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Ready, Set, Plan (Not Too Fast) How to Prepare the Foundation for an Annual Marketing Plan

I want to make it clear that I’m a Braves fan. That said, I love Yogi Berra quotes. In thinking about planning for the upcoming year, his quote “If you don’t know where you are going you might wind up someplace else.” This…actually makes perfect sense!

“Squirrel!” How to Avoid Common Distractions

I have an interesting perspective in talking to many different clients about goals. We often discuss goals at a smaller scale – initiative outcomes, quarterly objectives, and an individual’s goals. But when it comes to annual planning, I find that nearly half of all marketers don’t have a clearly defined plan for the year that aligns with the overarching company strategy. Let’s face it, without an effective plan, it’s impossible to run an efficient department or even see areas of risk clearly.

To avoid “not knowing where you are going,” and gain that eagle-eyed marketing plan required to help you stay on course, here are a few common pitfalls you’ll need to avoid:

Themes

Does your company let employees vote on themes? I’m all for employee involvement, and it’s a neat way to brainstorm on campaigns and smaller initiatives, but when it comes to an annual plan, themes shouldn’t be selected at random or by popular vote. Use your ICP, buyer personas, customer insights, attribution data – anything tangible by data besides popular vote – to determine what themes or message alignment are the most effective in your market.

The “Squirrel” (Distraction)

Hot topics are “hot” for a reason, but they aren’t one size fits all. Would ABM be a good model for you? Will investing in more technology help you move marketing generated leads to won deals quicker? Sometimes you have to look past the shiny thing.

Planning Too Much 

I love lists and being productive fuels me, but this is the time to get the high-level goals in place…and make sure they’re attainable. Many goals are dependent on other aspects being fully fledged and built and require alignment to the overarching company strategy. Our Revenue Acceleration Framework can be a helpful guide to determine where you have alignment and where you have missing pieces of the puzzle.

Ok, so where do you start?

marketing planning

Setting the Foundation for Effective Annual Planning

Now that you are aware of the pitfalls you’ll encounter along the way, you’ll want to put your back into the effort of gathering the information you need to start the planning process.

Past & Present

Numbers and data build cases for future decisions. This is the time to focus on last year’s goals – Did you reach the goals you set a year ago? Why or why not?

After you look at the metrics, get input from those involved. These insights can add context to performance and outcomes. Take note of any in business goals or seasonality that could have shifted the plan.

Your hypothesis may be that your budget was too small, or that you missed opportunities because you didn’t have the full tech stack, but this may point to other factors such as not enough talent to support the existing tech stack or use of the wrong channels in reaching your audience. Find your gaps and document them so that you can plan proactively around them in this year’s annual plan.

Look to the Future

Build on top of your data points with situational analysis by evaluating the following:

  • Business Model
    • Consider: Shifts in goals and KPIs for the model, organizational structure, products/services, and market (including competitors, ICP, and messaging)
  • External Factors
    • Consider: Current events, economic trends and stories, and new channels or outlets.

This is also a chance to align with your executive team and get input into what’s important and why. It’s vital that marketers understand the overarching objectives of the executive 2-, 5-, 10-year plans and an effective marketing plan will incorporate those (with situational analysis and data research) into achievable annual goals.

Now You’re Ready to Start Annual Planning

Now you’re ready to get that plan together! Remember to take your time, pull in other “eyes” to provide input, be realistic, and be optimistic! Think of your plan as a roadmap, driving you towards a continually changing adventure. As you keep your eye on the end of the destination, you can always revisit the foundation you’ve built your plan upon when a dramatic shift in the market or business requires you to take a detour and evolve your plan. It will keep you agile and focused on achieving desired results.

Feeling stuck? Start your plan off on the right foot with our free revenue acceleration assessment. We’ll help you determine where your team has set down a solid foundation and where you might need a little jumpstart. You are not alone, let’s make 2019 a big year – together!

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