In Reel Results, Strategy

Last updated on September 12, 2019

CEO Shares Steps to Creating a Marketing Plan to Get Results

With the dog days of summer and Labor Day behind us, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s marketing plan for your business to capitalize on your marketing efforts. If the thought hasn’t even crossed your mind at this point, chances are, you’ll miss a critical window—which could impact your business’s success in 2020.

Businesses should begin working on their annual marketing plan by October 1 and finalize it no later than December 1. This window will allow enough time to do the appropriate research and planning. It also will enable you to challenge the plan, make changes, recommendations and modifications. You’ll also have the time to get valuable input from various staff in your organization.

If this process is started later, you won’t have enough time to perform this due diligence or share the roll out of the plan with everyone to get their buy in and tweak it, as needed. If completed earlier, you’d just be looking at ideas, rather than understanding where your business will tie in from a year-end perspective. By October 1, you should have a good idea of where you’ll end up for the year, which will serve as a guide for what you want to achieve in the upcoming year.

Consider a marketing plan your “roadmap for success.” Unlike a business plan, which covers the entire business including financial plans, operations and sales, a marketing plan focuses just on the marketing. There are many benefits to having this plan in place before the new year. It not only will serve as a guideline for yourself, but also for the company and everyone who is a part of that plan. It also will outline where you want to go, why you want to get there and when you want to get there, so you’ll have that information in one place. Most importantly, it helps a business measure its success.

Here are some steps to creating a marketing plan, to get results:

Analyze the current market situation

Begin your market research by looking at the process in terms of current market positioning and trendlines. CMA utilizes a proprietary discovery process, Marketecture™, to engage in a strategic analysis, which helps its clients understand how their business can be best positioned in the marketplace.

CMA analyzes its customer’s pain points, buying motivations, competitive challenges and marketplace forces that impact its business. CMA then orchestrates Marketecture insights into differentiated positioning, captivating sales messages and, ultimately, a game plan of tactics to get results for its clients.

As part of that process, CMA develops a SWOT analysis, which identifies a business’s strengths and weaknesses, along with opportunities and threats. The firm also examines competitors and external influencers that could take shape in the upcoming year including:

  • Political
  • Socio-economic
  • Legal/regulatory
  • Technological

CMA utilizes The Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) Growth-Share Matrix, which considers growth opportunities by reviewing a product line and considers where to invest, discontinue or develop new products. It’s divided into four categories (dogs, wildcats, cash cows and super stars), based on an analysis of market growth and relative market share. The greatest emphasis should be on the area that’s going to give you the greatest return, which are the super stars.

This process also gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your product mix and answer questions including:

  • Are there things you are currently doing that you don’t want to do next year because it hasn’t worked?
  • Are there things you might want to do more of?

Define target audiences 

In addition to identifying your marketing mix (price, product, promotion and place), determine which audiences you need to target as well as the target market. These are a distinct segment of customers in which you are trying to reach, to promote your business, products and services. Identifying target audiences will assist you in ascertaining which tactics to employ, to reach those audiences, and increase the chances of moving them to action—whether it’s down the sales funnel or purchasing your products or services.

Following are categories to examine:

  • Location (local, national or international)
  • Demographics (age, gender, occupation, income level, marital status)
  • Psychographics (values, hobbies, lifestyle, personality, attitude, behavior)
  • Industries (medical, accounting, lighting, nonprofit), if a B2B focus
  • Personality type (persona) and pain points
  • Motivations

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and measure them

I’ve grouped marketing goals and measurement together because one feeds the other. Marketing goals need to be in line with your business goals and what your business can achieve. Each goal should have a timeline and completion date. They also should follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal structure—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound.

One of the most important components of the S.M.A.R.T. goals is the measurement aspect. Calculating return on investment (ROI) is critical for any business. Aside from the fiduciary reasoning, ROI is a tool that you should always utilize. It helps prioritize marketing investments and base that investment on actual results, as it relates to the campaign goal.

Measurement tools can include sales conversions, media impressions, blog traffic, web site hits, etc. By measuring your business’s success, you can take a closer look at the return on your marketing investment. You also can shift dollars to the areas that are giving you the most return, which is important for marketers.

According to a Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2018-19, the 2017-18 CMO Spend Survey saw marketing expense budgets level off from their climb to 12.1 percent of company revenue in 2016 to 11.3 percent in 2017. Marketing budgets in 2018-19 are 11.2 percent of company revenue, nearly unchanged from last year. CMOs are optimistic that future budgets will grow.

Determine strategies and tactics

The marketing strategy section of your plan should answer the “how” in a marketing plan.

Some examples are:

  • How will your product stand out in the marketplace?
  • How will you differentiate your business, products or services from your competitors?

The tactics should be wide-ranging enough to tie back to the goals and strategies, as well as answer the question: what will be done? Tactics can include digital marketing, public relations, social media, web and mobile app development, and advertising. Within those broad categories are smaller tactical elements encompassing podcasts, content marketing, video marketing, email marketing, webinars, pay-per-click, blogs, press releases and collateral to name a few.

Develop a budget

Keep a look out for CMA’s next blog, scheduled to be posted at the end of September, “Marketing Planning for 2020 (Part 2): Secrets to Developing a Marketing Budget to Drive Growth.”

Every type of organization needs a marketing plan, especially small businesses. A marketing plan to a business is like a game plan to a football team. Coaches need to develop a game plan, before they play a team, much like the necessity for a business to create a marketing plan each year. It provides businesses with a plan of action, which they can reference throughout the year—at least on a bi-annual basis, if not quarterly—to see if it’s on or off target.

If off target, you can determine where and readjust as needed. The game plan is all about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, how they’re going to play and the calls they’ll make to increase the chances of winning, which ties back to the SWOT analysis in a marketing plan. Speaking of a team, consider partnering an external marketing team, who can offer a fresh perspective and are experts developing marketing plans and implementing marketing campaigns.

This “game plan approach” also empowers you to look at other influencers within the environment and how they’re impacting your business, which you might not have anticipated. Technology is a big one and can be a major disrupter to your business. An example is if you were a camera company in the early 2000s and weren’t looking at the proliferation of iPhones and technology with cameras, then you weren’t planning for what could be obsolete to your product.

In addition to all the benefits I outlined, having a marketing plan lets a business take a deeper dive into what it’s doing and how it’s doing it, along with serving as a refresher that keeps businesses from doing the same old, same old, every year.

Are you scheduled to begin working on your 2020 marketing plan? Contact us today, to begin the conversation.

Jeffrey Barnhart is the CEO and founder of CMA, a full-service communications, marketing and association management firm, which has provided its clients with award-winning and proven results for more than 30 years. 

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