Marketing Leadership

BSMS 48 - Presenting your 2024 plan to the board

Our best practices for presenting your marketing plan to the board of directors as companies are in the thick of 2024 planning.

General guidelines:

First, there are general guidelines you should always keep in mind when presenting your plan to the board:
Come prepared - Don’t present plans that aren’t pressure tested. If you ask for money, be ready to answer questions about the specifics—results, how you’ll get there, data behind your hypotheses. 

Lead with the red - You’re not expected to be perfect at your job, but you do need to show that you’re the perfect person for your job. There will always be things that don’t go according to plan—you need to differentiate between what's relevant and irrelevant. Leading with things that can be done better can give you credibility. Don’t hide things that aren't working right now.

Come with solutions - Prioritize and propose solutions for the things that didn’t go well. There are many ways to add revenue to the bottom line without creating new leads or MQLs. Think about other levers you can pull to impact revenue—here are 50+ examples to consider.

Adopt a GTM mindset - Approach these conversations with the perspective that you are a go-to-market leader, not just a marketing leader. Everything in your company is intertwined. Ensure you're aligned with (and supporting) your other GTM leaders—Sales, Product, Success, etc.—in their efforts. Don’t present a marketing plan; present a holistic go-to-market approach and demonstrate how marketing’s role fits into it.

Presenting your plan to the board.

Your goal at the board meeting is to get alignment between the board and the CEO on three core metrics:
Overall growth target - Your company’s reasonable growth aspiration. Consider what’s happening in the overall market and category you play in. This number gives you a foundation to forecast what you need to generate from your funnel.

Net-revenue retention (NRR) - What will your revenue look like after expansions, upsells, churn, and contractions? For context, 2–3% churn is best-in-class. Aim for NRR above 100%.

Profitability - What's the balance between growth and the cost of that growth? For every dollar that you spend, what will get returned?

Links shared in this episode:

Episode Transcript:


There's kind of three numbers that I feel you need to get alignment on before you can go to next level of saying, "Hey, this is now how we are going to achieve what we agreed is the foundation for our 2024 planning."


Welcome to episode 48 of B2B SaaS Marketing Snacks. My name is Mike Northfield and I lead product marketing at klinge and T2D3. And again, I'm here with Stijn Hendrikse who is a serial SaaS marketing executive and ex-product marketing leader at Microsoft. And today we're talking about how to bring your 2024 plan to the board of directors and get alignment between your CEO go-to-market leaders and the board on your all-up growth percentage, your net revenue retention and profitability expectations for the new year. There's a lot of great nuggets in here that Stijn drops on us: A couple of really good ways to approach your presentation to the board, things like not necessarily needing to be perfect at your job, but showing that you're the perfect person for the job, adopting a mindset of being a go-to-market leader and not just a marketing leader, approaching these conversations with the realization that everything in your company is intertwined and you need to be presenting a holistic go-to-market approach together with your go-to-market peers, the sales product success leaders, and then demonstrate marketing's role in that plan. As soon as you present just a marketing plan that's kind of siloed, you've lost the plot a little bit. So those are some of the core takeaways.

There's a lot of other good stuff here specifically with regard to the actual; there's three metrics that Stijn recommends you need to get alignment on in that presentation to the board. And there are a bunch of links that we mention in this episode. And just a reminder, all the links that we share in every episode are going to be in the show notes so you can find them there. We've got for this one, an Ansoff matrix exercise growth lever examples that you can add to your go-to market plan, and then Jason Lempkin C60, C90, C10 framework.

And I'm also going to put together a template for financial forecasting using that framework. It will eventually live in the T2D3 Pro template library, but in the meantime, I might tease it out on LinkedIn first. So if you're interested in getting an early version of that, feel free to find me on LinkedIn, reach out to me, mention that you found us through the podcast. I love connecting with our listeners. And yeah, thank you for spending your time with us. Really appreciate you being here and I will stop blabbering. Let's get into it. So people are in kind of the thick of the 2024 planning and they're in the process of presenting to boards and asking for budget, and it's been a really common thread in a lot of the sales calls that we've been having lately. I know you have a lot of experience with these types things and I'm curious to hear if there's any sort of framework or process that you would use for doing either of those things.


