July 29, 2018

Written By Faisal Mahmud, Marketing Manager, Bangladesh Edible Oil Limited

The first time I was exposed to the idea of Marketing Calendar was on my 5th year of service! After that, I have gone through Marketing Calendar/Marketing Plan/A&P budget of several companies, even made those ‘documents’ several times. Irony is, those are basically spreadsheets or activity lists, with or without cost.

Please allow me to explain what you would find in a typical Marketing Plan. The first column is activity, then come the months. Then, the budget for the activities planned to the corresponding month is included in the plan. For example, if the activity name is “regular press campaign”, we will see a figure of some 10-12 lac allocated for every month. If the activity name is “sponsorship/events”, we will see fluctuations depending on seasonal concentration. This format of outlining a marketing plan comes easy to us. But what is concerning about this method is that, we are matching budget of planned activities to the corresponding months before chalking down the contents we will be promoting, or before finalizing the theme we will be moving onto.

Changes are inevitable when it comes to planning content for your marketing plan. But, we need to start this practice of generating content for our brands for the coming years while simultaneously planning activities and allocating budget for the activities.

Now I’d like to shed some light on how we can incorporate a tentative set of contents into our Marketing Calendar.

Content planning should be given as much importance as we give to budgeting. We can make some draft content plan, put it in a calendar & get it approved by both top level management & relevant stakeholders. For example, if we plan to re-launch a brand at a different price point & value proposition, we must get the green signal from the sales team. Similarly, vetting from Head of Finance/Business Controller might be necessary when we are investing behind our plan, to support the planned activities. Allow me to propose a tip to get quick approval/vetting from all the bosses – just show them the expected financial impact. Honestly, show the management how much additional revenue the content might bring in, and how it adds to the bottom line. I believe that this will do the trick to convince them of the effectiveness of the content.

Now, I would like to draw your attention to- “what we will NOT do”. Yes, there will be a seemingly endless flow of options coming through, but we simply can’t accommodate all (and don’t necessarily need to). Let’s say, we came to the decision that we will not invest further on branded TV shows, then we can cut to the chase and just skip going through hundred+ proposals we may receive from different TV channels/agencies.

The course of thoughts is going to fluctuate and this is unavoidable, but this should make us shift the budget across brands. Each brand has its own budgetary requirement, so inter-brand shifts of the budget should be the last thing on our minds. If we were to suddenly get a proposal to initiate an event that seems beneficial, we can fund it from the Activation/Outdoor budget of the same brand.

 A rule of thumb is to keep the top management in the loop when it comes to making decisions for issues such as how intense the branding needs to be on TV or how extensive our Events/Activations have to be. This, I firmly believe will drastically bring down the fluctuations or budget shifts.
Often times, we consider the final figure as “fixed” while all others are “playable”. But, all of it is actually “pliable”. For example, a brand might be forced to focus on trade because of the change in the trade structure & competitors’ move. In that case, it’s logical to reduce some of the A&P (Advertising & Promotion) budget; after all, management won’t be happy to maintain negative profit and loss for a long time. But that does not necessarily mean that we ‘have to’ spend that money (budget saved from reduced A&P of that brand) on other brands. We can just finish the year underspent. It’s ok. Spending for the sake of spending will bring little outcome. But at the same time, if a brand starts showing high potential (may be because of a sudden shift in the industry) and it is expected that higher spending is likely to result in improved return on investments, we can propose to the management to increase budget on that particular brand. Well, why should the other brands suffer? We can just increase overall budget on valid reasons.

Before signing off, I would like to end with the most important suggestion – please try to align the relevant stakeholders (at least the top management & sales team) before setting next year’s calendar to stone and keep the management updated about changes/fluctuations as frequently as possible.

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