It's the end of the year and that means 3 things:
- Colder weather
- Candy canes & eggnog
- Annual planning
While many of us look forward to the first two, few truly enjoy the process of planning out their upcoming year's marketing activity.
Maybe it's the lack of visibility into what next year will hold. Maybe it's a fear of having to execute against seemingly impossible company goals. Maybe it's just the uncomfortably large amount of eggnog that you drank that's making it so that you don't want to move, let alone map out your marketing department's plan of attack for next year. No matter what it is, many of us find it hard to uncover the inspiration and information needed to help build a sound marketing plan that will drive the needed improvements and growth to reach the New Year's goals.
Knowing that this can be hard for many, I've put together a list below that details out different ways that you as a Marketing Director can find areas for growth and improvement within your current campaigns so that you can ultimately build an annual plan that will help you succeed by hitting those lofty goals established by your organization.
1) Review Your Organization's Goals & Initiatives, Its Expectations of Marketing Results, And Your Budget
Much like any other planning process, understanding the ultimate directive from the company and the resources provided to you in order to meet goals is the first step to building a successful annual marketing strategy. To do this, ask yourself (and potentially your leaders) the following questions:
- What are the organization's goals for the upcoming year? Are they merely focused on year-over-year growth or are there new or specific metrics that they're more focused on?
- Are there any new initiatives that would affect your marketing? Is your organization considering taking new products/services to market at any point next year? Are you considering targeting different markets than you currently are focused on?
- Is my budget changing at all moving into next year? If there are aggressive goals or new initiatives that you must take on, will you be given the necessary amount of resources to help you be successful?
Understanding what your company is looking to achieve, what is expected of your department, and if/how your budget will allow you to meet those expectations will get you in the right mindset for annual planning in general but will also allow you to map out from a high level what you may need to do in the upcoming year to set yourself up for success.
2) Look At Your Marketing & Sales Data
Once you understand what your goals and objectives are and what limitations you have due to budget and resources, you can now begin filtering all other information through that lens. First to be filtered through that should be your existing marketing and sales data because if you don't know what your baseline looks like, how can you establish a marketing plan that will drive improvements in results? Look for the information listed below in your tools and ask yourself the following questions:
- Current Year's Company & Marketing Goals. Is your company on track to hit its current annual goals? Are you on track to hit your marketing goals? Where did you exceed expectations? Where did you fall short?
- Key Marketing Metrics Showing Growth/Success & Decline/Failure. Consider the major metrics like website traffic, lead generation, marketing qualified leads handed off to sales, and marketing-attributed customer generation. Other, lesser metrics to consider as well might be things like social media following & reach, social post engagement, blog traffic & attributed leads, organic traffic & keyword rankings, and any other pieces of data that might showcase progress within specific areas of your marketing campaign. Which areas showed the greatest amount of growth and/or success? Which areas took a turn for the worse or just never picked up steam?
Digging into these baseline metrics allows you to use this data to better analyze the successes and failures of your current marketing and sales campaigns so that you can make decisions for next year that will allow you to focus on your positives, cut your losses on the negatives, and work to improve in the areas that are needed most.
3) Look at Feedback From Your Audience
Goals and budgets are great for direction. Data is great for focus. Feedback is great for innovation.
You've probably heard it before; marketing strategy can't be created in a vacuum. It needs context and considerations that can only be found through conversations and feedback received from your target audience. Reach out to current and past customers as well as sales prospects to collect opinions from them on the following:
- Job Roles, Goals, & Challenges Connected To Your Product/Service. Talking about your audience's roles, goals, and challenges isn't just for persona interviews at the beginning of a campaign. When executing a feedback conversation with a customer or prospect, you should always look to find out new pieces of information about that person's roles, goals, and challenges if for no other reason than to ensure that you're still on the same page with them. Who knows, you may uncover a golden nugget that you had missed in your research earlier on in the campaign.
- Effectiveness of Your Current Marketing Campaigns. If your audience has been subjected to your marketing materials and promotions already, it's worth getting their thoughts and opinions on them. Collect information on everything you can from how they feel about the design to the copy to the promotion channel. Did they ultimately like it? Was it helpful or useful?
- Upcoming Marketing Ideas. If you have a member of your target audience in front of you and already have ideas for marketing to them moving forward, wouldn't it make sense to get their feedback and opinion on whether or not they think what you have is good? Without giving up too much information, run some of your upcoming year's campaign ideas by them to see if they believe you're on the right track in their eyes. While you're there, you might as well see if that person is willing to put their marketing pants on themselves and give you any ideas that they think would be good for you and your team to do.
While this activity shouldn’t be limited to end of the year planning, it’s certainly helpful when it comes to finding opportunities for growth, improvement, and innovation. Not everyone will be helpful and not all of their ideas will be gems. For that reason, it's essential to stay connected to your target audience when it comes to creating and updating ongoing marketing campaigns that will drive results.
Putting it All Together
Many believe that building an annual marketing plan is a massive creative endeavor reliant upon expert vision and a crystal ball. While vision does play a part (and having a crystal ball most certainly doesn't hurt), proper research in the above 3 areas can play a major role in helping uncover the key areas of focus and growth for your digital marketing campaigns moving into the new year. If you haven't set your growth goals for the upcoming year, it might be time to reach out to our team!