As we begin to wrap up the year 2015, now's the time to start planning and strategizing for 2016. Among the things you're sure to work through during this time period, your marketing strategy/plan should be on top of the list. A detailed marketing plan sets clear, realistic and measurable objectives (including deadlines), provides a budget, and allocates responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be particularly lengthy or beautifully written, however it does have to be constructed intelligently based on your current situation and future company goals.
Here’s a closer look at how it all comes together.
1. Analyze Current Situation
To begin, you must take stock of your brand’s overall situation. This should include an analysis of your current financial position (revenue, expenses, etc.), as well as your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
I mentioned SWOT above; to be honest, this is a very good opportunity to employ a SWOT analysis. For those who don’t know or fully understand what that is, a SWOT analysis enables an organization to identify both internal and external influences that directly and indirectly impact its bottom line. It focuses on the four elements included in the acronym: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
When conducting a SWOT analysis, I recommend starting with internal influences (strengths and weaknesses) such as:
Financial resources (funding, budget, etc.)
Physical resources (facilities, equipment, etc.)
Human resources (employees, volunteers, etc.)
Current processes (sales, completion of work, etc.)
After determining your strengths and weaknesses, go through the external influences on your company, such as:
Market trends (market share, purchasing trends, new technologies, potential competitors)
Economic trends (local, national, and international economic trends)
Political, environmental, and economic regulations
After you complete a SWOT analysis, you should move on to the construction of next year’s marketing strategy.
2. Refine and Reinforce Buyer Personas
Next, it is important to refine and reinforce your buyer personas. Over time, your buyer personas will change. For example, a portion of a buyer persona may have once read, “reads the newspaper every morning.” That may no longer be the case; it may now have to be updated to, “stays up-to-date on the news via smartphone using the Yahoo! News app daily.” Such changes in behavior may redefine the way you market to this buyer persona and are therefore crucial to the process of preparing a marketing strategy.
Your buyer personas may not need to be updated at all. Nonetheless, it is important to conduct a detailed analysis of each persona to ensure no alterations are necessary.
Also, make sure you reinforce your buyer personas throughout your company; top down, every employee should always have a clear understanding of exactly who they are marketing to.
3. Set Goals for 2016
Now that you have a clearer understanding of your current financial situation, your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and redefined your buyer personas, it is time to leverage these to set marketing goals for the upcoming year. In essence, what do you want your marketing strategy to achieve over the next year?
Make sure the goals you set are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-sensitive. Rather than, “Grow sales by 20%,” I encourage you to dig a little deeper—something like, “Increase retainer-based clients by 20% (if realistic) by December 31, 2016.”
In addition to the year-long goals you set, I encourage you to break those down into quarterly, monthly, and potentially weekly goals to consistently monitor your progress towards the established year-long goals. This allows you to make adjustments to your employed marketing tactics throughout the year to ensure your goals are met.
4. Develop Marketing Campaigns and Tactics
You already know what your company is capable of, the opportunities and threats in the market, who you are marketing to, and what your marketing efforts must accomplish over the year. Now it's time to determine the campaigns and tactics you need to implement throughout the year to meet the goals you’ve outlined. This is the heart and soul of your marketing strategy.
A strong marketing strategy/plan targets prospects at all stages of the sales cycle. Strategize specific campaigns throughout the year that are targeted to cold, warm, and hot prospects, leveraging the best tactics for each stage of your cycle.
For cold prospects, it's a good idea to run campaigns that cultivate brand awareness throughout the market by leveraging targeted advertising, public relations, thought-leadership, content creation, etc.
For warm prospects, campaign goals shouldn’t be centered on introducing your brand to prospects, but rather on providing them with relevant messaging and content to bring them closer to a purchase-ready mentality. For campaigns of this nature, tactics such as email marketing and targeted content creation centered on prospects' pain points, along with interpersonal sales contacts, can be effective.
Lastly, for hot prospects, campaigns should be focused on closing the sale. Interpersonal sales contacts (in-person, phone calls, personalized emails), discounts/coupons, and strong, sales-actionable content creation are all great tactics for campaigns targeted towards these prospects.
5. Set Marketing Budget
Now that you know the campaigns and tactics you plan to employ, it is finally time to set your marketing budget. Many people may disagree and argue that you should know budget information up front. However, I believe you should have a carefully planned and detailed marketing strategy outlined before determining your budget or presenting a request for a specific allocation from upper management and/or board of directors. That way, you're prepared to support your request with a well-thought-out plan of action. If you set the budget before determining your strategy, you're at the mercy of your budget as opposed to defining the budget with your marketing strategy as the driver.
If you're unable to allocate the appropriate funds to implement the campaigns and tactics you planned, adjustments should be made to the established goals and/or overall marketing strategy. This process shouldn’t be difficult because of the work you’ve already done up front.
Now is the time to prepare your resources, campaigns, and tactics for next year's marketing strategy. With an initiative of this magnitude, I urge you to make this a top priority. If you plan on seeking help with the construction of a marketing strategy for the upcoming year, reach out to Synecore; we'll take you through the entire process step-by-step to set you up for success in 2016.