It’s that time of year again—time for annual planning*! I know you’re busy, but consumer-facing and B2B companies alike need to take the time to determine what the new year’s marketing efforts will consist of to ensure the success of their business. What’s the old adage? “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Exactly. Consider these steps that I take my clients through for your marketing planning efforts as well.
- Reflect and analyze
Look back over the year and your marketing activities. Did you meet your goals? What was successful? What didn’t work? What tactics need attention? What have you learned from these efforts? What was your marketing ROI by tactic? Use data when you can to determine success and not just your gut feeling. It’s easier to point to hard facts to settle discussions when management doesn’t agree on what was successful and what wasn’t.
- Set your marketing goals
First, what are the big-picture goals of the company both long-term and for the coming year? Marketing is meant to support the overall goals of the business. This could grow a particular audience sector of your customer base, increase online revenue, or expand your footprint in a geographic region. It’s imperative to understand what the big picture is and what top management is expecting. Ultimately, outline what role your marketing efforts will play in your business goals. What are you setting out to achieve with marketing in the new year? Create goals that are S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Marketing goals that are specific and measured within a timeframe will lead to success. Also, marketing is not magic—even if you set aggressive goals for the new year, be sure they are realistic and attainable.
- Determine your budget
How much will your marketing budget be for the new year? This is a crucial step in determining your marketing plan. Having a financially realistic figure determined will help focus efforts up front. Set aside a contingency budget as well in the event some unforeseen opportunity becomes available that you may want to jump on. Marketing Directors: I know this is the toughest part, especially if the year didn’t end as well as everyone would have hoped. We know marketing budgets are the first to be cut. But as Ash Sobhe, CEO of ITC points out, marketing should be viewed as an investment for a business’ success, not an expense.
4. Create the plan
From your budget, you can determine strategies and tactics to reach these goals. This can include refreshed tactics that are tried and true for your business and new ones that you have yet to try but are working for others in your industry. Document your plan with a monthly Gantt chart or outline how tactics will rollout throughout the year and who will be responsible for what. Be sure to assign metrics for each tactic that contribute to the overall agreed upon goals.
- Stay on track
Once the plan is activated, reference it quarterly or even monthly. Check results of these metrics often, and modify accordingly as needed. The plan is meant to be your guide, but flexibility is necessary as life happens. At the end of your year, you’ll be able to show management and stakeholders the results of your marketing plan and activities. And there you have it! While these steps are sometimes more of a fluid process, going through this exercise will ensure that you create a marketing plan that ultimately drives the success of your business. Happy planning! *Note: Annual planning is meant to be done at the end of your fiscal year to prepare for the next fiscal year, which may fall differently than a calendar year.