Companies that develop a clear marketing plan consistently outperform those without one. Marketing planning helps you to strategize in line with your goals, get closer to your audience, and plan effectively against the competition. It’s a way to have an efficient and systematic approach for expanding reach, connecting with your target audience, attracting traffic, engaging with them, cultivating brand love, and driving them to action.
Follow these 11 key steps for a marketing plan that ensures stronger results in 2023.
1. Create Quarterly Plans
Many companies will create annual marketing plans. But many fail at fulfilling those plans. With annual plans, you’ll find that teams are not laser-focused on what needs to be accomplished week to week. They often fall into the trap, for example, of doing what’s urgent rather than what’s important. Many even forget what the annual plan was by Q2…
What’s far more effective is to create quarterly marketing plans that act as clear, focused, and detailed roadmaps. Quarterly plans bring more urgency to your team, plus they are more actionable. In addition, by planning on a quarterly basis, you make it easier for your team to know what to do next, to know what to do this week, and to know what to do this month. You can then track your progress weekly or monthly, and ensure that you hit your quarterly goals.
A useful book on this topic is The 12-Week Year by Brian Moran.
2. Start with Both End Goals & Process Goals
As an agency, we meet with many companies. What surprises us time and again is how many companies fail to establish clear marketing goals as part of their marketing planning.
When you set your goals as part of your marketing planning process, be sure they are clear and measurable. Aiming to increase revenue? By how much? Within what timeframe? For which products? In which geographies? Etc.
Make sure everyone on the team is informed and can immediately recite the team’s business goals. Alignment among all team members helps you to galvanize all of your resources and brainpower towards your stated goals.
Go beyond lag goals, though.
How? With lead goals.
As explained in the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, in addition to defining your team’s end goals, it’s critical to set lead goals (otherwise called “process goals”). Looking to increase U.S. revenue for your services by 35% within the next year? What are the specific actions you need to take each month in order to make that happen? Be specific, and track these monthly actions as their own distinct milestone goals. Do so, and you’ll increase the probability of achieving your marketing goals exponentially.
3. Get Upstream Input from Your Agency
Sitting in a conference room with your internal team brainstorming your marketing plan? Do you find you’re regurgitating and recycling the same ideas?
A far better approach to marketing planning is to involve your marketing agency from the start — and throughout the entire process.
Your agency works with many brands and is constantly talking with new companies. What this means is that they are exposed to a lot of approaches and campaigns, and they see what’s working and what’s not across a broad sample set.
It’s crazy to ignore all of this insight and instead try to figure out your plan myopically with only internal team members, only to fill in your agency after the fact. As Gartner stated in its Annual CMO Spend Research Webinar, “Agencies offer an unparalleled breadth of scope and an ability to offer much-needed external input.”
Want more intriguing ideas and better results in the coming year? Easy — get your agency involved upfront, and let the creative ideas flow.
4. Identify Your 80/20 Opportunities
Some of your marketing activities produce outsized results, whereas others simply do not. Instead of continuing with marketing that you’ve done in the past simply because you’ve always done it that way, aim to cut whatever is lacking results. Be honest. Be ruthless.
Then, double down on what works.
Too many companies become complacent with “what’s working”, rather than shifting budgets and resources to fuel even more growth. Instead, identify the marketing activities that produce significant results for your business. As long as they are producing strong ROI, pour more funds and resources into them. Then, pour even more. Push your chips into the center of the table.
By focusing on fewer, yet more potent, marketing initiatives, you’re able to direct resources to activities that give you the greatest returns and that drive growth faster. Much faster!
5. Revisit Your Audience Segments, Personas, and the Customer Journey
Any time you are developing marketing plans, align your goals, strategies, and tactics with your target market and its various pain points. To that end, revisit and reassess your audience segments.
Are you missing an opportunity to break down your audience into more granular segments? Often, narrowing your focus will help you resonate more deeply with hyper-targeted prospects while helping you to stand out from the pack.
Similarly, you may be ignoring adjacent audience segments that could be low-hanging fruit for profitable new sources of revenue. Already selling to restaurants? Then perhaps you should target food management services at universities, as well.
For each segment, define your target buyer personas, prioritizing the goals they are trying to achieve and the challenges they face in achieving them. Talk to your customers. Conduct market research and surveys. Keep up to date with search, content, and social data. Document the questions that run through each persona’s mind as they think about their challenges.
Understand your personas as deeply as possible. Then, construct a customer journey map for each persona and develop a plan to connect with them more successfully throughout their journey.
6. Conduct a SWOT Analysis
Your business has likely evolved and changed through the years. When was the last time you conducted a SWOT analysis?
