Writing an annual marketing plan can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be as easy as packing a suitcase.
If you’re like me, you travel a lot for business. You know that every suitcase starts out empty, just as every marketing plan starts with a blank page.
The process of filling both begins with the same question:
Where are you going?
You can’t start packing before you know your destination. The more information you have, the better choices you’ll make when you fill your bag.
So…where are you headed?
If you haven’t already, align with your executive team and get consensus on what’s important and why. What are your overall goals for the coming year? Revenue growth? Breaking into a new market? Increasing market share? Then, what are the strengths and weakness of your company to meet those challenges? Be sure you understand what could get in the way of achieving these goals, including current events, economic trends, competitive developments, etc. It’s important to build marketing strategies that play to your strengths as well as counter potential challenges.
Think of it like this: Knowing the forecast increases the likelihood that you’ll have what you need when you get to your destination.
Clean out your closet. Marketing strategies, like clothes, don’t always fit. We outgrow them. They get threadbare. Fashions change. Context is everything.
Go deep, analyze the results of your marketing efforts and turn the insights into action steps that will be reflected in next year’s marketing plan. Identify what’s working and why and apply it to your future marketing efforts. For example, is your CEO regularly publishing content on LinkedIn and you’re seeing a spike in website traffic timed with her posts? Does she have a strong point-of-view on your industry? Is it resonating?
Think about building on this organic effort by finding sponsored outlets for the content, putting some dollars behind her posts to boost them and creating campaigns targeting your wish list customers, backed by a landing page to capture their data.
Spend equal time on what didn’t work or what needs improvement. For example, did your earned media outreach efforts fall short? You may determine that the tactic may have been a good one but your pitches failed to offer genuine value to the reporter or that you missed opportunities because you didn’t have the right trained spokesperson at the ready.
Or did your LinkedIn ad campaign fail to generate leads? Was it the wrong channel to reach your audience, did you go too wide with your targeting or did you have a weak or nonexistent call-to-action?
Pack for the trip.
Now that you’ve cleaned out your closet you should have a pretty good understanding of what’s worked for you in the past and what hasn’t.
You know where you’re going. (This is important.)
Sort through the marketing strategies that have been successful for you and ask yourself: Is this something I could use on this trip? If yes, double down. If no, maybe there’s something that didn’t quite work but that you could reengineer.
A smart marketing plan, like a well-packed suitcase, will help get you where you want to go, and ensure you have what you need when you get there.
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