How to get the boss to see the value in brand planning when they want results now
I recently sent out a survey to my community of brand management professionals because I wanted to understand their current challenges in their roles and careers to better serve them and their needs (Practicing what I preach!)
I got an overwhelming response that their desire to think and act more strategically and with a long-term mindset is strong
But it is becoming increasingly difficult to action this desire because their senior leaders are more focused on and prioritising short-term results and quick wins.
Now I don't have access to my community's leadership teams to try and shake some sense into them
So I got thinking about what actionable advice I could give my community to help them convince their bosses to see the value in long-term, strategic thinking and brand planning.
Based on my experience of demonstrating the value in strategic planning, here are my top tips to action:
1. First of all, adopt the mindset that you don't need to write a strategy every day, but you do need to execute and make decisions every day that are aligned with your strategy.
Strategy is about making choices, so your strategic plan should inform every decision you make and action you take in your day-to-day. Therefore, depending on how fast your industry moves, you really only need to take time out to write strategy about once a year. The rest of the time, you should be executing, measuring and course-correcting to implement the strategy and achieve your objectives.
2. Put a formal planning process on to your annual activity calendar, just like you would a launch or a campaign.
Schedule it in months ahead so everyone knows it is coming and has it in their work plan because everyone will need to be involved.
Ensure the time you choose considers the following:
a. It precedes the business forecasting and budget setting process. The planning process should be completed before the forecasts and budgets are set. The selling point……it will ensure your forecasts and budgets are based on real opportunity and action rather than a stab in the dark based on last year's results.
b. A time that might be quieter on the tactical demands of the business. This is especially important if your business is cyclical. Schedule the planning process a few weeks after your peak period finishes. Everyone will have had the chance to reset, and you'll have your peak season results and data to inform the next cycle's strategy.
3. Involve the leadership team in the process.
You don't need them to be involved in every detailed workshop. But you should engage them at several crucial points during the process (download my Brand Plan process guide to find the definitions and key actions for each stage)
a. Before you even start planning, get them involved in defining the business problem or challenge that needs to be solved by the plan. If you ask them to explain what is keeping them up at night or preventing them from hitting their numbers (and bonuses 😊)and then tell them you will write a data-backed plan to fix this, you will have their interest – mark my word!
b. When you have completed your situation assessment present them the juicy actionable insights and growth opportunities you have uncovered. Support these opportunities with killer facts and rationale about how attractive they are, so they can't wait to see the strategies & action plan you will construct to realise the growth potential.
c. Ensure your strategy presentation includes specific, measurable objectives that show how much value this plan will add to the business. What specific revenue, profit, market share or brand asset growth you are going to deliver? Again, supported with clear and credible rationale as to how you built up these objectives
4. Ensure your strategy is agile with guardrails and contingency in which to flex tactically.
No matter how thorough and foresightful your situation assessment and strategy development is, you will likely get thrown a curveball during the year. Given the swift and sweeping changes we have seen in the last 18 months, I can somewhat understand why your leadership team may be so focused on the short-term. But we need to regain a sense of balance between long term business building and short-term reactions. Build a strategically agile plan that considers and builds contingency for the what-ifs so that you can respond quickly but in an informed, disciplined and thoughtful way.
5.When you deliver results, your leadership team will really start to see the value in strategic planning
Once your plan is approved, this is where the rubber hits the road, and you need to deliver against what you promised.
a. Every time you present a piece of executional activity to the leadership business, reinforce the strategy behind it - every time! Show how your day-to-day actions are linking back to the strategic plan you have written. Constant reinforcement and repetition of the strategic intent behind the execution will eventually lead to the acceptance and adoption of the principle that 'strategy drives tactics', and it will become an expectation and vernacular within the business. When your leadership team or anyone else asks, "what is the strategic intent behind this piece of work?" you know you have succeeded!
b. Regularly report back to the senior leadership team about how your execution is tracking to the objectives and KPI's you committed to in the plan. Show how the business results link to the strategic plan and the resource and $ investment behind it.
In summary, for your leadership and the broader organisation to understand the value in strategic planning, you need to directly link it to the tactics and actions that deliver the business results.
To do this, you should adopt a logical and disciplined planning process that:
1. Correctly defines your brand and business challenge before you start any work. Clearly demonstrating the problem that your plan will be solving will help establish buy-in and support of the process across the organisation. Show how you will solve problems!
2.Undertake a thorough situation assessment based on fact and insight to uncover powerful opportunities to grow. You can't argue with facts, and if you logically lay out the opportunities and the potential impact they could have on your business, people will want to see how you are going to realise that potential with your strategies
3.Write a plan that sets measurable objectives and actionable strategies that will solve your challenge, deliver results and inform your day-to-day actions and decisions. Show exactly how this plan will drive your business, clearly link the strategy to the actual executions and then report the plans progress and impact on results.
And no surprises here…….:)
I have precisely that strategic brand planning process for you. You can download my How-To guide, which outlines the process here
But if you'd like to go deeper and learn how actually to run a strategic brand planning process in your organisation,
one that will help build the perceived value of strategic planning in your business
Then I have a created an online, self-guided course to help you called Brand Planning for Growth.
It is a practical, on-demand course that will guide you to write a killer Brand Plan that uncovers and prioritises growth opportunities, creates direction and delivers results.
And you can leave the course with your brand plan written!
Not only will you learn my entire 6 Step Brand Planning framework you will also receive 12 on-demand, step-by-step video tutorials with an accompanying course manual full of valuable tools, templates & exercises. So, you write the plan as you go!
The process, step-by-step guide and planning toolkit has been created based on my 20+ years of writing strategic brand plans both for brands I managed over the years and, more recently, my client's brands
So, I know the process works, delivers results and will get the boss to see the value in brand planning!
Enrolments are now open, so take a look and see if this course is right for you and your business.
Join the June 2021 cohort so you can experience our Live Q&A sessions and learn with other like-minded marketeers
Or consider putting your whole team on the course so you can all learn a common language, process and toolkit to embed into your organisation and write your brand plan together.