Marketing planning has always required significant investment in time and resources. However, not that long ago when media options were fairly limited, channel choices were pretty clear and communication paths were quite linear, the planning process was fairly uncomplicated.
Today, it’s a different story. In fact, today’s multitude of choices often results in a marketing plan with its hat in so many rings that only a very superficial effort can be dedicated to each, leaving some very important big-picture “musts” neglected.
Think about the email marketing program that never gains traction or the social media effort that takes hundreds of hours but doesn’t even make a dent.
Lots of work gets “done” – no doubt about that – yet it always seems as though you’re at square one.
While part of the problem is neglecting to consider the realities of execution during planning, another is neglecting to ask: Of all the things we could do, what should we do?
That’s where a very practical approach to marketing planning can turn everything around – an approach we call “Make this THE year we finally ….”
Here’s how it works.
Take a Look at What You’ve Accomplished and What You Haven’t
At a very basic level, every company needs to achieve the following marketing goals in this order:
- Create a differentiating brand
- Achieve visibility
- Generate engagement
- Attract leads
- Convert leads
Identifying what you’ve already accomplished and what you haven’t tells you where you should focus your marketing planning for the coming year.
However, determining whether a goal has been truly achieved (does it show ROI?) or simply checked off the list as something “we’ve worked on” requires evaluating each of the five marketing areas above in greater detail. Ask the following questions to pinpoint any underperforming aspects of your marketing program so you can laser-focus on conquering them next year.
Strong Brand: Can we clearly articulate our brand purpose, promise and value proposition?
If not, make this THE year your company finally develops a highly differentiated brand platform and translates that platform across all brand touchpoints, including every aspect of brand experience.
It might only require refocusing specific aspects of your brand message, or it might require (and deserve) a full rebrand. Either way, the effort you put in tackling this goal will have a major payoff for decades to come because effective marketing always starts with a stellar brand.
Visibility: Are we being found by our ideal customers? In particular, are we being found online where the buying cycle often starts?
If not, make this THE year your company finally puts everything it has it into building higher visibility. This might include a combination of online and offline strategies that create awareness of your company and its specific expertise.
If this is where you’re going to focus, make sure to benchmark the current level of visibility before you start, and then again at the six- and twelve-month points.
Engagement: Our prospects know about us, but are they engaged with us?
If not, make this THE year your company finally becomes more customer-centric than ever before, giving audiences more reasons to interact with and learn more about your brand, offerings and specialized expertise. Engagement strategies and tactics may include hosting events, conducting surveys, creating more expert content, using social media to drive conversation and much more.
Engagement is critically important because when you have engaged audiences, your brand awareness and visibility skyrocket, your word-of-mouth referrals increase exponentially, your leads get generated more easily and your sales cycle most likely shortens.
Lead Generation: Our prospects are engaged, but are they becoming leads?
If not, make this THE year your company finally develops an exceptional inbound lead generation funnel. Your funnel will still include all the “free” content you’re offering through your already successful engagement effort, but you’ll be taking it one step further by providing opportunities to access additional content in exchange for providing more detailed information. This more valuable content might include industry white papers and reports, demonstrations and downloadable tools. Make sure to include content that allows your company to respond to potential buyers’ objections before they’re even raised.
If you already have lead generation tactics in place but they’re simply not working, take a hard look at your content presentation (title, call to action copy and design) and topics. Make adjustments testing one element at a time – first making sure your content is valuable and of interest to your audiences.
Lead Conversion: We’re consistently generating leads, but are we successful at converting those leads into customers?
If not, make this THE year your company finally brings marketing and sales together to better qualify leads and to systemize follow-through on qualified leads so they don’t fall through the cracks.
Fight the misconception that publishing consistent and quality content is all that’s required for the phones to ring. No matter how many email communications you send or blogs you post or events you host, your prospects are not likely to become clients unless you have a clear and effective process for monitoring and ranking inbound leads, following up with additional tailored communications and knowing when it’s time for the sales team to contact the lead and begin the sales cycle (which also needs its own systemized and consistent follow-up process).Fully Commit to Achieving Your Single Selected Goal within 12 Months
The value of the above approach to marketing planning is twofold:
- It forces you to determine which goal you must focus on next (refer to the goals sequence at the beginning of this article), which inherently involves making an honest assessment of your company’s marketing results.
- It makes the world of options a whole lot smaller and, therefore, enables your marketing team to stop working on everything and zero in on select strategies and programs in the service of achieving your primary goal.
However, to make this work you have to make a commitment to accomplish the goal you’ve selected within 12 months. Fortunately, there is not a goal listed above that can’t be achieved within that timeframe, and being able to report a significant increase in brand visibility, engagement, lead generation or conversion is exactly what marketing leaders dream about.
Making this commitment means you’ll be making next year THE year your company’s marketing becomes more results driven than ever.