Great, timely topic. Yeah, we're right before the holidays and figuring out your 2024 plan, now's the right time to do that, right? If you want to get ready with your OKRs in December, so to have them in January and yeah, boards sometimes have to sign off on, especially when you want to do more or when you have to do less. It's interesting, right? When you look at the last two years of reset the recalibration of the B2B SaaS business category, some companies are now, they've done their cost rationalization and optimization and they're now ready to investigate or really go big, especially if they're in a category where there's an opportunity to claim more market share or to really win versus a competitor where others are still very careful in how they invest and how they fuel their growth. Maybe by doing the other things that you do in SaaS, you make sure that you monetize your existing customers, you make sure you retain them right before you really invest in, for example, new logo growth.

So let's dive in first. So let's say you have to present your 2024 plan, and some of you may have to do that also in front of your board, especially when you need to explain a certain level of investment or a certain level of myth that you have. Just a couple of concepts that I think we've talked about before that I always want to remind marketing leaders, even CEOs of when you are working for someone, you work for the board or you're the marketing leader, you're the CO, you work for your CEO, this is the time of year, but you really don't want to lead with your chin, you want to lead with the red. And so I'll just recap those quickly because we think we've dived in much deeper in our podcast episode. But what does leading with your chin mean? It means you have a plan, you have an initiative, you have a ask that is maybe not ready to be pressure tested.

We saw these called watermelons, right? They look green on the outside. Once you start cutting in, they become red. That's leading with your chin, having a great ask for more dollars, for example, to spend on demand generation without having the ability to answer questions. What is the specific uplift that you expect? Do you have any data to back that up? Are there other places where you could spend the same dollars that might have a better return? Unless you're able to answer all those questions come prepared, really.

So don't lead with your chin. It's very easy when you do your 2020 for planning to assume that everybody is in the mode of doing new things right? So let me go ask for a little bit of extra money, but unless you have prepped that ask really well, it's not going to be great. What you do have to do, you have to lead with the red and leading with the red is really about acknowledging that you're not there to be perfect at your job.

You're there to be the perfect person to do the job. And there's a very important nuance difference there. The perfect person for the job is the person who understands really well that in marketing and in growth and your go-to-market responsibilities, there will always be things that are not going to go according to plan there. There'll always be numbers that you miss, things that are not perfect basically. And your number one job is to know what those are and to differentiate between the things that are maybe not going well that are relevant and the things that are not that relevant. So you have to be able to prioritize, but leading with the red means that you don't hide the things that can be done better. So try to always lead with, hey, if you think of your full dimension, for example, results, if maybe the total number is great because maybe your average deal value has gone up, but your conversion rates have actually really suffered or there's certain channels that don't perform well and even though maybe some other channels made up for those, you still want to talk about the things that went down that did not go according to plan.

So leading with the things that you feel are not in great shape gives you so much credibility, and this is the time of the year to make up the full, in retrospect, the full year of performance and be very genuine and very open about the things that did not go according to plan in 2023. It's an amazing opportunity to get the level of credibility that you need to ask for new things, right? Either for new investments, for new savings, to maybe stop doing certain things. That's also a part of building a great plan for next year.

And then the other thing about leading with the red is that you have to come with solutions. You are really open about things that you feel didn't go according to plan, and then you talk about how those are relevant or not. Some of those things might not be that important. There's other things that you would prioritize and then I think you prioritize. You talk about what you will do about those, that's how you gain credibility. That's how you get support for your new plan. It's not about looking very green, making everything look perfect, right? By the way, then they might also say, Hey, we kind of don't need to do anything different.


Don't need any more budget.


And I'm not saying as a marketing leader, your target should be to get more budget. It's more about to get whatever you think will help the company grow further. So now let's get into planning and what I think also you should expect from your board and from your CEO and from the CEO and the board to have real alignment on, there's kind of three numbers that I feel you need to get alignment on before you can go to next level of saying, Hey, this is now how we are going to achieve what we agreed is the foundation for our 2024 planning. And these three numbers are basically the all up a growth percentage. What is the growth ambition for the company? And this is typically measured in the form of ARR, right? ARR growth. Is it 20, 30, 40, 50%? What do you believe the right kind of aspiration is for this year for growth?

