Your annual marketing plan is the all-important, over-arching benchmark for your marketing goals for the next 12 months. It reveals where you are now and where you want to be in a year. It’s your roadmap that identifies priorities, what initiatives from last year you should shed, and both short and long-term expectations, as well as the plan B’s and plan C’s you can depend upon if plan A goes awry.
Most importantly, it helps to keep your organization’s marketing team united by a critical shared vision.
You have an annual marketing plan, right?
If you don’t, you’re not alone. Marketers aren’t exactly known for stellar long-term planning skills. About half of all marketers don’t have a clearly defined digital marketing plan and only 37 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.
Let’s face it. Without an effective plan, however, it’s impossible to run an efficient ship – or to see things clearly. While you should definitely have your content marketing strategy mapped out, and planning out your digital marketing is also smart, it’s the eagle-eyed view the annual marketing plan provides that will help your team stay on course.
Here are some useful tips on how to create an annual marketing plan that will set your organization up for a great marketing ROI over the next year. Identify your end objectives and start working towards that plan to achieve them.
Start with Market Research
Market research is one of the biggest obstacles to creating a worthwhile annual marketing plan. Basically, it’s a lot of work.
Here’s the thing. It’s the foundation of your entire plan. If you don’t spend enough energy at this step, the rest of your plan may lack depth and your decisions for your marketing mix and strategy may lack direction.
So, put your back into the research to make sure you understand the pain points, motivators, goals and concerns of your current target market – as they are right now. These factors will keep changing, so keep doing your research.
This information isn’t just useful for creating your marketing plan every year. It’s what goes into your regular buyer persona updates and will help your team make smarter tactical decisions.
Keep your own customer surveys, interviews, and customer feedback at the heart of your research but outsourcing some of the work to a market research firm as well can help you get the depth your organization needs.
Today, social media and other online communities also are great source of data. You’ll find a lot of qualitative information on these channels by paying attention to the conversations circulating.
And then, of course, there are the new, AI-driven analysis tools, such as the algorithms made by Ayzenberg Group. We’ll likely see more artificial intelligence in the market research solutions sector so this is an area to keep an eye on.
Assess Your Market Situation
Next up: situational analysis. This part of your plan contains the current state of the market overall for your products or services, who your competitors are, and where your brand stands within the market. You also want to outline your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and look at your unique value proposition – has it been working for your marketing or does it need an upgrade?
All of these factors are constantly changing, which is another reason putting together an annual marketing plan is so critical. General changes to the market. Competitors getting a little too close for comfort to your competitive edge. A change in your organization’s market share.
When you know where you stand, it’s a lot easier to create practical goal priorities. For example, if you are dominating the market for your service this year, those lead generation and customer acquisition goals that were always so important should probably take a back seat to customer retention.
Set Your Marketing Goals
With a nice thick layer of market research and situational analysis, your plan is ready for the goal priorities. Which marketing objectives will matter the most over the next 12 months? You should focus on no more than three to five goals.
HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound report revealed the top priority for 70 percent of marketers is conversions, both converting to leads and customers. For 55 percent, it’s growing website traffic, and for 45 percent it’s increasing revenue from existing customers
Establish Your Marketing KPIs
One of the benefits of creating an annual marketing plan is it gives you the opportunity to review and refine the current parameters and assumptions you are using.
Still using the same key performance indicators you had in place last year, or worse yet, in 2012? Throw them out. Focusing your attention in the wrong areas or diffusing your energy with too many numbers is one of the surest ways to not hit your prime target – revenue growth.
When establishing the right KPIs for this year, here’s the rubix cube you need to work on – they should be aligned to and indicative of:
Marketing goals you’re trying to reach
Marketing challenges you’re trying to overcome
When creating your annual plan, because you are looking at a relatively long period of time, your priority KPIs may change a bit as you reach certain benchmarks and move on to other parts of your strategy.
Build Your Strategies
And now for the meat and potatoes. For a lot of marketers, this is the fun part. It’s where you take each of your three to five goals, decide which strategy to use to reach that goal and then make a list of the tactics you are going to use.
Goal: Generate 30 percent more leads than last year
Increase engagement on social media
Boost website traffic
Offer more content
Publish one educational video a month on LinkedIn
Conduct extensive A/B testing to improve landing pages and email CTAs
Create a new eBook every quarter for download in exchange for newsletter sign up
Run one Facebook contest every quarter
Post one guest blog a month to increase the number of backlinks to company website
Stick to the Plan, Sort Of
When you have a solid, detailed marketing plan, priorities, next steps, and processes are clear, which makes everyone’s job a lot easier. But, your annual marketing plan shouldn’t be set in stone. Think of it as a roadmap, guiding you in a constantly changing landscape. As you continually keep an eye on market research and your KPIs, you may need to ‘evolve’ your marketing plan mid-year to make sure the strategies and tactics you use are driving the results your marketing should see.
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