As much as B2B marketing constantly changes, the more it stays the same. The ritual of annualized marketing planning is an important one to chart our GTM tentpoles, align our strategy across various marketing and communication channels, and align our teams on business and revenue goals.

Over the last decade, I’ve written close to 50 marketing plans for clients. Here are some key things I’ve seen that create success for marketing planning.

Key 1: Inclusive Participation

Marketing is a collaborative process. Therefore, planning it should be as well. For larger teams, strategic offsite meetings are a powerful tool for the team to draft, codify and present go-to-market strategies and plans. It also will lead to great discussions and ideation.

I recall at MSFT, sales enablement was a material challenge. A small marketing team is needed to support a large and complex sales organization of thousands. In one marketing offsite, working with the sales enablement leadership, we came up with several powerful solutions to support sales in a robust way. They changed the game in terms of sales support and marketing resources. Ultimately, the ideation at our offsite led to a sales enablement platform that supported 10s of thousands of pieces of content monthly. This idea would have never come up if it weren’t for offsite planning.

Key 2: Think Big to Small and back to Big

Planning is an exercise of thinking broadly. Looking beyond the horizon. But to make it actionable, tactical plans need to be created during the planning process to ensure action can be implemented by the team. Understand the trade-offs and dependencies for success.

This is true with any broader company program, but with marketing planning specifically, we need to document: our strategy, our execution timelines, our metrics for success, and interdepartmental dependencies. As marketing is collaborative then all various marketing and communications teams need to have a vision and goals/objectives they are all operating towards.

Key 3: Alignment and alignment

This brings up the most important part of planning, organizational alignment. But there are two types of alignment. Strategic Alignment (capital “A”) for company objectives (e.g., revenue goals) to marketing goals. Then, tactical alignment (lowercase “a”) focuses on aligning marketing within itself. Both are super important and without one you can’t have the other.

Start with Alignment for the company, strategic marketing, and tentpole marketing activities. Focus on revenue goals, customer NPS, and MBOs (management business objectives) to ensure that strategic marketing is in alignment with the company more broadly. Then, take those success metrics and tree them into tactical activities that contribute to those strategic metrics. In essence, you should end up with a hierarchy of metrics and quantifiable goals for all of your marketing activities. Every marketing activity should contribute to the overall strategic goals. This is Alignment (and alignment).