And it is going to be different now than it was maybe two, three years ago. The level of maybe growth opportunity in your category might've changed, the market might've slowed down a little bit, there might be a new opportunity that has arrived that increases your ability to grow, but you have to get real alignment on if it's 20, 30, 40, 50%. What is the reasonable number to expect for pure growth, which will then help you get to things like bookings and sales numbers and things like. So that's the first number.

The second number, because you build a SaaS business by monetizing your existing clients and then retaining them, and then you actually add new logos, you have to align on the other number, which is NRR, net revenue retention. And NRR is a combo metric of two things: How do you retain the revenue that you have? Sometimes also called GRR, gross revenue retention, which is the combination of churn, like how many customers leave and the revenue that they represent, and the attrition of revenue with customers who don't leave, they stay with you, but the amount of revenue they generate decreases, right?

So you add those two things together, loss in revenue due to churn and due to attrition, and it gives you your gross revenue retention. This number is usually under a hundred percent, very hard to get it over a hundred percent mathematically, and that would be kind of somewhere between 80-85%, and ideally 95-97%. If you have 2-3% churn, it's kind of best-in-class, but as close to that a hundred percent as possible, that's your GRR.

And then how do you get to NRR net revenue retention? It's by adding the expansion that you expect from existing customers, right? Most customers, especially the good ones, will buy more from you over time. That's what monetization is all about, ranging from increasing prices to selling more seats to selling more new capabilities, upselling. But that is the second number that I think when you start your 2024 plan, you should demand your CEO and your board to have alignment on what is the NRR expectation.

So let's say you have a gross revenue retention of 93%, so 7% annual churn, and you do another expansion on top of that of let's say 14%. Then 93 plus 14 is basically 107% which would be your NRR, so that would be your NRR target. Then the third number, and this is especially irrelevant now, I think a couple years ago it was all about grow, grow, grow, grow at any cost at expense in any way. Those days are over, capital is not as cheap anymore. So your board and your CEO will have to align on one other thing. What is the balance between growth and the cost of that growth, right? Also called profitability. And many of you have heard the "rule of 40" term, sometimes people talk about rule of 50, but it's really important that you know whatever that number is for your company.

And the rule of 40 basically adds the first number, the growth rate to the profitability of the company, gross margin basically. And you come up with whatever those numbers together need to add up to. And in the rule of 40, 40 would say, "Hey, if you grow let's say 8%, then you would need another 32% in profitability to actually adhere to the rule of 40." Most B2B SaaS companies that are early stage that are young, the numbers will about be the reverse. There will be a higher number of growth, let's say 30%, but nowadays it's very normal for a board to expect you to do that in a profitable way, which means that they would expect you another 10% of gross margin and that gets you to 40.

You need to align before you start putting pen to paper for your marketing plan and presenting how you want to go about driving boat growth and retention, you should have those three numbers. What is the all-up growth number for the company? What is the NRR target? Because as marketing leader, you're also going to help reducing churn and drive customer retention and help with upsell cross-sell campaigns, right? Expansion. And then the third number, how profitable do you have to be in addition to the growth, which is your rule of 40 type number that will help you make the case, for example, additional marketing dollars because those will directly go at the expense of profitability. So if you know that there's a rule of 40 in place, then you know that for every dollar that you're going to spend on marketing, there's a certain amount of growth plus profitability expected as a return on that dollar.


And so from going from a revenue target to the specific plan for how you're going to achieve that, one of the tools that we've used in the past is the Ansoff growth matrix. And so essentially what you do is you put the revenue target at the center of the matrix and then you work with your team to try to figure out what are the different levers that you can pull if you were to take an existing product and market it to an existing customer. So market penetration, same thing with an existing product to a new market market development and then new products to existing customers. So that's product development. So there's a bunch of different levers that you can pull in each of those quadrants, and it's one of the things that we do when we first engage with our clients is to figure out let's get everybody, the leadership team all in the same room and making decisions about the specific priorities and things that we're going to work on together. Because oftentimes you can increase profitability by just making a price change, but that requires different investment from different folks on your team than it would if you were running campaigns to try to attract customers in a new market for your existing products. So those are two different plans and approaches and priorities, and they would probably require different levels of investment, and that might show up as different budgetary requirements as well.


