Marketing your business takes time and effort. Many businesses, especially those on the smaller side, don’t take adequate time to prepare a comprehensive plan to set the direction of their marketing. But we’re here to say: it’s essential and will save both time and money over the long run. We’ve laid out a few important pieces to consider as you begin (or revamp) your marketing planning journey.
- The Best Brainstorming Exercises for Marketing Planning
- Top 3 Metrics to Review
- Budgeting Guide for your Marketing Planning
- The Final Product
Have you ever been stuck spinning your wheels when you really need ideas to flow? Or can’t muster up the creative juice,s no matter how hard you try? We’ve all been there—you need to solve a problem, come up with a unique idea, or hammer out a brilliant plan but no matter what you do, your mind is blank.
Marketing often presents this challenge; especially when you’re trying to put your big picture ideas down on paper. We know your struggle, both as a company and with our clients and have learned a few tricks to help you bust out of that creative block.
Consider these five brainstorming exercises to help get your marketing planning juices flowing!
- Mind Mapping
This well-known tool helps visually demonstrate relationships between concepts and is especially useful in a group setting. You start with the basic problem or concept as the center (e.g. brand awareness) then, expand on this problem by surrounding it with terms that better describe what you need and/or possible solutions (e.g. proper placement, education). Don’t worry about critiquing your ideas – just write them down. Analysis will come later. This approach is really helpful at breaking problems or challenges down into manageable pieces, which is often the break you need to unleash your creativity! While there are many online mind-mapping tools we recommend a standard white board 😉
- Story Boarding
Another popular visual brainstorming method is a storyboard. This is also a great exercise for the sequential thinkers out there because you’re organizing your ideas in a continuous series; helping you see how pieces of your marketing plan fit together and discovering you might have material that doesn't support your end goal or holes you need to fill. Plus, storytelling is an excellent marketing tactic and you might just uncover an untold story to add to your marketing initiatives.
- SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a common business tool, but it’s also a great way to organize your ideas, especially when it comes to planning your marketing initiatives. Simply use the diagram to categorize your ideas: What are we doing well (strengths), where are we missing the mark (weaknesses), has our target audience shifted preferred media platforms (opportunities), has a similar business entered our market (threats)? A SWOT can be a great visual exercise to help your team address important areas of your plan help you focus your efforts and funding.
- Reverse Brainstorming
With this technique you take the “what not to do” approach. Write down everything you can think of that could prevent you from reaching your marketing goals. Don’t hold back! Getting it all out/down on paper (or a white board if you’re in a group setting) is key. By anticipating the challenges or problems you might encounter and discussing it with team, you can better prepare and even head-off potential issues. Think of it like hacking your website to find out where your security leaks are. Always better to be proactive than re-active!
- Get Some Distance
If all else fails, a tried-and-true trick is to step away; take a walk, sleep on it, whatever you need to do to clear your mind and recalibrate. Often times, when you get some distance “the zone” just happens and you find yourself coming up with ideas when you least expect it! This approach assumes you have time to step away, so make sure you don’t leave it to the last minute.
While there’s many more brainstorming techniques out there, for both individual and group settings, we hope these exercises will help spark new ideas, creative solutions, and innovative approaches that help ease any marketing planning woes.
No doubt all that brainstorming helped you land on some serious goals and methods to achieve them, but how do you ensure you’re marketing planning efforts don’t go to waste? Enter metrics!
Metrics provide deep insights into how our marketing initiatives are performing. They tell us how our audience is consuming our content, what they are doing with it, and whether or not they like it. Metrics alert us to when we need to be fluid in our plan and where we are killing it. More on the importance of metrics can be found here, but for now, we want to dive into what you should be measuring.
There are metrics, and then there are "the metrics." Depending on the type of business you’re in and/or the goals you have set, different metrics are going to be more important than others. Keep in mind that one size certainly doesn’t fit all and it’s important to strategize as a team to determine the most critical numbers to capture.
If you are having a hard time getting started, here are three metrics that should make your list:
- Revenue and Sales
Looking at how much revenue each marketing tool is generating gives you an objective way of identifying your most useful tools. (Don't forget, revenue differs from profit. Profit is your net revenue after expenses.) Tracking sales justifies your continued investment in successful marketing tools and allows you to identify less successful ones and use that money towards what is already working. In other words, follow your money!
Audience response to your media channels (social media, website, in-person) can help you to determine what type of reactions your marketing creates. Surveys, customer service feedback, and online behavior can tell you what your customers think of your business and which marketing tools have the most significant impact. This metric might look different depending on the media, but often this refers to clicks, likes, engagement, comments, etc. Simply listening to your customers offers important insight into what is working in your current marketing plan and what you will need to adjust.
- Marketing Reach Expansion
When your marketing reach is expanding, the effectiveness of your plan is the probable cause. Growth is a positive reaction to your marketing, but you have to be able to access extension and make sure it is because of your marketing plan. The expansion of your marketing budget is another sign that your plan is working well. You have to spend money to make money!
