In my first blog of this series, I shared the first two of five steps to building a marketing plan. These steps include knowing where you are now and where you want to be in the future, and, at a high level, the approaches or methods you will use to get there.
If you haven’t reviewed my Part 1 blog post yet, I encourage you to do so before reading on.
So your strategy is set—now what?
Step Three: Building the Plan
Brainstorm. With your intended goals and the strategies developed to support them, I recommend gathering some cross-functional team members and conducting brainstorms to help determine the best potential activities to support the identified strategies. There are many potential ways to conduct a brainstorm, but no matter the method, be sure to set the purpose and parameters for the brainstorm in advance (and at the beginning of the meeting), and ensure everyone has a chance to participate.
Prioritize. When you’ve generated an amazing list of potential activities and tactics, be sure to prioritize them to stay focused. What are the top three tactics you should employ? Think of it like this: if time and budget had to be cut, you’d want these three tactics to be protected because they are essential to the plan. Other supporting tactics could be included, too, but make sure you’ve prioritized what is most important to the success of your strategy.
Determine Required Resources. For each tactic, consider when you’d be planning and executing the tactic, and determine what you’ll need to successfully execute the plan. When will these tactics occur during the year? What staff or skill sets do you need, and how much of their time is required? What is the budget? What tools or technologies do you need? What about information or data? Are there specialized vendors you’ll need to identify and work with to execute the tactic? These factors help determine the overall resources needed for execution, and when rolled up, the overall resources by strategy.
Determine Measurement. Measurement metrics are essential. I’d recommend these on both the tactical and strategic level. Tactically, how will you know if the tactic was successful (ideally connecting to the strategic measures)? Perhaps it’s the number of inquiries received or the number of presentations provided or proposals generated. For each strategy, consider the leading indicators and lagging indicators for the strategy. A leading indicator is a predictive measure of future success, and a lagging indicator is the measurement of the success itself. For example, let’s say Meld knows that for every 10 proposals we develop, we get seven new customers.
For a business development strategy, the leading indicator would be the number of proposals generated, and the lagging indicator would be the number of new customers obtained. Be realistic in setting the goals for these leading and lagging indicators: base them off of history and true figures. This can also help you determine the potential return on investment and impact of your efforts.
Mitigate Risks. Finally, before you submit your plan, consider all of the “what-ifs.” These could be internal or external factors. Ultimately, what could go wrong or keep your tactic from reaching your desired outcomes? For each risk, consider the impact of that risk (if it occurred) and the likelihood the risk could occur. Consider how you might mitigate those risks proactively, or if those risks did occur, what would your contingency or reactive action plan be?
Step Four: Approving the Plan
Stakeholder Reviews. We all know buy-in is important, and hopefully you’ve been engaging and utilizing stakeholder expertise throughout the process. If so, you likely have these individuals’ attention, and you also have some of their time and energy. This may help you when you get to the approvals process. However, some important team leads may not have been engaged throughout the process, or they may have only been involved in one aspect of marketing plan development. I recommend meeting with them one-on-one to discuss a high-level overview of the plan and their involvement or influence, and answer any of their questions in advance. This helps you identify who will be supportive during approval time, and also, who may need extra time, information, or convincing before they approve. Document who you met with, their role, and the date you met with them.
Stakeholder Approvals. The approvals process itself should be more than just a presentation of the plan. It should be a presentation with a formal approval of the plan, including resource needs (budget and time). The presentation for stakeholder approval should be a high-level executive summary that includes:
- Mission statement
- Brand promise
- Vision statement
- 3-4 strategic initiatives
- How it will be measured (leading and lagging)?
- Top three priority tactics
- Overall number of supporting tactics (not listing each individual supporting tactic)
- Total projected hours
- Total projected budget
- Total projected impact
- Total projected return on investment
While there are more data points you could share, you want to keep your presentation simple and focused. As stakeholders have questions, you can refer to your plan to answer them. Don’t go too far into the details, timelines, action plans, risk mitigation, etc. This can confuse and overwhelm your audience. Once approved, document the individuals to whom the plan was presented, the date approval was received, and the approved budget amount.
Step Five: Executing and Reporting on the Plan
Once the plan is approved, you get to put your preparation into practice! In addition to serving as your guide for the year, the marketing plan can also be the place you keep track of what you actually did, how it went, and what you might do differently. This can help you when building the next year’s marketing plan.
- Track Activity and Budgets. Document what you did, how much it cost, and how long it took.
- Be Nimble. New opportunities may come up during the year that align with your strategy, and you’ll need to be flexible enough to incorporate them. Let’s say you won an award or received some acclaimed press coverage—would you simply not mention it because it wasn’t listed in the plan? If it aligns with the strategy, add it to the plan and maximize the publicity accordingly. However, if a new opportunity arises and it doesn’t align with your strategic objectives, file it away as a potential option for next year’s marketing plan.
- Monitor Performance. Watch to see how your tactics are moving the needle. Monitor individual tactical performance, and review your leading and lagging indicators on a monthly basis.
- Optimize Tactics, Adjust Your Plan. Knowing what is and isn’t working allows you to adjust your tactical plan accordingly to generate success. If a social post is performing well and another is not, hypothesize on the “successful” element and use additional A/B testing to see if your theory is correct. When you find elements for success, try to repeat them in other ways with different efforts. If you know certain efforts aren’t generating the planned results, find ways to improve them.
- Report to Stakeholders. While you and your direct team and supervisor may want more regular (biweekly or monthly) reporting on tactical performance and leading/lagging indicators, keep it simple for your leadership-level stakeholders. For senior executives, focus on the key strategic initiatives and the leading/lagging performance of each. Share how you have adjusted your plan or what you recommend based on these results.
- Document Recommendations For the Future. You are going to encounter positive and not-so-productive results during the year. Use your marketing plan to capture what went well, what you wish you had done differently, and even advice for your “future self” when you look back on what happened during your year in marketing.
While the process of building a marketing plan may seem cumbersome or time consuming, it’s an essential part of your marketing efforts. A marketing plan provides focus, identifies your needs, and helps keep you on track throughout the year.
On the people side, it can engage your stakeholders, communicate a clear plan for the future, and demonstrate your initiative to support the company’s goals.
On the measurement side, it can help you share your successes, identify challenges you encountered, and provide a single location for your recommendations in the future. What are other things you should know about your marketing plan?
In my next blog, I will share some common marketing plan mistakes and potential ways to avoid them. Two other blog topics you might find helpful when building your marketing plan: How Much Do Marketing Services Cost and Multichannel or Omnichannel: How to Market Your Company.
I wish you the best of luck in building a comprehensive marketing plan.
Need some help? Feel free to reach out to us to talk about ways we can support your efforts