Love it. Yeah, I think there's a couple ways, when you put your budget together, a couple ways to substantiate that and connect it to the things you actually plan to do. So on the T2D3 website, we have a template that turns the unsolved matrix, there's actually a template for the Ansoff matrix itself and a class on how to do that exercise, but it turns all those initiatives that you come up with into a relatively simple spreadsheet that basically says, will this initiative drive conversion better conversion rates in the funnel, will it drive higher ASP, average sales price, which will not increase the number of leads we get, it will reduce churn. It basically turns it into those very specific measurable units. They call it the unit economics that need to substantiate whatever your plan is, right? Your plan both on the top line, how much of revenue do you think, for example, the marketing function will drive and how much will that cost?

So in that exercise doing the answer, you'll have things like, what do we do with price, right? How's price going to evolve? Are we going to productize any of our professional services and try to turn 'em into maybe part of our SaaS pricing model, right? There's so many ideas. I think we have a couple of blogs even with lists and lists of things you could put on your initiative list for 2024 to drive growth in those for quadrants of the Ansoff matrix. How do you align what customers are asking from you that they would be willing to spend more on with your R&D roadmap? And then how do you really go inspect your funnel and use some benchmarks to say, "Hey, is my conversion rate from MQL to SQL really optimal? Is there something we could do there? Is there something we haven't looked at lately or is there something we could do with training our sales team because we feel maybe we're giving too many discounts?"

And so there are hundreds of things you can do, and this exercise helps you filter those down to the five or ten things that you feel really will drive growth in 2024. And then by connecting those with the ARR drivers, MQLs, conversion rates, etc., it's maybe a useful exercise for people to do. One other thing that I always want to emphasize: You go at the board level, which you see, you go into those conversations always as a go-to-market leader. You're not a marketing leader, you're not a sales leader. All these things really are so intertwined that presenting a marketing plan that could be leading with your chin right there, because if you're planning on driving lead generation, that is not connected to what the sales team thinks they want to sell and things like that. So make sure it's a go-to-market approach that the sales leader, the customer success leader are all aligned on.

Which then allows you to answer questions: What is the mix of our pipe? How much of our pipe comes from real marketing efforts versus the salespeople actually using their network, using their own research methodologies using some form of an outbound business development rep reps or some form of maybe buying leads to a partnership or having some kind of referral program? There's all these other ways to fill the pipe that are not about marketing generating more MQLs. Getting super aligned on that with your drives a lot of potential funnel. So that's one aspect. We talked about every sales price, conversion rates, in the end, you want to be extremely clear on that you could do 300 things and what are the 30 that you probably should do and then what are the five or six you can prioritize in Q1 and get that extremely clear.

One other aspect, if you think of pressure testing your plan, one is do the initiatives line up and the outcomes of those line up with your dollar aspirations. The other one is, let's call it the productivity of your go-to-market function. Are there any numbers that you can calculate that tell you, "Hey, maybe we're not as efficient as we should be." There's something called the magic number that I haven't come up with, people should just Google that. The magic number for a SaaS company is kind of a function of both revenue, new sales, but new bookings and the cost of doing that customer acquisition cost, but also including marketing expenses, etc.

A number that I think is really important is your sales productivity. And this is basically the cost of your salespeople, the salespeople, the total cost, right? They're fully loaded including things like commissions, etc. And what are they bringing in net new bookings. And not to mistake that for something that's a sales target, it's also a marketing target because the productivity of your sales team is, for a large part, driven by do they have enough leads to work on and what's the quality of those leads? So I like to in for at least3x the total cost related to the net new booking. So this is not the GRR, the gross revenue retention. This is both the new logos and the new expansion revenue has to be at least three. Ideally it's higher than that, but that's the number two. Just do a litmus test like, Hey, is my sales productivity at the right level? And because what that helps you do is to come up with what should the sales targets be, right? And the sales targets are usually an uplift over the financial plan.

