Conquer the four hardest parts of marketing planning 

“So, what are our plans for next year?” 

This probably sounds like a familiar refrain right about now. The weather turns cooler, the pumpkins proliferate, and marketing organizations start to line up their priorities for next year. 

But the reality on the ground is that marketing is often an exercise in doing and not so much one of planning. It’s easier to engage in random acts of marketing and just get things done as they come. Long-term, big-picture planning with real meaning behind it can be daunting. 

From our vantage, we see that there are four especially hard parts of marketing planning: 

  • Developing a strategic plan; 
  • Planning for scenarios; 
  • Partnering with finance; and  
  • Measuring ROI

Read on to learn what each of these four parts entails and why they can be such thorny pain points for marketers. And find out how our four-day Marketing Planning Crash Course can help you navigate through them and come out ready to plan like a pro. 

Developing a strategic plan 

What does your strategic marketing plan look like? Does your marketing team have one? Maybe you’re not even sure if it does. Here’s a hint: A list of tactics on a slide is not a strategic marketing plan. 

A strategic plan serves as the guidepost for your marketing team, outlining your broad goals and priorities. It helps ensure that your team is focused on the right things and remains a relevant and agile contributor to business growth. 

Strategic plans can be especially hard for marketers. They can mean making hard choices about what you need to stay focused on and what gets relegated to the back burner. Marketers also tend to get mired in day-to-day execution without any real idea of the big picture, a chaotic state that we term the fog of marketing. 

To add another layer of complexity, a one-and-done annual marketing plan no longer makes the cut in today’s ever-changing landscape. Marketing is being asked to quickly pivot global plans and resources when the business requires it. It’s no easy task, but cascading marketing plans that use a single system of record for planning are imperative to revenue growth.  

The marketing planning process begins with the company’s business strategy. This typically sets priorities for the company for the next one to three years.  

From there, a CMO can align marketing’s strategic plan and develop overarching marketing goals. With our crash course in marketing planning, you can be on your way to a strategic plan in just four more steps. 

Planning for scenarios 

Gone are the days when marketing planning was about one perfect plan. Now, it’s about executing the right tactics and campaigns at the right times in an ever-changing landscape.  

And the one thing that’s predictable about planning for unpredictability? It’s hard. 

We found that nearly a quarter of program spending needed to be reallocated when COVID-19 suddenly shut down all in-person events. Marketing organizations that hadn’t conducted scenario planning found themselves paralyzed. 

It seems easy enough to plan for changes by coming up with a slightly different version of your primary marketing plan and calling it good. But true and effective what-if scenario planning is more involved than that. And it can be daunting if you’re unsure of what you’re doing.  

Sure, you can’t predict the future. But with effective scenario planning, you can react quickly to whatever inevitable market shifts come your way. 

Partnering with finance 

Let’s be honest: Many marketers don’t love putting numbers in a spreadsheet. For some, talk of budgets might send them running for the hills. Of any two organizations, marketing and finance probably couldn’t sit any further apart on the spectrum. 

It’s easy to point to the differences between creative types and number crunchers. But it turns out that a CFO and CMO have a common denominator: growth. 

A CFO’s mandate is to drive efficient growth in the face of current business and economic constraints. Meanwhile, the CMO’s mandate is to support revenue growth.  

And their mandates aren’t mutually exclusive: According to our research, high-growth organizations are three times more likely to have collaborative marketing and finance teams.  

Even if numbers make you cringe, our crash course in marketing planning details why partnering with finance is a smart move. It’s important for every marketer to learn and use basic finance terminology and to know how to create and spend within a budget. 

Measuring ROI 

“What’s the ROI on that?” probably sends most marketers into a panic. In fact, an Uptempo survey found that 61% of marketing leaders don’t have confidence in their own data to use ROI in decision-making. 

ROI, which stands for return on investment, is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment. The first—and often biggest—hurdle to calculating ROI is getting marketing and finance to agree on what “return” means to your company. 

ROI is not a calculation that you make at the end of a campaign or to wrap up quarter-end reporting. When you can define what return means and create goals around the anticipated outcome, ROI evolves from a math problem into a strategic mindset. 

And when ROI is baked into your marketing planning process, marketers are confident about where to spend their next dollar to drive the most impact. 

Conquer marketing planning with our crash course 

If your budgets are tight, your resources are limited, and you’re under pressure to drive growth, this can all feel a little (or more than a little) overwhelming. But help is on the way. 

Our Marketing Planning Crash Course can help you conquer your dread. The course shares advice from marketing leaders, analysts like Forrester, and our best planning content. All in an easy-to-read package delivered to your inbox over four days. 

Our crash course will set you on the path toward developing a marketing plan optimized for what next year will bring. Get started with Uptempo’s Marketing Planning Crash Course today.

About The Author — Uptempo

Uptempo gives CMOs clarity on the financial and business impact of their marketing efforts, so they can plan better, pivot faster, spend smarter, and execute with confidence. More than 625K marketers use Uptempo for a complete end-to-end marketing operations suite to get the visibility they need to make calculated decisions and go to market faster. Learn how we could help your marketing organization at

Related free workshops Acquires MartechGuru Tech Stack Management

Essential Capabilities are Now Folded into the Company’s Own Community-Led Platform ORANGE COUNTY, Calif., Nov. 6, 2023 —, the community-led platform and private network for marketing operations professionals, today announces it has acquired MartechGuru. As was created to elevate and enable marketing operations professionals to become successful in their careers, MartechGuru’s

Become a member