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Four Steps to Developing a Winning 2018 Marketing Plan

Welcome back to the office after the long Labor Day weekend! Hopefully you had some time to relax, because now is the time to start your 2018 planning if you want to kick off your marketing efforts in January of next year. Recently, we’ve heard a lot of marketing speak that says you don’t need a formal plan, and you need to remain agile so you can respond to changing circumstances and opportunities.  While there’s certainly some truth in the need to be agile, this doesn’t preclude the need to develop a well-defined strategic marketing roadmap to drive business growth and to force competitors to react to you.

When we talk to clients, we stress the importance of “aiming” before “firing” (remember, “ready, aim, fire”?) when it comes to developing a brand or marketing strategy.  They may be ready to invest in marketing, but when there’s little if any planning, they end up throwing a range of tactics against the wall, with the risk of wasting resources (time and money) and falling short of their objectives.

To help you avoid these mistakes, we’re here to provide a marketing planning roadmap to help you develop a winning plan in as short as 30-days!

Step One: Align Business Objectives with Marketing Objectives (5 Days)

First, make sure you know your organization’s key business objectives such as revenue growth, profit margin or market share. Then you need to align your marketing objectives with your business objectives. Examples of marketing objectives include lead generation, new customer acquisition, customer retention and brand awareness and preference levels. The more specific you make these objectives the better. These objectives must be agreed upon across the organization’s senior management team to ensure everyone understands what marketing is trying to accomplish and what resources (dollars and people) will be required. This will help avoid the situation where finance just gives marketing a budget without an understanding of what is needed to achieve the organization’s goals.

Step Two: Develop Strategies to Support Each Objective (10 Days)

Once you’ve gained alignment around the 2018 marketing objectives (try not to have more than 4-5), you need to develop a series of strategies that support each objective. For example, if your objective is to acquire new customers, some strategies might be to expand into new geographic regions or to generate leads among current customer segments. Taking this strategic approach helps marketers recommend a realistic budget for the upcoming year and gain organizational alignment. This is also the time to identify key strategic questions that might be answered through customer research. For example, you may want to understand what barriers to purchase prospective customers have regarding your product or service. Once marketing strategies and learning objectives are approved, it’s time to develop the detailed tactical plan. 

Step Three: Develop Tactics to Support Each Strategy (10-15 Days)

This is where the marketing objectives and strategies cascade down into the detailed plan, where each strategy is supported by prioritized initiatives. For example, for the lead generation among current customer segments strategy, tactics could include a variety of direct response initiatives (e.g., email campaigns, digital marketing – SEO, paid search, paid social,  etc.) while regional trade shows could be a tactic that supports the geographic expansion strategy. The range of initiatives should be prioritized (e.g., must do, nice to do, etc.) and budget estimates for each tactic must be developed. These activities should then be laid out in a marketing calendar based on the following factors:

  • How do activities reinforce and/or build on each other from a timing perspective?
  • How can we take advantage of category seasonality or expected competitive activity?

And remember, plans are made to be dynamic. You need to remain flexible enough to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and to respond to changing market and competitive forces.

Step Four: Tracking, Learning and Asking Questions (2-3 Days While Developing Tactics)

Finally, strong plans include the key metrics needed to track and optimize performance. And in addition to “what’s happening” it’s also important to understand “why it’s happening”.  Organizations often decide to cut activities that didn’t perform well without understanding the reasons why and could something have been done to improve performance.  Accordingly, be sure to include both attitudinal metrics as well as behavioral metrics in your plan.

For example, you may want to consider some of the following metrics in your plan:

Attitudinal Metrics:

  • Brand awareness and consideration
  • Brand preference (% of customers who would consider using your brand first)
  • Customer understanding of key product or service differentiators

Customer Behavioral Metrics:

  • New customer acquisition
  • Customer retention/repurchase rates
  • Average order size (in $)

Social Media Behavioral Metrics:

  • Engagement: Likes, views, followers and pins
  • Advocacy: Comments, retweets, shares

Another important factor in developing your plan is determining if you have the right level of internal and external resources to effectively execute the planned activities.

We’re confident that if you follow these four steps, you’ll have a robust 2018 marketing plan ready in 30 days (or less!). This disciplined approach will give you plenty of time to come charging out of gates on January 1 with a smart and comprehensive plan that will help you achieve your goals and put your competition on their heels. And this 4-step planning process works for all organizations, regardless of size or budget, because it ensures your marketing activities have a clear strategic direction that the entire organization has bought into.

We’re here to help take your organization through this process, developing a custom plan that will drive growth and rally the organization behind your marketing efforts. Let’s set up some time for a conversation.

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