The Art Of The Marketing Plan

Marketing planning season is upon us and it's time to get your ducks in a row.  If you haven't thought about what to do for next year, take a look at my previous post "Look Forward By Looking Back" to get you started, but to get a plan that's the most beneficial and applicable for your business it comes down to five core elements:

  • Objectives - the best marketing objectives tie into business objectives that are clear and known throughout the organization.  If you're creating objectives in a vacuum it will hard to get the consistent buy in required to execute on the plan throughout the year.  The more specific the objective the better, and you get extra credit for quantifiable goals that can be measured under the Measurement & ROI section.
  • Strategies - the Harvard Business Review states that "a good strategy provides a clear roadmap, consisting of a set of guiding principles or rules, that defines the actions people in the business should take (and not take) and the things they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals."  Marketing strategies should take the business objectives and show how marketing will positively impact them over the course of the plan.  Make sure you are not rehashing objectives or just outlining tactics here - there should be depth and thought about how what you do in marketing will truly matter to the business.
  • Tactics - this is where you show how and where you will execute the marketing plan across the various channels available to you.  A rank order of tactics tied into objectives and strategies (and probably budget too) is not a bad idea since that will make sure the most important items get addresses first or you can put them in order of relative importance to executive management.  Regardless make sure it's comprehensive and possibly includes some wish list item that you would like to get funded for the year.  Remember this is your chance to ask for what you want and what the business needs and if you don't get it you may be waiting a year to ask again.
  • Measurement & ROI - marketers have continued to gain insight on the measurement aspect of programs as quantification of marketing has become somewhat easier, but there is still a long way to go and in most cases extrapolation is required to get a full view of marketing's impact.  Regardless of where you are you have to start somewhere, and it does help to get input from finance and/or accounting to see how they are looking at the business so your metrics are in line with theirs and the ability to share data across the enterprise improves.  Plus the more you can tie your plans to revenue growth the greater the synergy with sales.
  • Budget - confirmation of your budget by leadership makes sure you have the resources you need to achieve your plan.  Make sure you get it all and if not set the expectation about the limitations that you will run into from budget shortfalls.  Sometimes you can get more budget over the course of the year as business goals change (or as you ability to show strong ROI from the programs you are running) but normally marketing budgets get cut first.  Having contingencies and clarity about what can and cannot be done with the funds available will save your bacon politically more often than not.

You can get bonus points for a competitive analysis - I personally like at least an up-to-date view of what the key competitors are doing or have done over the course of the previous year so there is awareness about what is going on beyond your business.  This is not to belittle the need for competitive intel - it is critical and a bit of a lost art these days, but if you focus on the big five items above you will give your company the guidance and direction it needs from marketing in the coming year.