Summer vacation is coming—the time for many marketers to develop new plans. In many companies, this is cucumber time, and the operating pressure is less. Plenty of time to reflect and come up with plans. A wonderful period for some marketers and a nightmare for others. But is writing a marketing plan still of this time?
Common arguments for not writing a marketing plan are:
- “When your plan is ready, it’s already obsolete.”
- “Plans disappear unread in a drawer, a waste of time.”
Even though there is something to be said for the arguments, I still believe that writing a marketing plan is necessary to be successful and get everyone going in the same direction. You write an effective and successful plan in 2020 differently than we may have ever learned.
Writing a marketing plan is time for reflection.
I see writing a marketing plan as ‘time for reflection’: take a step back and take a critical look at how the market is developing and the wishes and behavior of your target group. What are the changes to this? What are your competitors doing, and what has changed? Have competitors been added, or have they dropped out?
It is also a time to take a critical look at yourself as a company and consider the true effectiveness of your marketing efforts: the performance of the website, the quality of the products and services you offer. Look at what your goals were. How are you doing? What do you run into?
By taking a distance and stepping out of the daily rat race, you will see where your real challenges lie, what you are good at, and what you may need to improve to remain competitive. And yes, this takes time and requires discipline.
How do you do this?
- Block time in your agenda to create space. Preferably at the beginning of the day, then you are the fittest.
- Work at home or plan a ‘pile-driving session’ (maximum half a day) with colleagues and prepare a clear agenda.
- Analyze thoroughly and write succinctly. Be critical and really limit yourself to the essence of the conclusions. Writing with bullet points helps to articulate the essence of the analyzes shortly and powerfully.
- Pay attention to describing who your customer is, what his / her needs are, and what the customer journey is.
- Focus and dare to make choices
The most difficult part of a marketing plan is often drawing conclusions from all those analyzes that you did in step one. Insights that really matter and that you, as a company, really have to take into account.
The SWOT and confrontation matrices are well-known and good tools to use for this. A more pragmatic way is, for example, to write down the six most important conclusions and insights for yourself in order of importance.
This gives you a clear picture of your biggest challenges, creating focus. Examples of (online) marketing challenges or problems are:
- Our brand awareness is too low
- We need to drive more relevant traffic to the site in order to sell more or generate more leads
- Our website converts poorly
- We need a wider or more extensive range to remain competitive
Many companies face multiple challenges. Dare to focus. If you pick up everything at the same time, this ends in nothing.
Okay, now you have a clear idea of your challenge or problem. The next step is to state what goal you have in mind or ‘satisfied’. This also reflects the quantitative focus. A few examples of this are:
- Generate 20 percent more leads through the website by 2021
- Increase brand awareness in 2020 from 20 to 30 percent
- Increase the turnover in the webshop by 20 percent to 1 million euros in 2020
How do you do this?
- Pay half a day to prepare the SWOT or top six insights based on the analyzes you performed.
- It is nice to have each team member fill in the SWOT or top six based on the analyzes (let everyone read it beforehand). This creates a discussion to get to a top-six so that all noses are in the same direction.
- You can do the same by setting the objectives. This creates support and prevents it from remaining ‘a marketing thing’.
A pragmatic step-by-step strategy for an annual marketing plan
The third part of the marketing plan consists of what most marketers like and easiest to do: describe what you will do next year, what it will cost, and how you will evaluate the activities.
But before you shoot into execution mode, you should first think about the strategy or the common thread of your annual plan. With the common thread or strategy, you outline what your solution route is. An example of this could be:
“We will profile ourselves as an authority in the field of (whatever,). Also, we are going to do this by creating blogs or vlogs and organizing webinars on the topics about which we get a lot of questions or which are searched for a lot. We proactively share this content online on forums, social media, and via newsletters. This content is also an important basis to be found better organically.”
The challenge here is not to get bogged down in details but to outline the route in outline. This gives direction to the actions you will develop.
Now that you have got the red line, you can go completely crazy with implementing the strategy. For this, you use P’s or C’s. Not that this is absolutely necessary, but this gives structure, a sort of finishing list so that you know for yourself that you have thought of all aspects. In fact, you will work on the basis of this annual plan.
You complete this section by determining:
- What will the implementation of the marketing plan cost?
- Who is going to carry it out (internal or external)?
- How will I evaluate my promotions at the end of the period?
Make sure you have broad support.
If you have gone through the above steps, then you have completed the substantive part, and you may also have the ‘common understanding‘ within your team. It is important to also sell your marketing plan, the objectives, and efforts that you will ask of everyone in the organization.
Briefly and succinctly present your strong marketing plan. Show everyone the dot on the horizon and substantiate your chosen strategy with the main challenges you have formulated.
My experience is that if you follow the above process, the chances are much higher than you can actually start implementing your strong marketing plan. Besides, there is a good chance that the organization will also ask you the following year: “Have you already completed your plan?” or “what are we going to do next year?” Then you know that your setup has been successful.