From his own experience in the hot seat as a CEO, Chairman and Director of fast-growing businesses across a range of sectors, Alastair Thomson knows first-hand the challenges owners and executives face in building the business of their dreams. He’s an author, founder, publisher, and CFO-whisperer, and he’s on a mission to help business owners find the ideas, resources, training, coaching and support they need.
The interview began with a conversation about Alastair’s latest book, How To Build A Better Business Plan, which covers how to create a compelling and evidence-backed business plan, to get the “yes” from investors. We asked Alastair how might marketers apply some of your principles to their own marketing plans when seeking budgets and support from the C-suite.
“When it comes to planning, sometimes it’s formulaic,” says Alastair. “And sometimes it’s for a specific result, an investment, an action, funding, or institutional support.”
Alastair continues to explain that a good business plan is partly a marketing document, and partly a legal document, as in it contains both firm, and proposed, outlines. “It’s not something that’s expected to be 100% deliverable,” explains Alastair, ”Rather it’s a proposal based on this information, at this moment in time, in these contexts.”
“Not every CFO will feel this way, but too many marketing departments are focused on cost management, when they should be focused on value generation. Too often the starting point is making the most of a set budget, not setting a goal and calculating what it takes to get there.”
Alastair goes on to discuss the common blindspots most business plans have, how to get answers to awkward questions like budget, and the importance of recognizing different viewpoints.
“It’s very critical to unpack assumptions,” says Alastair. “The more radical the proposed change, the more important it is to reach across the table to understand the arguments. What often happens is someone says, “I read an article in Forbes that says ‘blank’ is the future,” and that may well be the case and may work for other businesses, but will it work for you?”
The conversation then dives into performance data and digital advertising, the complexity of campaign analysis, and how to measure a marketing plan’s effectiveness.
“The magic happens when businesses are trying to make big changes,” mentions Alastair, “if you’re just trying to go up by 2%, that’s a formulaic turn of the wheel, set the schedule and forget it. But if you’re looking to expand or make a shift in your portfolio, that’s when the transformations take place and things get interesting.”