Alan Lakein, creator of the time management field as we know it today, once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
As we approach the end of the year, it’s time to plan for your marketing success in the coming year and to refine and finalize your annual marketing plan. Think of it this way. You are either going to set your organization up for massive growth in the coming year, or you are not. Now is the time to solidify your plan. With the lack of a detailed marketing plan, you place your organization at risk of underperforming.
It’s easy to create a marketing plan. What’s more difficult is ensuring that your plan is sufficiently strategic and intelligent to drive growth. Merely increasing the volume/frequency of what you’ve been doing, or copying something a competitor has done, or adding tactics that the media is featuring are each common ways that companies wind up planning for the subsequent year. The problem with these approaches is that they often result in a sales plateau and a great deal of frustration.
Instead of spinning your wheels, here are five smart steps you can take to deliver significant growth in the coming year.
1. Align the Company’s Goals Across Every Department
Define and align on corporate goals across departments. Your Marketing and Sales should be working towards the same ultimate goals, but it doesn’t stop there. Product, Operations, HR, and Accounting need to be aligned, as well.
When a company is clear on its goals, every action can be used efficiently and effectively towards that goal, ensuring that you’re getting the most out of your resources. When everyone is fully aligned on the goals, objectives, and priorities of the organization, decision-making is easier and the impact of such decisions is amplified through a snowball effect. Focus is a powerful force in business, and a very powerful force when the entire company has a laser focus on what it needs to achieve.
It’s not enough to aim for 20%, 50%, or 100% growth. You need to be specific.
- Are you looking for the same rate of growth for every product or service? Be specific about your growth goals based on each offering.
- Are you aiming for a different level of growth in different geographic areas?
- Are there any new products or services you’ll be launching? What growth do you need to achieve for these specifically?
- What are your specific goals for products/services with the highest profit margin?
- What are your revenue goals per audience segment?
- Are there any new audience segments you plan to focus on, and if so, what would be considered successful traction in the year ahead?
- Besides revenue goals, what are your profit goals?
Make sure that every individual in every department is helping your brand to achieve your specific goals. Having every possible resource working in the same direction will help you to achieve greater growth.
2. Identify Your 80/20 Opportunities
Some of your marketing activities produce outsized results, whereas others underperform. Instead of continuing with marketing that you’ve done in the past simply because you’ve always done it or your team is comfortable with it, aim to cut whatever is not producing results in line with your growth goals. And double down on what works. You should be ruthless on the one hand, while being aggressive on the other.
When I was Director of Digital Strategy at a prior agency in the past, a colleague and I introduced local roadshow events to the marketing mix as a test. Up until that time, the company had relied on large industry events, which each cost $30,000 – $50,000 in sponsorship fees and costs. My colleague and I thought that local events, where we had 100% control and where we were not in a booth next to dozens of our competitors, would be a better way to go.
It soon became clear that our local events were a major hit. The first event itself produced not only one multi-million dollar contract, but a six-figure client as well. Soon after we landed another multi-million dollar client, and from there a string of additional clients. In less than a year, the local events were the top lead driver for the agency.
The following year, the investment in large industry events was drastically cut to allow for an all-out assault with the local roadshow events. I had been the 85th employee when I joined the agency. The local events helped us to grow to more than 700 employees within five years.
Identify the marketing activities that produce exponential results for your brand. By focusing on fewer, yet more potent, marketing weapons, you’re able to direct funds to activities that give you the greatest returns and that drive growth faster. Much faster.
3. Identify Market Trends
Microsoft entered the market at the beginning of the shift from minicomputers to the personal computer, and grew to dominate the PC software universe. Cisco sold internet infrastructure equipment when the internet market first exploded, and its sales exploded in turn. Facebook made its push into the nascent social media market, and consequently was able to ride a massive wave of momentum.
Back in 2012, our agency, Stratabeat, made the decision that all new websites we built would be responsive to accommodate for the growing popularity of mobile. Looking back, it was the best decision we could have made at the time, as smartphones and tablets came to dominate the growth in the market. Last year, mobile internet usage outpaced desktop usage for the first time – and we were ahead of the curve in being prepared to capitalize on this trend.
It’s always easier to grow when you are riding a wave. You can optimize the heck out of your marketing, yet if you’re going against the current, you will be unnecessarily limiting your opportunity for new customer acquisition and revenue growth. Make sure you are targeting a growing market, or find innovative ways to augment your revenue with new areas of growth.
4. Define Metrics that Fuel Growth
As an agency, we encounter a wide variety of companies. It always surprises me when a company does not define its marketing metrics in a way that directly drives growth.
For example, if you’re doing direct response, then you should know your target cost-per-lead (CPL). Then, if your numbers are beating your target CPL, the budget should increase accordingly until you can no longer meet the CPL. In other words, your marketing budget should be endless as long as you are under your target CPL. That is a surefire way to drive growth.
Similarly, if you know that visitors to certain pages in your website tend to convert at a much higher rate than other visitors, target your metrics accordingly. If every 1,000 visitors to such pages results in 50 new leads, and if in comparison your average page results in only 20 new leads for the same volume of visitors, then closely monitor the performance of those pages and never stop refining your funnel to drive more and more people to them. It’s not necessarily overall website traffic that indicates your revenue growth, but rather more targeted, segmented traffic numbers.
5. Cover Every Step in the Funnel
Your marketing plan may be thorough in raising awareness and getting your brand in front of new, prospective clients. Or it may be strong at nurturing leads in your database. Or it may be rock solid when a prospect is on the verge of a conversion.
To achieve growth, your marketing plan needs to be exceptional at every stage of the funnel. If the top of your funnel is weak, you’ll end up in an endless cycle of feast or famine. If the middle of your funnel is weak, you’ll lose too many prospects. And if your bottom-of-funnel is weak, you’ll wind up wasting a great deal of money on marketing that never results in revenue.
Too many companies create marketing plans that are strong in one area of the funnel, yet markedly weak in other areas. To grow, and to grow consistently, you always need new leads, and you always need to be turning prospects into clients. You need an engine that not only covers the full funnel, but is highly effective at each stage within the funnel.