The first step to great marketing is having a great marketing plan. However, not everyone bothers to plan – even though most agree that it is the foundation to successfully achieving your marketing objectives.
I’ve always liked these quotes on planning: “bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” and “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”
If you haven’t started your marketing plan exercise, now is the time! And here are 5 steps to help you along the way…
1. Identify your business goals.
Before defining what you are going to do, you have to define your goals – or where you want to go. Then it is easier to map the route to get there. Use this stage to evaluate your goals against the latest marketplace realities. Are you playing catch-up or trying to truly innovate in a particular area. Also, don’t forget that more than just business goals (sales, leads, conversion), you also need to create a plan for your people: what skills does today’s market demand and how can you help bring your people up to speed?
2. Ruthlessly evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
Look at last year’s plan and use metrics and reporting to identify which bets produced winners and which bets you lost. Also, look at the assumptions you used going into last year. Have they changed? Double-down on the best tactics and don’t forget to prune away the losing tactics, techniques and processes. And shift people to where they are needed most.
One of the biggest mistakes of a poor marketing plan is forgetting to determine what you will stop doing as you think long and hard about the new things you need to do. Another common mistake is not adequately staffing new areas because we are afraid of moving people from the old to the new challenges. Even those who fear change will appreciate it in the long run.
3. Model the appropriate marketing mix. In my last post, I talked about using math to build the business case for changing from an outbound to an inbound marketing strategy. In order to achieve a higher return on marketing spend, you have to take the objectives you identified in step 1, the tactics that worked and didn’t in step 2 and model the appropriate mix of tactics to achieve your 2012 objectives.
Some people are scared of marketing mix models. They say they are too quantifiable and don’t accurately reflect the reality of the future market reaction. However, they are a great place to start with a scientific approach to the question “how much should I spend in each marketing tactic?” You can always adjust based on new information or other observations (like benchmark data) to make that may not be reflected in your data.
4. Define your Content Strategy.
If you’ve read most of my recent posts you’ve heard my plea to marketers:
- Create an audience-first marketing mentality.
- Define a content strategy based on the needs of your buyers in each phase of their buying cycle.
- Deliver that content to the channels where your buyers spend their time.
Once you’ve identified the needs of your buyers, you may find that you are spending too much time, money and resources promoting your products and selling instead of telling stories about your people, your brand and helping your buyers with their jobs. This is not about being altruistic. It is about creating trust and value that will accrue back to your business.
5. Define an always-on, inbound marketing approach.
Demand never sleeps or stops. If you are not producing valuable content and helping your buyers at all times, someone else is. Google’s search engine doesn’t take a vacation or spend time with family over the holidays. The benefits of always-on, inbound marketing are more leads, better leads, cheaper leads, and leads when you need them:
- Produce a continuous bounty of new buyers to engage
- Focus your efforts on helping buyers early in the process and gaining their trust
- Personalize your marketing to produce higher conversions
- Create more leads for sales, for less money per lead, continuously over the course of the year