It's getting close to the end of the year (hard to believe) and most big companies will start their budget and planning process for the coming year. Depending on the organization and its degree of sophistication this can be a very formal or informal exercise usually run by finance and/or accounting. Regardless it definitely has an impact on marketers since money drives what we do and our ability to do it at scale.
For the rest of us, we're just trying to keep our heads above water and get through the remainder of the year in one piece, so the planning process is generally very quick, reactionary or non-existent. I recommend that if you want your marketing efforts to be on target down the road that you take some time to plan your strategies and activities. It doesn't have to be a formal, long-form document but if you don't plan the old adage of "if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there (Lewis Carroll)" can take hold. Plus I would bet that you would look back at this year and see how much more effective your marketing could have been if you had a plan from the start.
Here's how to build an actionable marketing plan for next year without all the pomp and circumstance:
- Figure out what's working and what's not - there are certain things you "have" to do in marketing your business (e.g. have a web site, etc.) but it's important to get a handle on the channels and tactics that are driving revenue to your business. In it's simplest form, do more of those things and take away from the non-core things that aren't working in your marketing.
- Determine what you need to do (and do better) next year - once you take stock of what's working, create a set of marketing priorities that your business needs to have for next year. My guess is that it will be a long list, so...
- Rank order your priorities - knowing what's important will focus your efforts on the items that matter. This will also help you understand that unless you're a giant company with tremendous resources the chances of you getting "everything done" isn't realistic. Rank ordering your priorities will force you to create levels of importance and set proper expectations about what can and can't be done. Your list may be no longer than 5, but doing 5 things great is a lot better than doing 50 things average (or not at all).
- Determine your action items - the steps above will help you determine your gaps and what you need to close based on goals and needs. You will have some things you have to do (i.e. those fixed marketing costs) but really drill down on the variable ones and figure out if and how they can differentiate you or make you more money. At the end of the day, that's what matters.
- Write it down - Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, did a study on goal-setting. She found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. Writing your marketing plan down will help you see it and be committed to it. I think a whiteboard is a good idea since it will be in your line of sight, which creates additional accountability.
It may take you a bit longer than you expect if this is your first year doing it, but I promise that you will be better focused on your marketing efforts in the coming year and each subsequent year the process will get easier and faster. Good luck!