We know the hustle and bustle of marketing. It often seems like there’s never enough time to get everything done!
In a tragic move, often the first thing to go is strategy. Long-term strategy can quickly be put on the backburner when you have an email that needs to go out, an ad that needs to be launched ASAP, or data you need for the upcoming board meeting.
But wait a minute.
If marketing is going to drive the growth of your company, isn’t it worth the investment to make it the best it can be? After all, doesn’t it make more sense to power your growth with an engine rather than the strength of a pinewood derby car?
Without a few key components, your marketing plan won’t be as powerful as it could be. Don’t make that mistake! Take this opportunity to remember the often-forgotten, yet invaluable components of a marketing plan. They’re worth the effort and will save you time and energy in the long run.
Customer and Market Research
This one is the most common thing we see missing from marketing plans across numerous companies and industries.
Research isn’t easy, but it’s essential to the success of your marketing plan.
If you don’t know (1) who your customers are, (2) what they want from you, and (3) what message will resonate with them, you’ll miss the opportunity to create a marketing plan with the biggest impact. So before you start planning the blogs you want to write or the emails you need to send, start by talking to your customers.Some of the most common ways you can do this research:
- Interview existing customers (one-on-one interviews or focus groups)
- Send out a survey to customers
- Read online reviews
- Track customer sentiment on industry forums
The purpose of this research is to help you get into the mindset of your customers. After all, it doesn’t matter if your team thinks your marketing plan is full of great ideas—what will your customers think? If you don’t know what they care about and what motivates them, it will be hard to motivate them to buy your product or service! Talking to them is the first step.
What happens when it’s overlooked? Without this research, your marketing plan will be full of ideas that your team thinks are good, but not necessarily the best tactics to reach your audience.
Practical tip: Start small. Schedule a call with a current customer to hear their thoughts and questions.
All that research won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to apply it to the tactics in your marketing plan. One great way to do that? By creating personas. Many companies overlook this step and miss the opportunity to tailor their messages to their different customers.
According to HubSpot, your personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
These personas should go deeper than customer demographics or broad characteristics to uncover their motivations, goals, and buying triggers.
The purpose is to build “personalities” so that you can tailor your strategies, content, and resources to have the biggest impact. Most companies have 3-5 personas that help them make their decisions.
What happens when it’s overlooked? You miss a valuable resource to help you target your content and messaging in a way that resonates with your audience.
Practical tip: Remember your customer research. This should be your foundation to start building your customer personas.
To build a great marketing plan, you need more than a basic understanding of your competition. A lot of companies look at their competitors up-front when they decide the specifics of their product/services or when they set their prices. But do you regularly look at your competitors when it comes to their marketing content?
- What deals are they offering?
- What emails are they sending?
- What is their customer journey like?
- What blogs are they writing?
- What ads are they running?
After all, their target audience is typically the same or similar to yours. Take the opportunity to analyze what they do and do it better. Creating a great customer experience through your marketing and content is a huge competitive advantage. If you’re not aware of what your competitors are doing, you’re missing that opportunity. Who knows? You might be completely missing the boat on the things your customers care about.
What happens when it’s overlooked? You miss the opportunity to be truly competitive and provide the best marketing experience for your customers.
Practical tip: Set up a calendar reminder to check out your competitors’ blogs or sign up for their email newsletter with your personal email. It pays to stay on top of the content that they create.
Yes, this means using SMART goals. From our experience, a lot of marketers tend to be optimistic, driven people who say yes to everything, thinking they’ll be able to do it all. Creative people + big dreams = unrealistic goals.
When it comes to your marketing plan, don’t stop planning before you set your goals. It’s easy to jump past this step when you know the overall campaign plan or purpose. If you start planning tactics too soon, you’ll completely miss the opportunity to set your goals and measure your success.
The concept of SMART goals has stuck around for a reason. Ask yourself if the 3-5 goals you set for your marketing plan are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based—you will be glad you did.
Your goals will obviously vary based on your campaign objectives, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- Increase sales 5% by the end of the quarter
- Increase website traffic by 25% before the end of the year
- Generate 5k impressions on social media this month
Note: “Increase leads” is not a goal. It’s what most successful companies try to do.
What happens when it’s overlooked? Your marketing might be a powerful engine, but without realistic goals, it’s difficult to figure out what’s working and to what degree.Practical tip: Post campaign goals in your office and revisit them before update meetings.
Don’t forget the calendar and the deadlines! According to our project manager, if there isn’t a date, it won’t get done! You’ll be overwhelmed trying to accomplish everything at once without any realistic dates or timelines in place. After you have planned the necessary tactics to accomplish your marketing goals, map it out on a calendar.
Whether you do it digitally or want to print a calendar and write it by hand, take the time to get everyone on the same page with a visual representation of what’s happening when.
This allows you to see your marketing plan laid out, choose the best time for specific deliverables, and give you an overview of what’s ahead. Doing so will allow your team to space production out so things aren’t cramped into one week, or rushed days before the deadline.
What happens when it’s overlooked? You lose a visual representation of your marketing tactics (that can lead to a unified team).
Practical tip: Add any key dates or events that matter to your target audience or industry to your calendar, too.
Often times the biggest trouble with data is that there is too much, not too little—and we have no idea what to do with it.
Start by figuring out the metrics that matter to your campaign. Hint: look back at your goals. What data do you need in order to know if you successfully reached those goals? (If they aren’t measurable goals...start over!)
Here are a few common metrics to get started:
- Leads generated
- Website traffic
- Clicks through to website from social media and/or engagement on posts
What happens when it’s overlooked? It’s hard to tell if your marketing campaign was a success—and what you should repeat in the future.
Practical tip: Plan a time every week or two to compile the metrics from your marketing plan tactics. See what went well and what didn’t.
An in-depth, well-researched marketing plan can give you and your team confidence as you look to grow your business. The best way to avoid missing any components? Use a template. Don’t worry! We have one that can help!