For six wonderful years, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of Plansmith’s marketing team. From marketing assistant, to department manager, to my most recent role as Director of Marketing, I’ve experienced firsthand how important our company’s mission is: improving planning. Why? Because there is nothing more frustrating than having a brilliant idea with no real way of making it come to fruition. However, with incredible people and a quality plan, anything is possible – and doable.
Like many of you, I notice how important the planning process is when I’m putting together my ideas for next year. Though a marketing plan is a bit different than financial institution planning, the core concepts are the same.Here are a few top-of-mind planning tips for the new year…
- Start Early
We say this every year, and every year it remains relevant. It’s just easier this way – start planning meetings early in the year. Discuss goals as a group. Formalize a vision. Incorporate it into the budget. Then, like we do at Plansmith, create a playbook (action plan for execution)!
- Work as a Team
Silos breed negativity. Avoid confusion, hurt feelings, and future departmental disagreements by getting the right people involved in the initial planning process. Outline ideas, goals, objectives, and task owners as a group, then meet regularly to discuss approvals, progress, and suggested changes. This team mentality should be present in all aspects of planning – both during budget formation, and budget execution. For example, though I create the general marketing plan, I communicate my campaign ideas, content samples, and distribution questions with other departments, including my higher-ups. Guess what? Every idea that started as a seed bore better fruit with input that surpassed my own.
- Incorporate Technology
Does the term ‘reinventing the wheel’ ever come to mind? Sometimes, even as business professionals, we lean on our own understanding – so much so that we forget to check what’s already been created. For me, while creating my marketing plan, this looked like playing with a spreadsheet for hours; coincidentally, for many financial institutions, it looks the same. Instead of doing an honest-to-goodness search for the best software program that would best address the task at hand, we waste time, sanity, and company resources trying to DIY a tool. The flip side of this is we find a program that looks great – may even have a hefty price tag – but we dig into it, and find that it’s too complex or difficult for our purposes. Then, we’re back to square one – forging our own way into spreadsheet abyss.
Don’t let this be your financial institution this year. As for me, I searched around the Internet and found some great contenders that could help me easily plan, budget, and reforecast my marketing plan; ultimately, I chose a mix of three programs. Now I have a solid calendar for forecasting, and a solid area to build my initial content plan. Plus, I add my key action items to our corporate playbook using Plansmith’s Budget Playbook tool to consistently measure if marketing is on track to hit our annual targets.
As for your organization – will you take the time to find the right technology partner to truly assist in your success? A few short hours speaking to planning professionals, like Plansmith, could shave off dozens of hours later this year, as well as save you headaches during exams!
- Find a process that works
One size does not fit all. Incorporate these tips and your own experiences to improve upon your organization’s unique budgeting and planning processes. Just as financial institutions have differing corporate structures – e.g. holding companies, branches, departments, etc. – the processes by which their business is run should be different. There is only one right way to plan: the way that works for your organization. Although the tools necessary for ensuring the process runs smoothly stay the same, the ways they’re employed will vary. Get a quality budgeting program; work as a team to set budget targets; and create an action plan (playbook) to execute the vision. Don’t waste time or sacrifice confidence trying to emulate the Jones’ Financial Institution down the street (but do feel free to run peer analysis – that’s always a good idea!).
- Reforecast Regularly
This “tip” is more than just a recommendation – it’s a life boat. As I discuss in my white paper, The Case for Reforecasting, reforecasting is one key factor that helped financial institutions react more quickly and effectively during the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Those organizations who did not have adequate reforecasting tools struggled to remake their 2020 annual budgets, plans, and forecasts, which were moot within several months of their approval. This is where proper planning tools are not only handy, but are essential. Your financial managers need proper and powerful analysis to guide their decision making. This is also where spreadsheets fall short – it is highly unlikely that a homemade spreadsheet model will handle forecasting and reforecasting in an effective way. So, if your financial institution doesn’t have a budgeting model that can do these things easily and well, please consider starting your search ASAP.
- Turn to Professionals
Sometimes you just get stuck. Or, you realize that your skillset doesn’t match the immediate needs of the organization. Or, in order to perform the necessary tasks, it would take too many internal resources to get the job done. That’s when it’s time to enlist a professional. For example, I’m not a graphic designer, nor have I ever claimed to be. While I can create some images, I enlist a professional marketing firm when I need certain ads or mailers in print-ready formats. Similarly, financial institutions often seek out our Advisory Services department. Whether you’re struggling with asset liability management, interest rate risk, board training, cash flow modeling, sensitivity testing, backtesting, or even budgeting – our team of former examiners can help. The first place to start is simply by reaching out to discuss your situation. Chances are that we can do more with less than you could on your own, as budgeting and ALM/IRR are our primary areas of expertise.
In short, good planning is good planning. These simple core concepts benefit me in my role, and help us as an organization to serve quality content and stay ahead of the curve as important banking trends pop up along the way. Similarly, they can help you ensure your organization – including its planning documents – start off on a strong footing, and remain relevant year-round.
If you believe your planning process could use a fresh approach this year, schedule a discussion to see how Plansmith can help.