Amidst the flurry of year-end deadlines and the hustle of the holiday season, carving out time to plan for 2018 can easily get lost in the shuffle. As the adage says, measure twice – cut once, planning your marketing for 2018 before the first of the year is imperative. The question is, where should you start?
Step 1: Get a good handle on your 2018 business goals
Effective marketing programs are strategically aligned with larger organizational goals. As a first step in building your 2018 marketing plan, assess what business goals you are looking to achieve during the upcoming year. Then, prioritize those goals based upon importance and identify how to best allocate marketing resources to help drive goal completion.
Step 2: Look at your 2017 data
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times – let data help inform your strategy. In an increasingly digital world, there are countless metrics available to help evaluate marketing success. From email open rates and website conversions, to website traffic generated through online/social advertising, businesses and nonprofits have quantifiable metrics at their fingertips to help prioritize their marketing channels and budget.
When looking at your 2017 marketing analytics, pay careful attention to these five key considerations:
- If you had a high performing month or quarter with a particular tactic assess what drove its success. Consider timing, content, packaging, audience, etc.
- How did the competitive landscape change during the past year and can you identify specific times/areas where that impacted your marketing success?
- Which aspects of your business did marketing impact the most? The least?
- How does the data correlate to the business’ bottom line? Evaluate leads generated, business closed, etc.
- Are the results reflective of budget and resource allocation changes made between 2016 and 2017?
Step 3: Clean up the old, make room for the new
While there are always new marketing channels available to add to the mix, embracing the high-performing, tried and true tactics in your marketing toolkit remains key to success. With your data in-hand, identify which marketing channels are not yielding returns and should receive either less support or be phased out. In turn, consider what new channels may help to amplify your marketing success.
For example, while B2C companies are dominating Instagram and proving social media marketing can generate measurable and meaningful results, many B2B companies are still evaluating whether it is the best channel to reach their target audiences. If you are looking to reach a younger demographic, and can provide a steady stream of compelling visuals to populate your account, Instagram may be worth exploring. Remember, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about products and services. Many companies use Instagram to attract young talent by showcasing their culture, including work environment, training, team building and more.
Step 4: Assess resource allocation
Are you scaling up or scaling back your marketing budget for 2018? Will you have more or less manpower available to support the program? Are your competitors scaling up or scaling back for the year ahead? How does the latter impact how you allocate your budget and manpower?
While it is tempting to do more in the hopes of achieving more, it is important to create a marketing program that is practical and sustainable. You never want to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity!
Step 5: Build your roadmap
Now that you know what’s staying and what’s going, what new channels and tactics will be employed, and the resources (time + money) available to support marketing in 2018, it’s time to put pen to paper and build your plan for the year ahead. Make sure your goals are measurable, that the action plan is both time-bound and specific, and that you can easily evaluate results as you progress throughout the year. Marketing plans are living, breathing organisms (sound familiar?) and you need to nurture them throughout the implementation phase. You don’t want to wait until the final months of 2018 to find out the largest percentage of your budget went to marketing channel(s) that generated the least results. Tweak the program as you go along to ensure optimal success.
As we embark upon the final weeks of 2017, now is the time to get a data-informed marketing plan that seamlessly blends strategy and creativity in place for 2018. With a well-orchestrated plan, companies can leverage marketing to positively impact the bottom line and help move their organization closer to achieving its larger strategic goals.