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under constructionDo you start out the year with good marketing goals for your business, only to find yourself falling apart partway through the year? Sounds like you could benefit from a comprehensive marketing plan. Marketing plans don't have to be complicated or difficult to implement - but they should include a few important pieces of information to help you keep on track and moving forward in the year ahead.

 

Marketing planning is a way of understanding your marketing campaigns, the channels you put them on, and the results they gain for your business. There are a number of proprietary programs that help businesses build marketing plans, but most are single-use (no other functionality besides marketing planning), and several require monthly fees. If you're looking for simplicity and cost-effectiveness, it's possible to build a good quality marketing planning spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel that will both serve your needs and be easy and intuitive for members of your team to manipulate as the plan matures and the year progresses.

While marketing plans can vary in terms of level of complexity, the main components for a good one include:

  • Channels (online, newspaper, outdoor, social media, or anywhere else you place messaging throughout the year)
  • Campaigns (by name, so you can remember what they are at a glance)
  • Project Goals (what you hope each campaign in each channel achieves, based on the key performance indicators [KPIs] you establish to measure success)
  • Calendar (separated by week, month or quarter, based on your business needs)
  • Themes (overriding ideas or messages you want to promote during certain points in the year)
  • Costs (a place for recording campaign costs, like printing, graphic design, advertising, etc)
  • Revenues (a place for recording revenues that can be directly attributed to a specific campaign)
  • Analysis (lessons learned, KPIs achieved, roadblocks encountered, etc)
  • Notes (a place for recording information not covered in other sections that could be helpful for future campaigns with similar parameters or the same campaign next year)

Ideally, a marketing plan is completed BEFORE a new year or quarter starts, and should involve all the personnel in your business involved with marketing, sales, management and budget/accounting. While the marketing and sales people can start the process by filling in the information about channels, campaigns, calendar, and costs, input should also be sought by those who will be evaluating the performance (managers) and paying for it all (budget/accounting). By having everyone aware of the plan - and soliciting their input and feedback ahead of time - potential roadblocks can be anticipiated and hopefully avoided. And nobody can use the excuse that they "didn't know"!

While developing a plan is a good first step, many businesses fall into the trap of "setting and forgetting." At the very least, marketing plans should be evaluated quarterly by the entire team involved in their conception. For some businesses with more complex plans or lots of moving parts, this evaluation meeting might need to be monthly or even weekly. Regardless of the frequency, the meeting should address the following:

  • Plan updates - including any changes required due to emergent circumstances
  • Financial closeouts of finished campaigns
  • Analysis
  • Notetaking

By making a plan and continuing to update and evaluate it throughout the year, your team is building a valuable marketing reference resource for years to come.