So to say the plan for the company is to do 8 million ARR, and out of that maybe 3 million is new bookings. So 3 million, if you're a financial plan, you need to hit that to be able to have the expenses that you plan to have. Your sales target will be higher, right? For some companies, it'll be 10% higher. For others it'll be 20 or 30% higher. That is usually a function of how mature the category is. How predictable is it that you will make 3 million in new bookings or a little higher or a little lower, right? And the less predictable it is, the higher usually that lift is over the plan that you make your stretch goal or sales quota. Another thing they have to think about is if let's say your stretch goal for the company is 20%. 20%, the sales target is 20% higher than the actual financial plan.

That 20% could be what you give to your individual sales manager. But under them maybe the sales reps could have a 25% uplift and above the sales manager, let's say the chief revenue officer, it could be a 15% delta. And the reason those should be different is what you don't want to happen is that a sales manager who sits on a certain sales target is incented to keep low performing salespeople on the team. Otherwise they're afraid that they're not going to make their own stretch sales target. If they would let someone go, and let's say there's nobody in that seat for a couple of months now that of course eats into their ability to hit their number, and then they might think, oh, even if they can't make the 20% uplift that I have, if they only make 15, then at least I get something, right?

And instead of making the right decision, which is say, let's get the right person for the job. So that's why I always like to have a hierarchy of when you think of the sales target uplift, the percentage difference between the financial plan and bookings and the target that is basically driving things like commissions and bonuses to be higher the closer you are to the actual sales transaction. So an individual sales rep will have a higher percentage uplift than let's say the chief revenue officer and all those have to average out of course to whatever you think the uplift for the company should be. So those are things that I always talk about when I coach a marketing leader or go-to market leader about their 2024 plan. And as you see here, I also like to talk about sales targets as part of that because you cannot look at marketing in isolation.


Another way to think about the planning and the levels that you kind of just talked about, Jason Lemkin has a great article on SaaStr that talks about C90, C60 and C10. Essentially the C stands for confidence level. So C90 is your like, I'm 90% confident that this is what will happen. So that's kind of what you use to plan how long your cash lasts. It's...


Your financial plan.


Right? Exactly. Your C60 is, I have a 60% confidence that we can hit this. And usually it's kind of your base plan, it's like a sales target, and then your C10 is your stretch plan and it's about 20% higher than your base, like C60 plan.


That's how you pay for the platinum Waikiki Beach sales summit for the people who make that.


That's how you're really crushing it. Yeah, exactly. But anyways, that's another framework to kind of think about it and maybe get alignment within the team on how they kind of think about their plans from a C90, 60, and 10 perspective.


And then when you think of just the nuts and bolts of the plan and how much of that do you show when you present this to your CEO, to your executive team, to the board, I do believe it's helpful to go into a little bit of detail when you ask, for example, to invest in a new channel to really understand some of the mechanics, to have done an A/B test or something like that. If you want to spend, let's say, another 400K in LinkedIn ads and you have never done that before, make sure you have done a little bit before, maybe a couple weeks of experimentation that show you that. I think you will always get questions that are a little more detailed than you expect. So make sure it goes back to leading with your chin, having done your homework, and being super convinced that that's the right way to reprioritize maybe some of your resources. I think that's really important in your preparation.


Right on. Thank you to Adriano Valerio for producing this episode and the Kalungi team for helping make this whole thing work. And of course, you for choosing to spend your time with us. This podcast would be nothing without you, so thank you. We appreciate you. And quick reminder, all the links we mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes. And if you want to submit or vote on a question that you want me and Stijn to jam on, you can do that at All right, see you next time.

B2B SaaS Marketing Snacks - More Episodes

Listen to more episodes

Head back to the B2B SaaS Marketing Snacks home page for more.

More episodes

Similar posts

Get notified on new marketing insights

Be the first to know about new B2B SaaS Marketing insights to build or refine your marketing function with the tools and knowledge of today’s industry.