People often mistake the “what” for the “why.” Let me explain. Say you are preparing for a long vacation and have a long list of to-dos before you go. The “what” is the to-do list of things like packing and putting your mail on hold. However, the “why” is the vacation ahead. Marketing is no different. Before you launch into any activities, you need to have a solid understanding of why you are doing it.
This is why all marketing managers need strategic marketing plans — to guide where you want to go.
This is made even more complex because marketing managers tend to be highly creative people. You have lots of ideas and the market landscape is always changing. But if those ideas do not align with where the business is headed, you may find yourself at a disappointing end — lots of resources and effort spent without any meaningful results for the company.
You need a marketing plan that ties marketing and business goals to the work that needs to be accomplished.
Of course, your team might be accustomed to skipping the strategic planning and jumping right into actual marketing work. I understand why this is tempting and how it happens.
Between tight deadlines and impatient leaders, you feel like you have to move quickly. Investing time in strategic planning would only slow you down. So you barrel through the work without much thinking.
But a solid plan will help everyone stay focused on the work that is most important. You just need to know how to actually document your marketing plan, so it is easy for the entire team to understand and rally around. When they see the value in it, they will build that strategic thinking into everything they do.
Here is what to include in your marketing plan:
Going into the planning process, you should already understand the high-level marketing and business goals. The key is to bring those goals into the plan in a visual way, by grouping work by the goal or initiative it supports, for example. That way, everyone understands what they are working towards and why every activity matters.
Your marketing team might work on major themes or what we call initiatives. These major workstreams serve as “containers” for your plans and activities. The critical part is to connect your day-to-day work to the overall strategy — this is how you create a “red thread” of strategy throughout your plan.
You likely already know which channels are most effective to engage with customers and reach out to prospective ones. For example, you might reach out to customers on a variety of platforms, such as social media, blogs, and advertising networks. You will want to include channels for your campaigns and programs in your marketing plan so you can quickly identify where your focus areas are.
Activities are the actual work items needed to deliver a complete program or campaign. Depending on what your team is marketing, activities may be things like email newsletters, digital advertisements, or media outreach.
Plans are useless without dates. You will want to include key dates for when your marketing activities will be delivered, as well as phases for campaigns and programs. Your timeline may be broken down by specific days, weeks, fiscal quarters, half a year, or even multiple years. It is all dependant on the work and the team.
Money matters. And marketing teams usually have plenty to spend. Include the budgets for your programs or campaigns. As work progresses, you will then be able to measure results, analyze your return on investment, and adjust accordingly.
The best marketing plans include input from a wide variety of people across teams. So make it easy for the product, engineering, and sales teams to coordinate. The ability to visualize how the interrelated pieces fit together helps everyone get aligned on timing and trade-offs if there are delays.
Marketing plans ensure that you are not just busy doing work — but that you are doing work that matters to customers and the business.
You can use your plan as a gut check for new work or changes to your approach. When a request or idea comes up, the plan will help guide conversations around what you will say yes or no to.
This process ideally leads to breakthrough marketing that delivers on real business goals. Another ideal? More clarity and a sense of calm for you and the team. Your plan will give you the freedom to pursue creative ideas with purpose, knowing that the chaos is behind you.
What else do you put in your marketing plan?
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