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JANIE PAGE, CMO, THE HUMAN BEAN
Pretend you were asked to host your family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. What would you do? Some may wait until the day before to go to the store, but others would take time to search for the best recipes, ask guests about their favorite dishes, create a grocery list, plan picturesque decorations, and orchestrate the optimal day to please our friends and family.
Whether you are hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner or developing a marketing plan, it is important to have a process. There are 6 key steps: gather insights, harvest ideas, prep and measures, execution, plan B and debrief.
Before marketing planning can begin, it is important to conduct a Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) assessment. This will help identify a framework to evaluate a company’s competitive position and to develop a strategic plan. Reviewing the results from the past year's marketing initiatives is also another great way to improve upon key learnings or repeat successful programs. Leverage supplier partners for insights and trends that may be helpful to your planning.
One of the key elements of a great plan is involving others. When you take time to brainstorm and listen to others, you can uncover unexpected ideas and areas of innovation.
Bringing together your entire marketing team, other departments, strategic partners, and customers can generate a large quantity of ideas that the team can then filter and cut down into the best, most practical or most innovative ones. It's powerful to have everyone in the room to review insights that you have uncovered and discuss ideas with your target audience in mind.
"Bringing together entire marketing team, other departments, strategic partners, and customers can generate a large quantity of ideas that the team can filter and cut down into the best, most practical or most innovative ones"
Prep and Measures
Now you are armed with insights and ideas, it is time to map major themes for the year with timeframes and create clear marketing goals. Goal setting is critical to aligning your marketing team and narrowing your focus. Goals can vary by initiative, but all should be measurable. For example: Increase Instagram followers by 5 year over year or increase average tickets in the afternoon by 5 percent vs. last week. Make sure your measure is reasonably attainable. Goals that are too aggressive can be discouraging to your team and serve as an unnecessary distraction. Once the goals are set and plans are in place, getting leadership feedback and alignment builds excitement and support.
By this time in the planning process, you may be excited to start implementing your ideas or you may feel like you have been talking about them forever. Whatever the case, a good idea is just an idea without execution. A plan will help teams have clear objectives, know what to prioritize, and take ownership of their projects.
Turning your strategy into a real-life action plan with purposeful content for the target audience will set your team up for success. Project management software like Asana or Basecamp can be very helpful during the execution; however the software will only provide what your team puts into it. Marketing leaders can quickly recognize bottlenecks and uneven workloads across team members. Having a central point of communication for projects and design reviews prevents email searches and saves time. By breaking things down into bite-sized projects and tasks, you are likely to get more done because you are not overwhelmed with too much on your to-do list.
Although you have worked hard developing an annual marketing plan, there could be some unexpected challenges like a pandemic or a natural disaster. Marketing teams must be agile, and pivot as needed. It’s impossible to anticipate every circumstance, but proactive planning can help. When your team is constantly looking forward and planning, the muscle memory of proactive planning kicks in and you can innovate and pivot when times get tough.
Now it is time to determine the results versus the plan. This will help evaluate what works, what doesn’t work, or what may need to be changed for it to work. Success does not come without learning along the way. Embrace the imperfections and learn from them. Don’t keep learnings to yourself, share with others and be transparent in your results. Highlight your key learnings and determine the next steps to demonstrate your growth and show your ability to pivot and provide solutions. This all leads back to proactive problem solving to elevate results for your next annual marketing plan.