Not thinking about next year yet? Well, you should be.
Top executives at the best companies now are spending hours locked in a room, diligently writing marketing plans so they can spring into action and overwhelm their competition on Jan. 1.
Many people have negative feelings about writing a marketing plan, finding it overwhelming and confusing. Others who have written them feel disheartened after examining the last year and realizing that a large portion of their plan wasn’t executed.
This discouragement is more common than you might think. But you can make the process easy, fun and successful if you follow a few set guidelines.
Here are three tips to help elevate your plan above your competitor’s.
• Break tradition — Write your plan in an untraditional, short format. The traditional format takes too much time and makes the plan too long to be referenced regularly.
Sections to include are:
(1) Purpose and mission — This can be two to three sentences long and include the core goals for the year, such as increasing revenue by a certain percentage or launching a new product.
(2) Situational analysis — This should be a page or two and should evaluate the three C’s in a company’s market: customers, companies and competitors. You can use a summarized version of the traditional S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis in this section. Warning: Don’t get too caught up in making this the ultimate, comprehensive competitive analysis or you may never finish the marketing plan.
(3) Strategy and objectives — Spend the majority of your brainpower on this section. You’ll determine your plan of action here, setting the goals and mission of the marketing plan on a firm foundation. The objectives you outline will ensure you execute your planned strategy.
(4) Tactical programs — When a marketing plan is written correctly, this will be the most frequently referenced section throughout the year. Tactics will include exact methods for executing plan objectives and key implementation data such as media outlet names, event themes, promotion details and dates.
This section will be the foundation to create the marketing budget. Include projected results for each tactic and the method planned to measure success after execution.
This should be the longest section, with the most detail, in the plan.
(5) Budget — Your marketing budget can be kept to one page and distilled down to one chart that includes the amount you will spend per month on marketing, by category.
• Exclude your team — Yes, I know. This breaks the cardinal social rule of “Always include, don’t exclude” that we teach our children. Many managers also try to be inclusive in order to build a positive team environment and maintain high morale. However, including too many team members too early is a common pitfall in creating marketing plans. It drags out the time it takes to complete the plan and increases the cost — sometimes astronomically.
So write the marketing plan yourself, or pick one or two other highly qualified people to write it — three people at the maximum.
Write the full initial draft of the marketing plan before asking for input and present it to the executive team. Tell the team it’s a first draft, and their feedback is welcome. Give team members 30 minutes to suggest changes after the presentation.
It’s key to ask for feedback on the tactical portion of the plan. This allows you to leverage the team’s expertise, since most departments outside of marketing are more operationally focused. Voila! You’re written a streamlined marketing plan quickly that incorporates team feedback.
• Use it, change it — After the marketing plan is accepted, hold brief, quarterly “Marketing Plan Update” meetings to ensure that it’s being used, not ignored. You or your team will recap what was planned for the quarter and compare it to what was executed, along with plan results during the quarter.
Also, this is the time to propose changes to the plan for the rest of the year, followed by distribution of the revised version.
If you don’t allow flexibility to change the plan as needed throughout the year, it will end up on the shelf.
Sarah Procopio, President of Thrive Marketing Science, a business intelligence and driven marketing firm. Sarah specializes in loyalty program development and turning around flailing companies and marketing programs quickly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949.230.7873. This article was original published in the Denver Business Journal and can be found at https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/print-edition/2011/09/30/how-to-prepare-a-successful-marketing.html