There are two types of people: those that plan, and those that don’t.
There are also two other kinds of people: those that make New Year’s resolutions, and those that don’t.
Combine these categories together, and you have the recipe for either success or failure: those people that make New Year’s resolutions AND plan, or those that make New Year’s resolutions and DON’T plan.
With a new year rapidly approaching, it’s time to figure out which type of person you are. Your digital marketing campaign depends on it.
How to Succeed in the New Year
Everybody wants big things to happen for them, and everybody sees the New Year as a way to start fresh and break all of the bad habits they’ve adopted in past years in order to make these big things happen. But the difference between success and failure is the planning you put behind your resolutions to make them a reality. Setting a New Year’s resolution is no different than a digital marketing firm setting SMART goals for the year. It’s all fun and games for the first week of the year when everybody buys a gym membership in an attempt to lose weight, and then 2 weeks later only the truly dedicated remain at the gym and the rest of the fools that were set on losing weight are back on the couch with a bag of chips. And what becomes of your digital marketing campaign? Will it be given a real chance to succeed, or will a half-hearted attempt be made and when the going gets tough, you’ll give up and just take a seat on the couch too?
That’s not how we roll here at Revenue River. Instead, we spend hours meticulously planning campaign activities for the upcoming year that we are sure will help us (and our clients) achieve our goals. And since one of my personal New Year’s resolutions is to be more giving, let me start now by showing you and your marketing team how to effectively plan your entire digital marketing strategy for the upcoming year and set SMART marketing goals to guide your activities and gauge your success. Watch out, we comin’!
Use Your Baseline and Let Your Goals Guide You
First thing’s first: what do you want to achieve? You can’t effectively plan your annual marketing strategy without knowing what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. What does success look like to you? Pick 2-3 important metrics to focus on and then build your baseline. A typical set of metrics to focus on may be traffic, leads, and qualified leads. However, you can also focus on areas like tradeshow attendance, reach, engagement, and more. Find what’s important for your organization. Look at performance data for previous years to build your baseline and then set your goals from there. It’s important to get your SMART goals just right – set them too high and you’re setting yourself up to fail, and set them too low, and you didn’t really push yourself as much as you should have. For more help on setting the proper SMART goals, check out these articles:
Brainstorm… (A lot)
It’s not the thing you want to hear from me right now, but after you establish your goals it’s time to brainstorm all of your potential marketing activities for the year. Sit yourself and your team down with a whiteboard and get down to business. To get started, write your 2-3 major goals at the top of the whiteboard so you are reminded of what you’re trying to achieve. Anything that you’re writing on the whiteboard should directly drive toward the achievement of those goals. No idea is bad – just write it down! It’s important to brainstorm out and list any and all of the major events you know are occurring throughout the year such as new product launches, a big conference, a grand opening, etc. You can list these out on one side of the board and all marketing tactics/activities that could or should be used to support those big events on the other side. Encourage participation from other departments such as sales, HR, etc. They may play a role in your goal achievement or have major events planned so it’s important to get their ideas and understand their needs as well.
Break the Year Up into Smaller, Focused Campaigns
Now you’re overwhelmed because, holy shit, look at all of the possibilities you brainstormed out on the whiteboard. How are you supposed to plan an entire year in advance when you can’t even figure out what you’re having for lunch in an hour? It’s okay. Deep breaths. Let’s make this manageable. Take a look at all of the activities you’ve brainstormed, and see if you notice any trends. Are any of these activities time-sensitive? Can any of these activities be grouped together into a micro-campaign? Thinking of your overall annual plan in terms of smaller campaigns makes things much more manageable and allows your team to stay focused. You can break these campaigns into quarters (3 months at a time) or longer depending on what the initiatives are. You can keep the annual plan broader, and then as the next micro-campaign approaches, delve into details based on your needs at that time. Some examples of ways you can break your campaigns up into smaller campaigns are:
Tradeshows – do you know that in Quarter 3 of the year you will be attending a ton of tradeshows? Make this your tradeshow campaign and group all of the necessary activities related to this campaign within this bucketed micro-campaign.
Campaign 1 (Content Creation), Campaign 2 (Promotion/Amplification) – you can also break your year up into broader campaigns if you don’t have something as specific as tradeshows, or you’re attending tradeshows year-round. You may know that you need to start with content creation and can weave that into all of your initiatives for the year (such as a new product launch or a big event) and then plan out based on the dates of any of these initiatives. Then you know that you will have to promote this content after it is created, so this can be your promotion/amplification campaign that will also directly relate to the initiatives you’ve already mapped out.
Set a Budget, Then Organize and Prioritize
Now that you have all of your major initiatives and potential activities listed out, it’s time to actually prioritize them. First, make sure you know what your budget is. If all of the activities you’ve listed can’t be made to fit into the established budget, you’ll need to organize and prioritize the activities you have listed out to make it work. To effectively prioritize your campaign activities, make sure you are constantly asking yourself, “What is going to go the furthest towards achieving our goals?” and then you can cut out the activities that may just leave you spinning your wheels versus actually making progress towards your goals.
Create Accountability for Execution
Now that you have your finalized plan, it’s time to establish a way to ensure you will execute it. We don’t want to become those lazy asses that stop going to the gym 2 weeks into the New Year, right? This can be achieved in a couple of different ways, but it’s important to do what you know will work best for you and your team. This can come in the form of a document that everyone who is in charge of execution can easily access, timelines that the team can easily follow along with on their calendars, weekly status update meetings, etc. Communication and buy-in is critical so that everybody is on the same page, knows the plan, and knows who is responsible for what and when.
Bonus Step: Get Yourself a Beer
Who says marketing can’t be fun? You earned it!
Keep in mind, creating an annual marketing plan is guaranteed to set you up for success. You will go into the New Year much more focused with a targeted approach and clear goals so you can hit the ground running. However, it’s also important to see your annual marketing plan as more of a playbook that you should be referencing at key points throughout your campaign. It doesn’t mean you can’t realign, reprioritize, or change up your marketing activities throughout the year. It’s important to remain agile and flexible to be able to make key strategic shifts when you need it the most based on what your results are telling you. Remember: it’s all about achieving those goals, so as long as you keep the end in mind, and do your due-diligence to prepare and plan ahead as much as possible, it will be a kick-ass year for your organization.