As a marketer, it can be hard to get your first draft of a marketing plan signed off by management. In fact, in a recent survey we undertook, over 50% of respondents shared that management either asked for cuts or changes to the proposed strategy and spending.

So how can you make sure that your marketing plan doesn’t get rejected?

In our on-demand webinar ‘5 Reasons Your CEO Rejected Your Marketing Plan’, we explore the reasons why CEOs often reject marketing plans and share tips and tricks on what to consider when building one. We cover:

  • How marketers can fail to understand available budget
  • Why presenting measurable business results is vital
  • How to explain how leads will turn into business
  • How to change the mindset of thinking and planning in silos
  • The importance of getting support from the sales team

Register to view our webinar on demand by clicking here, and why not get in touch to let us know if our insights helped you.

Napier Webinar: ‘5 Reasons Your CEO Rejected Your Marketing Plan’ Transcript

Speakers: Mike Maynard

Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for your patience, waiting for the webinar to start. And it’s always kind of stressful when you go to log on to a webinar and suddenly find that your internet is down. But fortunately, I managed to get some internet connection. And hopefully some of you are still around.

So thank you for your patience. And what we’re going to do today is we’re going to talk about marketing plans. And I think marketing plans are very interesting. So I’m just going to start and go straight into the presentation, obviously aware of your time. And, you know, let’s talk about how people think about planning. And I think there’s a couple of ways that people view planning. So people see it in a somewhat different ways. So there are definitely people that see it in the military way of you know, proper planning and preparation is what it’s all about. And if you don’t do that, you lose your performance.

So I think there’s some people who absolutely love planning, and they’re really into it. And those people probably don’t need to listen to this webinar. There are some people who see it as the TPS report from office space, you know, that actually plans get written, nobody ever takes any notice of them. And they’re kind of pointless. And that’s a bit disappointing, I think, you know, generally, having a plan definitely helps. But sometimes there can be a fairly time wasting, pointless exercise of writing and rewriting plans. And this is what this webinar is about. It’s about trying to avoid the problem where you have to keep generating the same marketing plan with slightly different parameters, until your CEO eventually signs off the marketing budget. And then hopefully, we’re not going to end up like that, will Britain where whatever we do, the computer says no, or in this case, the CEO says no.

So let’s have a look at what we’re going to talk about. So today, we’re going to discuss, you know, several things. We’re going to talk about understanding the available budget. We’re going to talk about measurable results. And clearly, I think, you know, particularly as we enter times that are tougher economically, we’re going to see more and more pressure as marketers to deliver results that are tangible. But what you need to deliver is think about business results. And we’ll talk about that. We’ll talk about explaining how leads turn into business and really telling a story around your marketing plan. We’ll look at how to change the mindset of thinking and planning in silos into a mindset of thinking holistically. And lastly, we’ll look at the importance of getting support from the sales team.

So let’s have a look. Why should we plan? So there’s a couple of things here that talk about planning. So behind him we see like lots of people running off in different directions vectors, I think Elon Musk was the person who said that people are vectors, the organisations are some of the vector the messages. If everybody’s running in the same in different directions, then actually, somebody’s got to run really hard and push hard to get the company moving forward, because everybody’s going in different routes. If we can get everybody moving the same way, it’s much easier to move forwards and plans are great to get people aligned and moving in the same direction. And this has been studied.

So the organisational behaviour and human decision decision processes journal, as a mouthful, actually published articles way back in 1990, where they actually demonstrated that plans produce better results in organisations. So definitely organisational situations, plans produce results. And lastly, planning lets you focus on what’s important. And I think more and more in marketing, what’s important is showing those business results that help the business grow and succeed. And so what we’re going to do is we’re going to explain how to build those plans, and how to use them to actually drive you know, more engagement from the senior management or particular CEO, and ultimately more budget, which is, you know, typically what marketers are looking for.

So, why was your marketing plan rejected? You know, why is your CEO or Lisa Simpson sat there, crying, feeling upset because the marketing plan hasn’t met her expectations? And I think this is really crucial. You know, it’s all about looking at how we meet the CEOs expectations, or whoever’s assessing the marketing budget. And that requires, you know, a little bit of psychology and understanding about, you know, what the person needs and what’s going to excite them and interest them.

