same traction.
Quarterly planning has allowed our team to better manage expectations. In annual planning models, the teams I have worked on tended to shoot for the stars and overpromise. Dividing the marketing plan into four plans has already allowed the team to manage resources and manage expectations.
Finally, and what I think is the best benefit of quarterly planning, has been the opportunity it presents in the company’s culture. By planning quarterly, the marketing team has the opportunity to engage the appropriate teams more frequently. This sets the table for more discussions and strategy around marketing. In the past, asking internal stakeholders to think about marketing strategy from a long-term standpoint seemed daunting. Now, every few months, our team will be engaged with our teams around how can we add value to the organization. This dynamic creates the opportunity to report and measure more effectively as well.
I’m not saying quarterly planning is the answer for everyone. It might be worth giving a shot with a certain line of business or initiative.