Streamline your marketing efforts: Omnichannel planning and budgeting in Anaplan

edited June 2023 in Blog

Author: Ben Hilgendorf, Certified Master Anaplanner and Senior Analyst at Talking Rain Beverage Company®.

Anaplan's UX has undergone significant advancements in recent years, enabling businesses to prioritize not only quantitative but also qualitative and process-oriented aspects of planning. Among these, marketing program planning and budget tracking stand out as prime examples. Using a shared Excel planner to track marketing budgets can cause issues with version control and lead to inaccuracies in accrual tracking. Moreover, manual approval processes create duplicate work and limit visibility across marketing, sales, accounting, and finance teams. Fortunately, with the help of Anaplan and an ETL tool, users can plan their annual budgets, enter programs, request review for these programs, and track their approved purchase orders throughout the program lifecycle. Anaplan's platform allows integration with additional models or outside systems, such as sales promotions and pricing, demand forecasting, and syndicated industry data from sources like Nielsen or IRI, further expanding the possibilities of what can be achieved. Deploying the core functionalities of this use case can be done quickly, transforming the momentum of users' initial excitement into sustained engagement and further development opportunities.

Program planning

The new UX in Anaplan is packed with layout configuration options such as dynamic text, alert images, variable row width, and new chart options. While formal workflow functionality is still awaiting a GA release, approval flows can be designed easily with the User dimension and threshold-based queues. To accelerate the approval process, users can take advantage of the card comments feature and "@" mentions, which generate instant email alerts and facilitate quicker action. With these features, marketing program planning becomes an even more appealing use case for Anaplan.

Let's take a look at a hypothetical example of a coupon deduction marketing program planned for summer 2023 from the role of a marketing manager. During the promotional entry process, Dynamic Cell Access can be leveraged to validate input and provide write access to the marketing manager who created the program and any assigned co-owners. Simple conditional formatting rules consistent across pages can guide the user wherever they go; red indicates a required field, blue indicates an optional field, and green indicates the completion of a planning step. As shown below, the manager has completed all required fields and has indicated that the program (internally called an ICAF) is ready for planning. Given the significant cost associated with this program, it will need to go through a series of leadership sign-offs for approval.

Once submitted, approvers can view the program in their approval queue. In the example below, the legal signee has three programs awaiting approval. The summer program was previously rejected as shown in the decision history, but the marketing team made adjustments and has submitted the program again. After the legal signee approves it, the program can progress to the next signee's queue. After all required signees have approved, a purchase order will automatically be created and released in the ERP system via an ETL tool.

Budget and accrual tracking

After the program has been approved, the marketing manager can begin planning the promotions associated with the program. A popular approach is to create a separate promotional bucket for each month included in the program's duration. As shown in the screenshot below, the marketing manager has planned and confirmed three distinct promotions linked with the approved program. You can also develop accrual phasing logic with your controller and accounting team to automatically spread costs across months and days, reducing planning time for the marketing team.

After the promotions have been confirmed, they're transmitted through the ETL tool for use in settling invoices. The invoice data will then be sent back to Anaplan with the promotional IDs linked for expense tracking. This automated process not only streamlines workflow but also provides end-to-end visibility, ensuring that all promotions and expenses are accurately tracked. To optimize the process, work with users and systems engineers to determine the ideal cadence for purchase order creation, promotion creation, and updating invoice data into Anaplan.

With the retail summary page shown below, the marketing manager can closely monitor their planned spend against budget and invoiced actuals. An accrual chart provides a snapshot of spend planning variances, allowing the manager to adjust plans for the remainder of the year. The alert image and dynamic text offer insight into any upcoming promotions that require confirmation. While this example is a desktop page, alert images are particularly helpful when developing mobile pages since users often have limited screen space and need to quickly identify items requiring their attention.

Constraints and modeling considerations

Anaplan’s architecture can sometimes struggle with text and process-heavy models. As a best practice, it is advisable to use text fields only for reference purposes wherever possible. Due to the nature of promotional planning lifecycles, approval flows, and user requests such as date stamps, some user-triggered processes are inevitable. Carefully consider whether these are needed and follow best practices for minimizing lock-out time. While this type of use case does not require massive scaling, it is always advisable to review and follow Planual guidelines.

Next steps

Take your planning to the next level by connecting marketing with other models like FP&A, Trade & Promotion Management, and Demand Forecasting. Sales promotions can be compared side-by-side with marketing programs, forecasted lift can be linked back to programs, and departmental budgets maintained by finance can be used to inform ongoing budgeting and planning cycles. Pages can be developed for detailed promotional accrual reporting that can reduce your accounting team’s workload. Management reporting in Anaplan can be used to provide leadership with channel-level performance, budget tracking, and program investment details.

Marketing teams often use other point systems and syndicated data to develop strategies for marketing programs. Work with your users to identify opportunities for integration if they haven’t already given you a list of nice-to-haves.

Anaplan's upcoming workflow functionality release will be a game-changer, providing builders with the ability to augment the bespoke approval flows outlined above. Anticipated features like task-based alerts will reduce reliance on comment mentions and cut down execution time. Workflow for promotional closing, budget approvals, and program lift inputs for demand forecasting are just a few potential workflow applications.