So let’s try and avoid our CEO crying over a marketing plan. And let’s look at these five reasons that we feel marketing plans get rejected. Well, the first one, this is a classic marketing mistake that hopefully people don’t make as marketers is ignoring the audience. So whether you’re providing your plan to the CEO or the CMO, they care about different things to you. And actually, the CEO and the CMO probably care about different things themselves. So it’s about trying to understand what their priorities are. It’s about understanding how much time they have available, if you’re submitting a marketing plan to a CMO, they’re almost certainly going to spend a lot longer looking at than if you submit a marketing plan to a CEO, who’s inherently busy and has a much wider remit. And so we strongly recommend, you know, creating plans for your audience.

So for the audience, that’s going to sign off the budget. And this quite often results in two marketing plans being produced. One is a plan for the department that really focuses on how things are going to be executed, and how the results are going to be achieved. And the other is a plan for senior management, that really talks about the benefits of the marketing approach, and why the investment is going to generate a return for the business. So think about the audience, that’s really important. The next step is to think about the detail of what your boss cares about. I mean, if it’s, if you’re talking about a CEO of a publicly funded company, probably number one concern is keeping their job. So keeping a job is really, really important as a CEO. And that basically means delivering on those quarterly results.

When times are good when revenues coming in CEOs can be much more relaxed. But at times like now, where we’re seeing a lot of pressure on businesses, the economy, whilst not terrible, it’s certainly not great. CEOs are much more concerned about revenue. And it’s not just you know, how much are we going to sell. And I think this is important, it’s about understanding the different ways you can drive revenue. So you could clearly drive more revenue, ultimately.

But actually, what might be more important is having a shorter time to revenue, is there anything you can do in marketing, that can actually speed up the conversion of a prospect to a customer, if you can do that and bring revenue in sooner? Certainly, in tough times, that can be a very compelling reason to invest money in marketing. I think you can look at things like customer acquisition, how much does it cost to acquire a customer? So what’s your CAC or customer acquisition cost? Or how can you increase the lifetime value of the customer how can make customers more valuable, talking about things like this. So these are business metrics, rather than marketing metrics, it really helps CEOs and non marketing specialists understanding and equally, you know, whilst you might be submitting your budget to a CMO or CEO, I’m sure that your chief financial officer will also be looking in and trying to investigate, you know, whether it’s worth investing the money in marketing or not. And so therefore, clearly speaking in their language makes a lot of difference.

It’s not just speaking in their language, I think, you know, as marketers, sometimes particularly people from a sort of PR background, like words, they like to write things, reality as your audience doesn’t have time to read things. And so I think, you know, looking at how you can actually tell people what’s going to happen using pictures and diagrams is really important. I mean, one of our favourites is talking about positioning. And if you look at, you know, brand positioning, one of the easiest things you can do is actually position a brand on a perceptual map.

So, here’s an example, where we’re talking about a very simple thing. So we’ve got two axes, reliability and support, which we, you know, assuming are two of the major axes of this particular company’s market. And you can see, there’s a mix of companies around, and that company is doing okay. I mean, the support is not great. The, the reliability is not fantastic. But you know, we’re not far off. I mean, we’re actually pretty competitive. But what the marketing plan is, is to move that to a perception that a were more reliable, and actually just inching ahead to be the most reliable of these four companies. But particularly focusing on our support and selling our support. So that ultimately, we’re going to have a situation where we own and occupy a space in customers minds, that’s gonna really make a difference, because they’re going to see us as the people to go to, if they want some a supplier they can trust they want somebody who’s got great support, and good reliability. So pictures are great, and using various marketing models and frameworks is strongly recommended. The second reason is unexpected surprises. I mean, budget planning is hard.

And so you need to make it easy for the CEO. And really, you know, One of the things that, you know, I’m sure everybody’s doing is pre wiring these discussions. So you’re going out, and you’re finding out what the expectation is. So how much budget is expected to be allocated to marketing? Now, all too often we see marketers going out and saying, Well, I expect there’s going to be, you know, amount X allocated to marketing. So I want to put in a little bit more of that, let the CEO cut it down, it’ll all be fine. And generally, that leads to marketing plans that are designed to be cut. And that’s fine if you’d like rewriting your marketing plan and wasting time doing that. But in reality, there is flexibility in those budgets, yes, there is a number they’re aiming for. But there’s also an opportunity to identify actually finding additional budget, which can often be moved around. And I think more and more, as we see the customer journey, you know, extending more into the marketing area, and less into sales, marketers should be thinking about how they can access more budgets.

