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When it comes to planning and strategy, it’s important to properly outline and manage expectations. Looking forward to Q4, you’re surely aware of the value of this when it comes time to defining objectives and budgets for 2019. Failure to set proper expectations can cause frustration and roadblocks, even if you experience a modest and steady growth in your KPIs. The earlier you begin this process the better, since it will put you in an offensive position and further your chances of success.

Managing expectations is one of the biggest challenges a marketing leader can face. Leaders who know how to manage expectations can more seamlessly navigate the choppy waters of today’s business environment. Why? Because they know how to communicate, organize, and direct conversations around things getting done.

Looking to improve your ability to manage expectations? Follow these practical tips:

Be clear: It’s vital that marketing leaders ensure their direct reports carefully consider all the elements, including the potential impact, of the plan they intend to hand over to the broader team before communicating internally. Giving your team a clear understanding of what they’re expected to accomplish both individually and as a group, the time frame involved, and making them aware of the resources available to support their activities is the most effective way to ensure the company's goals and objectives are met as easily as possible. 

Be optimistic yet realistic: Managing expectations can be tricky. Having optimistic expectations when creating your objectives, plans, and strategy to achieve your goals is a must. However, the value of creating accurate, realistic expectations should not be diminished. It’s important to assess the capabilities of your team and their ability to deliver. While part of the planning process should include looking at the most optimistic results and using it to motivate the team, the expectations for the outcome of those efforts must be tempered by the reality of the challenges they may face in attaining them. It’s a delicate balance! Planning accordingly will ensure proper expectations are set and that your team has the appropriate stretch goals to push their performance to its peak.

Be cautious but collaborative: Communicating objectives and goals within the organization requires a measure of finesse. While you may be tempted to broadcast the most wildly optimistic expectations imaginable, this could be counter-productive. Companies that take a cautious, collaborative, and realistic approach to communicating expectations are more likely to earn team confidence.

Plan effectively: Effective planning and execution is key to the success of any company. The expectations a company's staff has for the business informs and shapes their actions and attitudes about their work and potential for success. With proper planning and solid execution, those expectations can be effectively translated into a profitable result.

Beyond your divisional accountabilities, planning in the actual brand or acquisition space is also vitally important because, for many organizations, this represents a significant line item of investment for the company. Having the right marketing targets to push your brand forward or to drive revenue goals is essential, but it’s critical to set the proper expectations of what your investment will develop in terms of business success.

Within the planning process, focus on actual business performance rather than marketing performance, moving away from GRP’s and Impressions to things such as Market Share or On-Site Conversions. These are measurable, tangible and something you can communicate that everyone in your organization can interpret.

Assess your targets: Before you get too far ahead of yourself, it’s important to gather and analyze information on your company's objectives. Examine how they relate to and are integrated with strategies designed to market the brand, products and services, or to drive revenue. There is an underlying need to get both general and specific information about the company's asset allocation and overall vision to help create the appropriate expectations. Once again, while it may be easier to use the most optimistic numbers and offer expectations that will have the team feeling exuberant, this type of simplistic business psychology can backfire spectacularly. 

Creating realistic expectations is an important lesson every marketing leader should learn. Realistic expectations are an integral part of any strategy. While growth in revenue, sales volume and profits are usually the most common goals, making sure to have ambitious yet realistic expectations can make the difference between success and failure. Understanding the limits and potential of your objectives and strategies will help you to develop realistic expectations about what your team can accomplish. It's poor, short-sighted management to create unrealistic expectations. Enlightened, wise leadership doesn't create expectations it knows its company cannot meet.