Putting Together a Marketing Plan
The year is winding down, and I dare say most humans are enthusiastically looking forward to 2021. Even the marketing budget deadline is welcome, since it’s a sign of a new year.
After the budget is put to bed, it’s time for the real work outlining the marketing plan. I usually start with a rough outline and eventually end up with something doable that I refer to as a statement of work. The SOW serves as the marketing department’s roadmap. I include possible routes, destinations and the worthy sights along the way — in other words, initiatives, goals and tracking.
Like road trips, marketing plans can be simple or sophisticated. Scribbles on a notepad work for some people, while others are giddy writing elaborate plans that include the smallest details. Normally, I fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever your preference, the take-away is to have something documented to prevent getting lost on dead-end side roads while chasing road trip distractions (the largest ball of yarn, world’s biggest frying pan or other projects the boss throws your way). The marketing plan will be the “What was I doing?” reminder when you need it.
So what should be in the marketing plan?
Most important is the corporate strategy. It’s the foundation for all goals — the foundation for each department’s direction and for the marketing plan. Many companies build a five-year or 10-year strategic plan and then evaluate and tweak each year.
While you put the pieces of the puzzle together, here are some questions to consider: Did the company direction change after the bumpy year of 2020? Did fiber builds accelerate due to market need? Did customer experience and satisfaction scores change? Has a certain competitor become a more significant challenge? Did new opportunities in new territories present themselves?
A clear understanding of the corporate strategy is a must for initiatives to be successful. If you’re not sure, ask questions. Be sure you know what the strategy is before writing the marketing plan.
Companies sometimes confuse a business strategy with a marketing strategy.
For example, the corporate strategic goal may be to become the premier security system provider in your area. The corporate plan has one tactic — utilize the marketing department to increase security system sales.
The marketing department takes the corporate goal and outlines the steps in a marketing strategy, such as pitching a campaign to raise awareness of the security system provider in the residential and business community. The marketing discipline and marketing department employees are the tactics and tools to achieve the corporate objective.
Although both strategies lead to the destination, marketing examines the buyer’s journey and breaks the corporate strategy into tasks and get-it-done actions.
The most fun part of putting together a marketing plan is usually the campaign ideas and setting timelines to accomplish each of the objectives. It doesn’t matter whether specifics are ready or not. The vital part is to include a spot in the calendar year to prevent things from falling through the cracks. (Our 2021 Content Planner can help with that). No one wants to be caught by surprise when numbers like ARPU aren’t where the projected budget says they should be.
Also keep in mind that campaigns do not have to be price-cutting promotions. Maybe you want to “unbrand” as a rural telecom and brand as a broadband company. Maybe your existing brand just needs a shot in the arm. Maybe you need to revamp your digital presence. Campaigns can and should be built around all of those specific things.
What should you include in campaigns?
- Timeline — Depending on the product/objective, when is the best time to run the campaign or message?
- Audience — Who is the target audience? Seth Godin says we should market to the smallest viable audience. Who is your smallest viable audience? Are you offering a solution for a consumer pain point?
- Tactics — What tactics and tools will you use? Will you use a sales team? Will you use social media? Facebook ads? Will additional resources be needed from other departments? You can’t run a Christmas promotion if all the employees are on vacation in the installation department.
- Competition — Is there competition? How does your service compare to the competitor? How will you earn an audience for your message? How will you engage and connect with consumers with busy lives?
Tracking and Measurement
Nothing can be improved if left unchecked. With each campaign, include what to measure and how to determine success — clicks, engagement, ROI, ARPU, acquisitions, etc. Frequently check the data during the campaign to ensure integrity. It’s difficult to fix a tracking problem after the campaign is over.
Document the responding audience after a purchase. While digital metrics can help outline the customer journey, don’t overlook surveys. After all, the biggest thing you want to know is why they purchased from you — and the easiest way to learn that is to ask them. Track the ones that didn’t complete a purchase. What stopped the purchase?
Record the audience, those that purchase online versus other methods. What information will help you make better decisions for later campaigns? How will you collect and store the data?
I’ve thrown a lot at you, but these are just my thoughts on the most common components of an annual marketing plan. The most important points are to have a plan and to ensure your focus is on the same things as the rest of the company.
After all, not having a marketing plan is like a road trip with no destination. Very few are excited to jump in the car if they don’t know where they’re going. Eventually, everyone in the car gets tired, dissatisfied with the scenery and restless from driving around in circles.