So what can they deliver, that that creates a compelling return, that means that CEOs are prepared to move budget from one area into marketing. And a great way to do this. And this is a secret, you know, anyone who’s a client of Napier, or has had a quote from us, we’ll be very aware of this, it’s choices. And choices make a huge difference. So, you know, setting you know three different levels of budget is the classic way to do it, is generally a really good way to help avoid rewriting plans and actually present three choices. And then your CEO or your CFO, whoever’s looking at it, can then pick the choice that they feel is most appropriate. And typically, what you’ll find is, most people make a choice plus, so pick a level of activity. And then quite often, they’ll pick some extra activities, they want to bundle into enhance, that they like from one of the more expensive options.

So definitely feel free to, you know, look at rather than writing a marketing plan with one option for the CEO, give the CEO three different options, three different levels of expenditure and three different returns. And that’s a really good way to speed up this process and avoid the back and forth. A classic reason for getting marketing plans rejected is lack of support from other parts of the business, in particular, from sales. So, you know, we all know CEOs talk to salespeople before they talk to marketing.

So salespeople actually want good marketing, great marketing makes their job easier salespeople know that. But you need to involve them, you need to engage salespeople. And I think more and more we are seeing that. And it’s much better than maybe you know, 20 or 30 years ago when I started and sales and marketing didn’t really speak together. And actually now it’s much better sales and marketing and much more closely engaged. And activities like Account Based Marketing help encourage that. I apologise the animation doesn’t appear to have worked on this slide.

But the fourth reason is not explaining the benefit. As marketers, we’re all too keen to use terms and to use metrics that we’re familiar with. So we’re talking about engagement, we’re talking about cuttings, we’re talking about followers, MPs, content awareness, website, traffic, blog posts, reach clicks, click through rates. That’s not what the CEO cares about. You know, if you look at what the CEO cares about, they care about revenue, as we talked about, we talked about customer lifetime value, they care about margin and profit, they care about share of wallet from their customers, how many customers they’ve got, they care about sales and opportunities, competition, return on investment and reputation. And so by taking the things that you talk about, and moving them into more business orientated language, you can massively increase the the chance of your proposal or your plan being approved the first time round. And so within that, we’re trying to actually leave the CEO through effectively a process of what marketing is going to do, how marketing is going to change things.

I mean, hopefully, as marketers, we all understand the importance of credibility. And here we’ve got you know, David, who’s about to slay Goliath. And, you know, he followed the classic sort of hero’s journey. Start off as a shepherd went to see his brothers who were fighting in the war, heard about Goliath, you know, and things were getting worse and worse, he volunteers to fight Goliath. That’s not good. The armour doesn’t fit him. I mean, this is this is really bad, you know, the guy is struggling, and then he comes out the other side by using his slingshot and ultimately defeating Goliath. And I think when you tell a story, you know business contexts, just saying we’re going to do this, it’s going to be awesome is often a very bad thing to do. You know, quite quite honestly, you need to be honest about the journey and what you’ve got to do. And if we’re in a situation where, for example, we have low awareness, we need to get new customers, we’re going to have to build awareness, that’s going to be a downside for the business, there’s going to be investment required without immediate return. And being really clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it. And telling the story is really important.

And you know, just as David and Goliath way back when was an ancient story based on that, I mean, equally, it’s very much the same story, when we look at, you know, my modern source of literature that I like, like Monsters, Inc. So these classic storylines are being replayed, over and over again, successfully, don’t be afraid to use them, to walk your audience through the process, and tell them how you’re going to have to invest and how you’re gonna have to work, those tough times, that are ultimately going to produce the good results at the end. That story is very compelling. And whilst we’re talking about stories, don’t think in silos. Ultimately, with the people who are allocating the budget, they don’t think in silos, they think in terms of business results, and they really don’t care whether your PR departments is different to your email team or your paid search team. They want to know how you’re going to bring marketing together and impact the business.

So when you’re telling that story, make sure that story cuts across those silos. And avoids that technical difference that frankly, nobody at the senior executive level is really worried about, they don’t want to hear about all the technical issues and who does what they want to understand how you put together a plan that’s coherent, that’s holistic, and delivers results. And we mentioned models before, when we talked about presenting ideas. We talked about the perceptual map. Napier uses a model is a very, very simple model that to walk people through campaign ideas. And literally, we start off with a situation analysis determined, we move on to focus which looks at the audience and the messaging, we look at deliver the tactics we’re going to execute. And then lastly, we move on to enhance which are the metrics that we’re using to tweak the campaigns and keep that marketing engine firing at optimum efficiency. It’s a very simple structure, you don’t have to use it, you can build your own structure. This is actually based on slightly more complex structures from PR research.

