Code Worldwide

Simpler planning, smarter Marketing

29.02.2012
Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

How can Clients and Agencies simplify the process of budgeting, planning and assessing marketing activity – not just stripping out the repetition and hassle factor but, more importantly, managing data to bring annual planning closer to actual activity, real-world results and optimization?

From Agencies looking to streamline processes and add value to their Client relationships, to Clients looking to manage their brands with something a bit more flexible and user-friendly than Excel, this is something we’re increasingly being asked to help with.

The challenge of complex brand management

Take a large Pharma or FMCG business with various brands and marketing plans across a range of territories. Add in high-level budgets, quarterly plans, actually activity in-market and often fragmented and piecemeal results data. Then factor in the level of detail needed by a local brand manager vs. that needed by the CMO or senior regional lead. “Could you just pop all that into a spreadsheet before my 11am please?” Ouch. There has to be a better way, right?

My kingdom for a planning tool

It’s exactly the same for Agencies. Once a Client's budget or a campaign plan is committed to a spreadsheet, what happens next? Yes, many Agencies now use workflow tools instead of email to progress jobs through the business, and they often use an asset management platform rather than simply sticking everything “on the Z drive” (easily found again – under clients / campaigns / creative / 2012 / etc / etc / er, where was it again?). But that doesn't help you to plot real activity against what was planned, or see results against what actually ran.

You could do all that in a spreadsheet but, as above, it’s hard work linking different views for an Account Exec vs. Regional Director, not to mention issues of version control or knowing your macros from your pivot tables.  And that’s before you start managing permissions of who’s allowed to see what.

Filling a gap in the market

Our Peugeot Client recently asked us to make these problems disappear. They knew that their planning process for retail Marketing had room for improvement. ‘Planning’ often took place retrospectively, with retailers’ budget requests being sent for central approval after activity had run. The process itself was fragmented and repetitive with local, regional and national planning overlapping. And as ever with automotive, Peugeot had the added complexity of their retailers being independent franchisees. How could we remove these disconnects, reduce the admin hassle and make the planning of retail Marketing a single, concise process – one unrestricted by the limitations of Excel?

The Marketing Planning tool

As is often the way with Code, if we can’t find the right solution on the market, we build it ourselves. That’s how we created our Marketing Planning tool. Marketing Planner encompasses a calendar, plus media planning and budgeting tools, wrapped up with an activity dashboard. It gives you the visibility to better allocate budgets and make smarter, more informed decisions; sharing best practice and minimising administration time.

  • Calendar – The calendar allows you to filter by time period, product and location, providing a single, flexible view of all activity from national down to local. Local retailers can plan with national activity in mind and central Marketing / Agencies can see what’s happening on the ground.
  • Media Buying – Activity can be added by making selections from relevant media that the tool highlights, or by uploading full media plans, e.g. those that have been proven elsewhere. This decision-making is made simple by the visualization of data such as reach/readership, propensity-to-buy by postcode and location of competitors. Combine this with a simple, automated purchase instruction to the media Agency, and media placement becomes a seamless, near-instant process.
  • Budgeting – The budgeting tool bridges the gap between annual budgets and weekly changes in actual activity. When annual budgets are planned in, they are automatically weighted by month against known peaks, and then easily edited when needed to revise against actual activity.
  • Dashboard – A simple, flexible view that gives a clear and dynamic summary of what’s important, be that actions to take or visualizations of key stats.

From efficiency into effectiveness

The really powerful feature of Marketing Planner is that each of the four elements above also includes performance metrics. You simply define and then upload the results metrics that matter to you – be that sales, footfall, click-throughs, free trials etc. The tool then automatically reconciles those results back to the targets you set at the budgeting stage, showing you how you’re doing month on month, year on year or however you choose to visualise the data.

Seeing what works, changing what doesn’t

The next layer of intelligence is that, depending on your status, you can start comparing stores, regions, countries etc. A regional manager can guide the stores in his/her region by comparing, say, cost-per-sale. The CMO or Agency can do likewise at a regional or countries level. So by closing the loop between the theory of budgeting and the effect of actual marketing activity, we create a virtuous circle. People at all levels get to see the outcome of their decisions, informing their subsequent choices. In disparate local markets, particularly where users may not actually be trained marketers, this enables a more strategic approach for them, as well as a visible, more accountable process for the Agency or central Marketing team.

Bringing marketing planning closer to doing

Marketing Planner is a business intelligence tool that brings the planning closer to the doing. It’s just like if you check your bank account once a week, your money management and decision making are probably better than if you only checked it once a year. Having a real-time picture of what’s happening and how well it’s working has a truly transformational effect. For any complex brand management / Marketing operations model, being able to quickly assess performance and then easily share and replicate what’s working best is genuine game-changer. After all, knowledge is power – particularly if you have the time to apply it, rather than wasting your life with your nose in a spreadsheet.