Again, only you can decide which metrics to track for based on your goals, but the most important thing to understand is that metrics should be an integral part of your marketing planning and hopefully these three will get you started.
Metrics also tell you where to spend your hard-earned profits. Which leads us to another crucial factor in marketing planning: the budget! Don’t fear, we’ve broken it down for you so it’s not something to dread, but something to give you piece of mind knowing you have a plan that continues to build those profits!
Did you go into marketing because you are terrible at math? Join the club. Marketers everywhere thought this career path would be a sure-fire way to avoid numbers. Sadly mistaken? Us too.
One of the biggest factors in your marketing plan is your budget. Balancing what you want to do with what you can afford to do and the returns you’ll yield is enough to make us non-math people cringe. But, in good news, budgeting isn’t just about numbers and it doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
We have a step by step budgeting process for your marketing planning.
- Frame Marketing as a Must, Not a Leftover
First things first, frame marketing in your head (and anyone else who is a part of this decision) as a must have and not a left over. Too often, the marketing budget is identified by what remains when everything else has been allocated or what can be spared. In most cases, this doesn’t realistically allow you to accomplish your goals. Stand up for marketing and the clearly communicate the critical role marketing plays in your sales funnel.
- Understand Where Your Customers Are Coming From & Which Create the Most Profit
You need to ensure you’re clear on your sales funnels and buyer’s journey. Where and how is your target audience making purchasing decisions? It’s just as important to understand which customers create the most profit for your business. Do you want to work with one client that brings in 5% of your revenue or 50 clients that bring in 3%? We’re actually good enough at math to know which we’d choose.
- Evaluate Your Business Goals
Take a look at your organization’s business goals and get a clear idea on what marketing needs to accomplish to help meet these goals. Do enough people know about your brand, products and/or services? How many leads do you need to bring in to achieve success? What is your closing or conversion rate?
- Lay Out Your Plan
With an understanding of where you customers come from and the goals you need to accomplish, you can start identifying your marketing plan and the mix of tools that you’ll need to utilize to accomplish your goals. List out all of the campaigns, efforts and tools you plan to implement.
- Categorize and Sub Categorize
Our budgeting tool will help you categorize and sub-categorize your budget and this blog post will help you avoid puking while you do it. This will give you an understanding of where your budget is going in broad and more defined categories and allow you to move dollars around within sub-categories or the overall budget.
- Build Your Budget Backwards
Once you’ve identified your categories, start working backwards to put a number to each. The materials identified in graphic design: make sure there’s money to print them if necessary. The digital ads sub-categorized under advertising: does the amount cover the buy and the design? Can you achieve these goals with the internal staff you have? Do you need additional support or a marketing firm to assist you in your efforts? Ensure that a significant portion reflects your customer’s buying journey (stability and consistency) and make sure a percentage is allocated to try new ways to reach your target audiences (risk and growth).
- Leave a Contingency So You Don’t Miss an Opportunity
Remember, budgeting is a fluid process. Some things will cost more than you anticipate, and others will cost less and surprise you. Additionally, opportunities come up that you may not want to miss. For these reasons, give yourself room with a contingency budget. We typically recommend at least 10% of your overall budget.
As you follow this process and work on your marketing planning, remember this equation:
YOUR BUDGET = THAT WHICH IS REQUIRED TO MEET YOUR GOALS
If you follow the below equation instead, it’s time to reassess and adapt your goals or your budget:
YOUR BUDGET=10% OF THAT WHICH IS REQUIRED TO MEET YOUR GOALS
You don’t have to be good at math to lay out a solid budget. Above all, be realistic AND daring when following this budgeting process for your marketing planning and reap the rewards!
Speaking of rewards, what is the point of all this careful planning and what exactly should be the final product of your marketing planning efforts?
↓ Download The Annual Marketing Budget Generator↓
In its most basic form: marketing planning will produce a concrete plan that helps you drive sales to your intended audience – setting your competitive advantage. The plan should provide a solid outline for your marketing strategy for a given amount of time, which tie directly back to your goals. Remember, your marketing strategy is the big picture item – a breakdown of your goals. Your marketing plan sets how you’re going to achieve those goals. You can think of it as a road map that will lead you each step of the way through your various marketing campaigns.
Creating a plan for your marketing efforts forces you to take a closer look at your overall business goals and will vary depending on what those are at a given time. It may focus on your overall strategies for the entire year, or be directed at more specific initiatives like events, social media or content. Your plan should outline what tools you’re going to utilize and how you’re going to accomplish a given marketing goal. Learn more about what your marketing plan should include by checking out our blog post.
When completed, your marketing plan will bring you closer to your goals, strengthen your company’s voice, narrow in on your target audience, bring awareness about your competitors and allow you to be more confident in knowing which tools to use for which activities and campaigns. It will allow you to follow a set direction and schedule and stay within budget when marketing your products of services.
Feel like you could use a bit more marketing planning prep? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.