Welcome to November. While thoughts of turkey, family and friends, and possibly even Christmas presents are becoming top of mind, have you thought about your marketing plan for next year?
I’ll confess, I can be a bit of a procrastinator at times (although I’m working on it!) and planning for 2013 sounds like a great idea for December or even January. But truth be told, if you wait that long you’ll run the risk of not being prepared for Q1 and the valuable opportunities (i.e., leads and revenue) it can bring. So if you haven’t yet started thinking about next year’s marketing plan then it’s time to get to it!
Now, developing your 2013 marketing plan doesn’t have to be painful, confusing or tedious. Read on for a 3-point strategy that will whisk you through the process.
1. Evaluate what’s worked (and what hasn’t) this year. Understanding which marketing efforts were wins, losses or just broke even, provides you the necessary information to determine what should be included in next year’s plan. Be sure to evaluate all of your marketing tactics including blogging/e-books, social media, search engine optimization, pay-per-click, webinars, videos, advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, events and PR ‒ and anything else that qualifies as a marketing activity in your organization.
Of these activities which ones moved the marketing engine forward most effectively and influenced company growth and revenue? Which ones were your star performers in terms of response and conversion rates, cost-per-lead, total revenue generated and overall influence? Knowing these data points and comparing them to each other will help you understand which activities were stellar performers and which ones were slugs that should be left out of the mix in next year’s plan.
2. Clearly define and gain consensus on Sales and Marketing objectives for the coming year. Notice that I didn’t just say Marketing objectives – I included Sales as well. Too many marketing groups operate in a vacuum, creating goals and tactics that are not necessarily aligned with Sales which is a critical error (never mind the negative impact of it on the Sales and Marketing relationship which requires ongoing thought and nurturing). It’s important to understand the type and volume of leads that Sales needs. And, this is a perfect time to make sure Sales expectations are not out of line (i.e., “pie in the sky”) and Marketing is clear on what it needs to produce.
Taking the time to strategize with your Sales team also gives you the ability to revisit the segments and audiences you are trying to reach, tactics to get to them, and the information they need before purchasing your product or services. And yes, even though you may think you know those things inside and out it’s always valuable to have the conversation with Sales since they are on the forefront of what’s going on in the market by being face to face with prospects every day.
Even more important, you’ll gain credibility with Sales by including them in the process. As a result you’ll wind up with aligned goals and ensure that Sales gets what they really need, not just what Marketing thinks they should have. An empowered Sales team is a more effective Sales team, which directly affects the bottom line and Marketing’s value within the organization.
3. Build a great marketing plan. Data on what worked and what didn’t this year – check. Alignment and consensus with Sales on objectives for the coming year – check, check. Now what? Hopefully more than just regurgitating this year’s marketing plan and updating the budget accordingly. You’ve got all of this great data, now put it to work!
Start by outlining all of the possible activities for the upcoming year (keeping in mind the performance of said tactics this year) and prioritize them based on your expectation of what each one should produce. For example, if you found this year that SEO was a key factor in driving people to your website you’re going to want to devote more time and resources to it. In contrast, if you found your social media efforts didn’t have much impact but you want to keep a presence alive, then it might go lower on the list but not necessarily at the bottom. And maybe PPC was a deadbeat…well you might devote a little time to testing and optimizing the ads to see if performance improves, but it will probably rank dead last in terms of budget and effort.
Don’t forget about the things that are needed to drive these activities like content creation (oh my!) and branding. These should be included in the marketing plan as well.
All of these activities should tie back to a line-item budget. Not only will you need it for budget approval, but having specific numbers tied to expenditures gives you the ability to properly evaluate cost-per-lead and other metrics that will help assess the efficacy of a marketing activity. And, it almost goes without saying, but you need to put resources to each of the marketing activities too.
From here it’s a matter of creating a marketing calendar, and then individual action plans for each part of it. And, I strongly recommend determining what content you’ll need to drive the activities in the upcoming year and creating a content calendar that aligns with marketing activities.