A useful guide to annual marketing planning.
The new year is a time when many of us are making resolutions to eat healthier, be more active, or, the granddaddy of them all—lose weight. Business-to-business (B2B) companies have different resolutions but aren't any less challenging. With limited budgets, it's not easy to deliver impactful marketing results. Marketers must be creative and strategic with their resources in order to maximize marketing effectiveness.
A study showed that 91% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Why is that? As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Tackle 2023 with a clear plan to knock your marketing out of the park.
Here’s an 8-part checklist for making a new year’s marketing resolution that works:
- Set SMART goals
- Get feedback from your customers
- Create/update your buyer personas
- Conduct a brand audit
- Give your website a checkup
- Write a marketing communication plan
- Create a marketing calendar
- Define how you will measure success
Let’s dive in.
1. Set SMART goals
One of the reasons so many resolutions fail is that they lack specificity. Instead of resolving to be more active, say, “I will walk at least a half hour every day.” Marketing is no different. Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) sets the marketing year up for success. A study by Dominican University of California found 76% of participants who wrote down specific goals were successful compared to 43% with unwritten goals.
Begin by assembling your company leadership and making a list of goals for the year. Then, ask how marketing can support those goals. For instance, if the company wants to grow 10%, find out your average sale amount and multiply that by your close rate. Divide that into your growth goal, and you’ll know how many leads need to be generated to hit your goal. From there, you can get into the tactics that will deliver the biggest bang for your marketing buck. More on that later. In the meantime, here are some helpful tips on setting SMART goals.
2. Get customer feedback
Customer feedback provides valuable insights into how customers feel about a product or service. It helps inform decisions on how to improve the customer experience, increase customer loyalty, and ensure that customer needs are met. By listening to customers and responding to their feedback, companies can build relationships, discover new opportunities, and ensure they remain competitive in their industry.
Feedback comes in many formats. Customer satisfaction surveys, product feedback, and feature requests to name a few. Looking for quick feedback? Try Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a great way to get feedback after major milestones and projects are completed. Retently and SurveyMonkey are two excellent resources.
3. Create/update your buyer personas
The first step in selling a product to a customer is having a clear idea of who that customer is. By understanding who their target customers are, businesses can create more effective marketing campaigns, better understand which products and services will meet their needs, and develop strategies for building relationships with them.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer. Companies typically have 2-3 personas that account for the majority of their business, say 80%. If your business already has personas, it’s a good idea to evaluate them annually for accuracy and to make any updates needed. This blog explains how.
4. Conduct a brand audit
A strong brand is made up of two equally important parts—the visual and the nonvisual brand. Most people understand the importance of having a strong visual brand. The visual part of a brand is all of the things that are seen that are associated with a company. Logos, colors, typography, and images fall into this category. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room.” That's where the nonvisual aspect or voice comes in. Brand voice is the personality a brand takes on when communicating with the world.
The new year is a prime time to take a 360-degree look at your brand. A brand audit examines and analyzes the effectiveness of marketing and communication materials an organization has used over the years to assess its effectiveness. In the process, old images, colors, taglines, and other materials will be taken into consideration for your current marketing strategy, and it will be determined if they are still appropriate to use and guide the future of your brand. Learn more about visual and nonvisual brands.
PS - While you’re at it, don’t forget to check in on your employer brand. More about that here.
5. Give your website a checkup
A website is many companies' most important marketing tool. Checking how your website is performing is important because it helps you to understand how well your website is meeting the needs of its users. It also allows you to identify any potential issues that could be hindering user experience, such as slow loading times, broken links, or poor usability. HubSpot's Website Grader is a useful tool for assessing the overall health of a website.
Companies should consider upgrading their website every 2-3 years unless they are undergoing a rebrand or need to bring new functionality to customers online. Read about when it's time to upgrade your website.
6. Write a marketing communication plan
Taking the time to develop a marketing communications plan that aligns with and supports the company’s broader business goals can pay a huge dividend. A written plan provides a clear roadmap for how to achieve those goals and objectives. It also helps to set expectations and motivate team members to stay on track and focused on the goals.
Unfortunately, over half of B2B companies don’t have a written marketing communications (marcom) plan. Marcom plans come in many shapes and sizes. The most common plans include market research findings, goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) (more on that below), target market definition, unique value proposition, marketing strategies, marketing tactics, media recommendations, and a budget. Read about why companies need a written marcom plan.
7. Create a marketing calendar
A marketing calendar helps companies to plan, coordinate, and track all of their marketing activities in one place. It provides the structure and clarity needed to ensure that the right resources are allocated to the right campaigns at the right time. It also helps keep marketing efforts organized so that marketers can focus on tasks that will help achieve the company’s goals.
After your marcom plan is set, it’s time to lay everything out on a marketing calendar. A marketing calendar is a Gantt chart that is a week-by-week view of a company’s marketing. It lists the marketing tactics that will be used throughout the year and the timing for each tactic. There’s no need for fancy software here. A simple spreadsheet will do the trick.
8. Define how you will measure success
Attaching KPIs to the tactics you’ve included in your plan ensures goals are being met. The fact of the matter is most small businesses don’t take enough time to evaluate their marketing’s effectiveness. You can set your company apart from the pack by deciding which metrics define your effort’s success.
Calculating the return on investment (ROI) is the most common way to measure the success of a marketing campaign. ROI measures how much money was spent on a marketing campaign compared to the amount of money generated by it. Find out how to know if your marketing is working.
By checking these boxes, you’re setting yourself up for marketing success. If all this seems overwhelming, start at the top and work your way through the list. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The first step is committing. After you do that, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish when you’ve set a new year’s resolution you can actually stick to.