I’m one of those really weird geeks who likes to plan, simply because I can’t stand just doing “things” without having a conviction about whether or not these are the right things.
So how do we approach marketing planning with the greatest chance of success? Here’s how my team worked on planning, along with some tips for planning during these mixed times.
Start with the customer
As with most things in marketing, good planning starts with the customer. This usually means revisiting the ideal customer profile (ICP) and customer segmentation. Has anything changed? What does your data show – does one part outperform the other? Has your ICP changed, or (for institutions) has your buyer committee expanded to include more influencers? Ask yourself these important questions before you start crafting those great marketing ideas. It is also useful to take a look at the market and see if any external factors are having a significant impact on your clients’ business. For example, how has the global pandemic affected your business? What changes have you made as a result?
Related article: Is it time to rethink your customer personas?
Don’t ignore your competitors
Unless you work for a huge tech company that has few (if any) competitors, it’s also a good idea to take a look at what your competitors have been up to. Have they released new features they’re promoting? Did they change their pricing strategy? Did they update their website with new messages that make you think a little differently about yours?
While I think it’s smart to stay focused more on the needs of your customers versus playing chicken with your competitors, it pays to stay on top of what they are planning so you don’t find yourself scrambling to compete for a month in your new marketing plan. I find it particularly helpful to create SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) networks for each competitor as well as my company. Doing so can help you decide where to place your bets. If you go this route, make sure you don’t make assumptions about your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses – rely on objective facts you gather from actually using their product(s), from customer reviews on third-party review sites, and from competitor sites.
Related article: Where does competitive responsiveness fit into your marketing strategy?
A list is not a plan (and a goal is not a goal)
One of the biggest mistakes I see marketers make is jumping right into the fun stuff: the list of marketing ideas they want to try! No matter how creative or even data-driven this list is—and even if it’s a timeline or calendar view—it’s still just a list of things unless you start with an idea of what you’re trying to achieve. In other words, what is your goal? It is important to understand that a goal is different from a goal. For example, the goal may be: to grow a business from the retail sector. Whereas your marketing goal would be: to have 1,500 MQLs available from retail by June 30, 2022.
The goal helps set the stage for the marketing strategies you will use. Whereas the goal is just a measure of whether you have achieved the goal or not.
Related article: Time to set your 2022 CX goals
Strategy…the hardest (and most important) part
I’ve seen great marketing plans that started with a goal, have a great list of creative marketing tactics… and they still fail. Usually when this happens because there was no clear link between goals and tactics. The missing “glue” is strategy, and it’s often missing because it’s the most misunderstood word in business. I guarantee that if you use the word “strategy” in a Google search engine, you will likely find several different but somewhat overlapping definitions. I think strategy is how you determine at a high level how you will achieve your goal.
If we go back to our example above, our goal is to grow the business from the retail sector. How are we going to do that? Are we going to double up on paid search with retail keywords? Sponsoring more third-party webinars? Create great thought leadership content to use in generating lists of leads? A combination of all of the above? The answer depends on what works for your business, but I can promise you that if you don’t know, your list of tactics will just be a list of random things. If you tie your strategy to your goals and tactics to your strategy, and document your progress with a measurable goal, you will ring that success bell!
The final part of a quick marketing plan takes each of the strategies you came up with and blasts them into specific tactics on a set schedule. This is the part you are most familiar with, as this is commonly called the “marketing plan” in many companies.
Related article: What does trustworthy and transparent marketing look like now
Plan the action, then implement the plan
Finally, a cautionary note: While planning is crucial, in marketing we also need to be flexible and react quickly to external market dynamics. So, plan the action, then implement the plan… But always be prepared to blow up the plan!
Kristina Motz has worked as Executive Director of Strategic Marketing for some of the world’s largest technology companies, Amazon and Yahoo!, as well as a few Seattle-based SaaS startups where she has been named “Head of Problem Solving”. She is known for developing and leading strategic change initiatives based on customer and market insights to enable greater efficiency and facilitate growth. Christina currently works as Marketing Director at Panopto, the leading provider of video management systems to the global enterprise and higher education markets.