The pressure’s on. There’s an email sequence going live tomorrow, an events programme running, sales collateral going to print and a presentation going through sign off… sound familiar? This is the common juggling act performed by inhouse marketing teams – across all industries. There’s just not enough time to focus on marketing planning.
But the truth is, no matter how big or small your business is, if you want to produce results for your business you need to get your marketing right. The reactive firefighting will continue to be the norm until you break the cycle and invest time in your marketing plan.
When you study marketing, understanding the theory behind each element that makes up both the planning process and strategy development is at the centre of your learning. But, unlike other professions (oddly), many people in marketing roles have no formal marketing training or qualifications!
Because of this, marketing planning is often seen like an unnecessary evil – to the uninformed. And an out-of-reach ideal to the informed. Proper planning takes time and effort, but without a plan your marketing is literally scatter gunning tactics in the dark. The chances of you hitting the target are slim, at best.
Make time to plan your marketing and be sure to look beyond tactics. Here’s some key steps to nailing your marketing plan:
If you put customer first you can never go wrong. Bold statement, but it’s true. Right from planning to writing content and designing products – thinking about what this means for your customer is critical.
Firstly, identify your target audience and understand their wants and needs. Know what their pain points are and this will help you position your solution in the best way.
You must speak to your customers and listen. Learn from them. Using gut feelings or insights from one or two individuals won’t get you close enough to the right answer. Spend time on some qualitative and quantitative research.
You’ll also use desk research to understand what’s happening with your sales now, and what your competitors are offering.
This leg work may seem futile in developing communications, but it’s a critical step. Knowing exactly where you’re starting from is essential.
Once you know where you are, you can set the goals of what you want your marketing to achieve. Your marketing objectives are intrinsically linked to overarching business objectives. Once you know where the business is aiming you can align the goals of your marketing plan to help achieve that.
Objectives are important not only to shape the strategy, but to measure your success against.
Getting to grips with this detail will help you develop your core messages – three or four key ideas that resonate with your audience and align to your proposition. This won’t necessarily be campaign ready, but it will be the pillars that all of your content hangs off.
Nailing your core messages in your marketing plan will bring consistency to your communications.
Setting the KPI’s you will measure your marketing against – and then actually doing the measuring will help both next year’s marketing plan and your ability to demonstrate ROI. Measurable targets and regular reporting is non-negotiable.
If you haven’t started your plan for next year – there’s not a minute to lose! And whilst it may seem like an impossible task to carve out enough time to do it properly – I guarantee it will be worth it. Hopefully these tips help too.