The spreadsheet can be a very powerful tool, especially for personal productivity, problem solving and modeling scenarios. It is where most organizations first develop their marketing plan. Four or five marketers sharing the same room determine that it is time to write down the plan, share it with others, use it to meet with finance, assign ownership to tasks, and generally feel good that the plan is in one place.
Without realizing it, over the next few years, a corporate communications function is added and a demand center, then a product marketing function, an operations team, and a team over in Europe and then Asia. Each team makes a copy of the spreadsheet and then makes it their own. The operations team now owns the task of consolidating the spreadsheets, only they have been changed so they don’t align anymore. Departments struggle to communicate when plans differ greatly. Sales has multiple teams telling them what is coming and why. They don’t ever even see the calendar, they get a PowerPoint deck.
As time goes on, the problem slowly becomes worse, but also for some strange reason, accepted. Why would anyone accept a completely fractured process resulting in many wasted hours of labor and very little insight or value to show for it. It does not have to be this hard.
There are several important keys to building a collaborative marketing calendar.
First, determine how you want to segment your business and your efforts. Do you need to understand a complex buyer’s journey, waterfall stages, and long sales cycles? How about industry verticals, target organization size, ABM factors such as specific global accounts and geography? Don’t forget tactic type, status, and owner either. If we want some of these attributes to be dependent on others, or we want to allow for multiple choices, our spreadsheet just took a leap in complexity that most users lack the skill to create or maintain, so we introduce errors. While they are not attributes, the plan needs to include cost and timeframes as well.
Second, you'll need to deploy a universal campaign framework, such as is offered by SiriusDecisions in order to have plans be organized across business units. If we provide people with some logical definitions, we can get them on the same page. Without getting into specific names for each piece of the framework ( you can choose those) you will need a high level container for each portion of the business. Inside this container we’ll see the messaging or theme based layer followed by and objective or initiative based layer. Inside each initiative is where we find the actual activities or tactics that need to be delivered to market. This layer might also have specific cost elements associated with it if they need to be tracked. So now we have a 4-5 layer hierarchy with some of our attributes tied to each layer. Our spreadsheet is beginning to break.
It is not impossible to take such a spreadsheet and create a visual calendar display in a Gantt like format using a lot of conditional formatting and formulas to dynamically drive the colors and patterns. I have done it, it was hard and more than a little messy.
The third aspect of our calendar that we will need is a way to determine if our plan will work. Will it deliver on the goals for the year. We will need a revenue model that can deconstruct our goals into the necessary inputs that our calendar will need to deliver. We can oversimplify the model at the expense of accuracy, or we can also over complicate the model to make it more accurate.
Finally, we’ll need to add in permissions as the organization grows so that I don’t edit the plan that "John Doe" worked on for 2 months by accident. I think I have made my point. By the time we start thinking about permissions, it is clear that a powerful personal productivity tool like a spreadsheet is not the best way to tackle this sort of problem. If the pain I just described resonated with you, you might consider a cloud based collaborative marketing calendar like Hive9 as a logical next step. Why not request a demo today? We can get you up and running in a matter of days, especially if you have the answers to the segmentation and framework questions above.