How to create your annual marketing plan
The most successful marketers know that being organised, as much as being creative and analytical is a key skill and the secret to success. The more organised you are the better your results will be as a marketer. As much as anything else, marketing involves getting the agreement of several key stakeholders and anticipating delays and set backs. If your marketing budget request is due to be submitted by the end of March ahead of the April new financial year, then you need to start planning your annual marketing activity in January at the very latest.
Its important to get ahead of the finance teams before they decide to cut any marketing spend ahead of the budgeting cycle. Give you and your department time to propose your budget and also have an input into the sales projections for the year ahead. If you give yourself enough time to join up plans with sales and their targets, your budget is much more likely to be signed off.
A 12 month plan is optimum. Anything shorter is too tactical and anything longer won’t be relevant to your needs in the future as things change.
First of all, you need data and insight. You must not propose any marketing plan without analysis of past marketing activities and clear insight into the current market landscape.
It is crucial to build a marketing plan from fresh data, and not assumptions or outdated insights from a market that has changed significantly since the research was collected.
The data will allow you to build an up to date segmentation model. Segmentation refers to the groups or types of customers within your chosen market. Segmentation tends not to change too much from year to year but the sizes of each segment and how well you or your competitors are doing within each segment will most likely change and so always update it.
Once you are clear on your segmentation, you need to decide who you are targeting.
Ensure your targeting plan includes customers at the awareness/brand building longer term, top-of-funnel part of the process and then also some lower-funnel customer activation/conversion targets too.
Look at your segmentation and decide whether the customers fall into awareness or activation, and the add this layer of detail into your targeting plans.
A key tip is not to be driven by an influential and pushy sales team. (And remember it’s their job to be pushy and influential!)
Sales teams will try to persuade senior management to target areas that will make their lives easy, such as the actively engaged or loyal returning customers. Marketing budget needs to be spent on driving awareness from new lucrative areas as well as enabling conversion. It shouldn’t be spent on making the job of the sales team easier to close easy deals.
Through your analysis hopefully you will know where there is a potential need but low awareness and deep wallets. These are your ideal customers.
Get to know clearly who you are targeting through clear buyer personas. Who are they? What inspires them? What do they want? What don’t they want? What do they do in the market currently and why do they do it?
Next we consider positioning. Positioning is how your offer to the customer differs from anything else they have been offered. It’s presenting them with something that you want them to consider. Think about the key phrases and keywords you need to use to bring home this positioning. What feeling do you want to conjure up?
Then we move onto tactics. What is it you want your target audience to do? Buy for the first time? Buy more again? Trial something? Which marketing lever are you going to pull to enable this? Email? Paid social? A webinar?
You should create a marketing funnel which has conversion rates at each stage. This is where you can finally place your SMART objectives. SMART stands for specific measurable achievable realistic and targeted. If it doesn’t meet the SMART criteria, it shouldn’t be an objective.
Ensure you have a SMART objective for each tactic you choose. This will then lead onto your required budget estimate.
Finally you’re ready to request budget. It’s often useful to get some ballpark numbers from a couple of marketing agencies before proposing your budget request.
So there it is. Our guide to devising your annual marketing plan and submitting your budget request. As you can see time and preparation needs to be allocated to this task if it is to be meaningful. This is why being organised is a marketer’s secret weapon. It should then be a document that is referred to on a weekly basis by your marketing department to ensure it is being adhered to throughout the year and that progress is being made.
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