But I strongly recommend as you walk people through marketing plans, you have a structure that, you know, builds on each section. So again, you’re telling this story or explaining what’s going to happen. So those are our five reasons. And hopefully, you know, you’ve looked at things, you’re going to move ahead very quickly, you’re going to, you know, very quickly, take notice to the audience, understand what they care about, you’re going to avoid unexpected surprises, you’re going to make sure you’ve got support and buy in from sales, you’re going to explain the benefit in the language of the audience. And you’re going to tell it as a story. So a logical sequence that makes sense. And by the end of it, the audience believes is definitely going to happen, deliver that ROI that you really want. But things can still go wrong. And one of the things that can happen is your CEO didn’t read your marketing plan. I’ve kind of alluded to this before, your CEO is a busy person, he or she needs to have something that’s short, sharp and clear. So make sure that as you create these marketing plans, you’re not burying things in lots of words, you’re not using lots of jargon and technical terms, you’re being very clear about the business results you’re going to generate and how you’re going to do it.

So to summarise how to write a great marketing plan, you know, go talk to your friends and sales. Hopefully, they’re friends already. Build a structure, do some situation analysis, some strategy, some tactics, and then talk about the results. Make use of models for illustration, so people can actually see as well as read what you’re trying to achieve. Make sure everything you talked about is measurable business objectives, rather than marketing objectives. And lastly, put it all into a story arc. So things flow very smoothly and very clearly. And if you do that, hopefully you’ll find that your marketing plan gets approved first time. And particularly if you put those three levels of pricing and or costs in that I mentioned, I think you’ll find that it makes it much easier for the people allocating budget to decide where to put that budget. It also gives you good feedback.

If your SEO is always picking the lowest level of budget, you know that you’re not convincing them that you’re going to deliver, you know, tangible and impactful business results. So think about how you talk about results. Well, I hope you found this interesting. And I hope it inspires people to write marketing plans differently. If you do have any questions, obviously, please feel free to put them into the chat. If you would like any help or any information from us, we’re always very ready at Napier, to talk about marketing plans, whether that’s right at the start helping people structure those plans, or whether it’s later on, you know, reviewing plans and giving inputs and helping people look for efficiencies. So thank you very much. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your patience earlier when my internet was down. And please do feel free to post some questions into the chat.

Okay, so I do have one question here, which is building on these metrics. So what type of metrics do you focus on in a plan? And I think the answer is, as you build that plan, you want to really focus on trying to talk about the metrics that are closest to the business, and inevitably furthest away from what you’re actually doing.

So I think in marketing, you know, most people understand that there’s some easy metrics, you can get things like email opens, clicks, advertising, click through rates, they’re really vanity metrics, they don’t really measure impact on the business, they can be a good indicator of relative performance. So they can be great for AV testing. But they’re not necessarily the right metrics that you want to use, when you’re talking to someone who’s really thinking about the business as a whole, rather than marketing. So it very much is, you know, revenue driven, reputation driven. People in PR, you know, I would say, don’t sit here and go, This is a disaster, you know, I’ve got to talk about, you know, decreasing the, the time to sales, the time to revenue, I’ve got to talk about increasing customer lifetime, how do I do that with PR. Now, reputation is also very important as well. So talk in those kinds of terms. And if you want to, either in the marketing plan you share with your CEO, or more likely and an internal marketing plan, you know, build those models where you talk about, you know, click through rates and number of registrations and things like that, to try and get to that goal. But I think it’s always important that you start from a business goal, rather than from a marketing metric. So great question. I love that.

What else do we have? I don’t have any other questions here. So I’m not sure if anybody’s got anything. If you do have any questions, please feel free to, you know, contact people at Napier. Or just email me directly my email Mike at Napier b2b dot com is on the slide there. So please feel free to email me ask me some questions and I’d love to see some of your marketing plans. Thank you very much everyone for listening. I hope you found it useful. And I hope it helps you get the marketing budget you’re looking for, for 2024 Thanks very much.