It’s that time of year again! As 2010 enters its last quarter, companies turn to marketing planning for 2011. Or at least they should. We thought it would be a good time to provide a framework for marketing planning. We’ve developed this process through ten years of working with small and mid-sized companies (and the big guys too). It’s effective, structured and simple – everything that marketing planning for small and mid-sized companies should be.
Step 1 – Assess the Company’s Current Situation
This step involves taking a close look at the company’s current business and marketing performance.
- Review the company’s marketing activities for the year and analyze the results and ROI. (ROI analysis is underutilized in marketing – don’t let it be. Read our blog on Marketing ROI) . Some of the common marketing metrics include:
- Website visits and web downloads
- Number of events and attendees
- Number of articles or mentions in publications
- Size of prospect community (ie names in the CRM)
- Number of inquiries or qualified leads
- There are many others – what’s important is to identify the 4 – 7 metrics that are right for your organization
- Identify the business goals and revenue target for next year. Work backwards to frame the marketing plan and budget. If you have very aggressive growth goals, you will need to invest more in sales and marketing. Marketing spend varies depending on industry and company, but the benchmark is 2 – 11% of gross revenues.
- Questions to answer in this step:
- where is our business today?
- where do we want to be in 1 and 3 years?
- are our current marketing efforts helping us achieve our business goals?
Step 2 –Assess the External Environment
This step evaluates the external market in which the company operates and provides context for the strategy and tactics.
- Identify perceived changes in the market such as emerging trends, changes in customer needs, increasing / decreasing price sensitivity, new competitors and others. Work with your management, sales and customer service teams in particular to build a 360° view.
- Validate market perceptions by doing customer and competitor research. This should NOT be a lip-service task. Actually assign someone to do it and do it well. Companies who don’t undertake this process are the ones who get blindsided by new competitors, customer churn and other major market changes that could have been foreseen, if only they’d been looking.
Step 3 – Marketing Strategy and Tactical Planning
The final step consists of reaffirming or refining your strategy and translating that strategy into tactics. It also means laying out an action plan, budget and scorecard.
- Reaffirm/revise your target markets. Who are your ideal customers?
- Reaffirm/revise your marketing position – this should be 2-3 sentences that clearly articulate how your firm differentiates itself from the competition and provides value to your customers.
- Define your messaging – what are the triggers / hot button issues that will attract your target customers attention?
- Develop your tactical plan. Based on your strategy, what are the tactics that will accomplish your goals? Your tactical plan should consist of the following:
- Identify the marketing tactics
- Develop the timeline on which the tactics will be implemented. Don’t do everything at once – marketing activities should take place over the course of the year.
- Define the budget – inevitably, you'll want to do more marketing than you have dollars available. Defining the budget requires evaluating your growth goals and your cash available. For every dollar you spend in marketing you should be generating two dollars of profit. You can always start on the lower side and grow from there.
- Scorecard – define how you will measure success. Set both ‘Activity’ goals (eg how many press releases will you produce) as well as ‘Results’ goals (eg how many leads you will generate from your next Pay Per Click campaign).
Marketing planning can be a daunting task – it doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple and focused. We often advise small and mid-sized companies to choose 3-5 marketing tactics that will yield the greatest results and stick with those. It helps the company stay on track and ensure their marketing dollars are being put to best use. Good luck planning and here’s to a stellar 2011.
To learn more about strategic marketing planning, download the executive guide featuring practical tips for success from 65 CMOs.