If it’s been a while, conduct a fresh, new SWOT analysis now. What this does is help you to assess your:
- Threats (to the Business)
The benefits to your marketing planning are numerous. A SWOT analysis helps you to decide:
- How to outmaneuver the competition
- Where your best bet for future growth will be
- Whether to introduce a new product or service
- If you should drop any existing products or services
- Whether to target a new audience segment
- If you should drop any existing segments
A Winning Marketing Plan for Greater ROI
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7. Establish Your Marketing Strategy
Too many companies confuse tactics for strategy. Deciding to do email marketing, SEO, or video marketing is NOT a strategy.
If you want to gain a competitive advantage and maximize your marketing results, it’s important to clarify your marketing strategy and then to fully commit to it in your marketing planning.
Strategy is simply creating a game plan to win:
- What specifically does winning look like?
- How are you going to win?
- On which specific playing field?
- Determine how will you do it consistently.
- How will you do it decisively?
- How will you measure success?
Perhaps you’re looking to win by being the innovation leader in your industry. So, you may decide that you’re going to win by being the most innovative with your marketing in alignment with this message. With this as your core strategy, you can then more easily plan the marketing that fully aligns with your strategy, connects deeply with your audience, differentiates your brand, and delivers a competitive edge. In other words, you can put all of your marketing ideas and options through a clear decision filter, galvanizing and strengthening your marketing.
The important thing is to clearly define your strategy for winning, and then to optimize and refine your approach until you’re absolutely crushing it.
8. Be the Only One
Too often, we run into companies that are merely one among a sea of options. They may be a good company with good products or services; however, they cannot run from the fact that their audience has difficulty understanding how they are different and why they should select them among all of their options.
This is seriously problematic in that it leaves your sales up to chance. It’s also bad as you lose all pricing power.
Determine where you can be the ONLY one to offer a particular solution or the ONLY one to deliver it in a specific way or for a specific audience, etc. In what way is your brand the only one of its kind?
9. Rethink Your Marketing Mix
Once you have your marketing strategy in place, it’s time to define the specific channels, platforms, tactics, tools, and calendars in your marketing planning.
Going all in on content marketing this coming year? Define whether this means blogging, white papers, webinars, videos, podcasts, or other types of content. Determine the timing and frequency. Define the audience per content piece. Articulate the outcomes you want to see.
And remember, it’s far better to engage in fewer marketing initiatives and to do them exceptionally well than it is to try to boil the ocean and take on too many initiatives. You’ll be more successful if you go deep as opposed to going wide.
An excellent tool to help you pick winners among your top options is a matrix defining effort, time, cost, and ROI per option. Stratabeat uses this approach for both ourselves as well as clients, and it’s extremely effective.
If your marketing goals are focused on a major achievement in the next three months, then you cannot be relying on a marketing idea, no matter how awesome, that will take too long. Similarly, if you don’t have the bandwidth, don’t select options that require a group larger than what you have or what you’re able to outsource. Calculating the projected ROI ahead of time helps you keep expectations in the reality zone and enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most.
Rethink Lead Generation
Read Stratabeat CEO Tom Shapiro’s book, Rethink Lead Generation, to learn how to apply lateral thinking to your business for accelerated growth. Download a Free Chapter!
10. Innovate for Growth
Here’s an essential ingredient for continual growth:
But innovation doesn’t happen by magic. It takes a concerted effort. If you want growth next year, not to mention the year after that and the one after that, run two businesses concurrently, not just one. Operate your business of today while also running your business of tomorrow. Reserve at least 10% to 20% of your marketing budget for innovation, testing new things and pushing the envelope.
Innovation should be a necessary part of your marketing planning. After all, the market won’t wait around for you. Your competitors certainly won’t. It’s up to you to look around the corner and stay ahead of your audience in solving their problems and marketing to them in fresh ways that resonate.
11. Measure Performance & Optimize through KPIs
Finally, be sure to decide on your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for measuring progress against your goals. Define what “success” looks like, and be specific. The success metrics for your process goals must be measurable.
Strategic 2023 Marketing Planning
Ready to build a marketing plan that gets results? Give Us a Shout!
Too many companies set goals and plans, but then lack the proper tracking, monitoring, measurement, and analysis. Without this type of follow-through, it will be difficult for you to optimize your marketing for better performance and to blow through your annual goals.
Set up an online dashboard and hold your team accountable. Make it easy to keep on top of your progress. A dashboard is an effective way to keep all of your team members up to date and on target for a stellar 2023.
This post was originally published on December 19, 2019, and was updated on November 16, 2020, December 13, 2021, and January 3, 2023.