We all know that without a plan, we will accomplish nothing. And, while it may be a bit late to begin developing a marketing plan for 2019, beginning now is better than forging ahead without a clear direction of what you want to accomplish, and how you plan to accomplish it.
That’s basically what a marketing plan is – a plan that lays out what you want to accomplish through your marketing and how you will accomplish those goals. It’s usually best to follow certain steps that help you create a month-by-month plan for each avenue of advertising. Below are the steps we recommend for preparing your 2019 marketing plan.
Learn From 2018
The year is nearly completed, and you should have plenty of data to work with. Look at the first three quarters of 2018 and ask yourself: what went wrong, what went right, and what could have been better?
- Did you have a 2018 marketing plan? Did you stick to it? Why or why not?
- What worked in marketing? What didn’t?
- Did you make your lead goals?
- Did you reach your revenue goals?
These should be the starting points on where you focus your efforts for the coming year. This is also a good time to review each of your marketing activities and determine whether it helped achieve your marketing goals. If the answer is yes, consider keeping the same amount of budget, or increasing it.
Revisit Your Buyer Personas
Go back and examine your buyer personas. If needed, make revisions with each of them. Then, with their present challenges and opportunities fresh in your mind, think about which marketing channels are best helping you connect with them. Do some research on approaching trends that may affect any of your personas. How will these changes dictate adjustments to your marketing efforts in 2019?
- What changed in the past year?
- What stayed the same?
- Where are the greatest challenges for each persona?
- What changes have occurred in your industry that affect your personas?
- What has changed in the competitive landscape that affects your personas?
Now is the time to revisit and update your buyer personas. The insights you gain from this exercise will shape your brainstorming for the better.
Document Your 2019 Objectives
You can probably reel off your marketing goals in your sleep: increase brand awareness, grow repeat customer business, generate leads. But what are your marketing objectives, the specific conditions you need to meet in order to reach your goals?
I think of objectives as the essential building blocks that, once met, add up to a successfully achieved goal. For example, if my goal is to increase brand awareness, a good objective might be to attain 1,000 net new social media followers by a specific date. The date is vital—almost all of us work better under deadline.
Break down your 2019 goals into concrete objectives. These objectives will make clear where you need to invest your time and energy in 2019, and which channels make sense for you to focus on.
As Stephen Covey says, begin with the end in mind. What are your company’s end goals for the upcoming year? Connect your marketing goals to your organization’s goals. Set no more than three or four marketing goals for 2019. Anything more, and you’ll be shooting at too many targets, and likely missing all of them. The principle for success here is under promise and over deliver.
Then, establish additional goals and tasks that fall underneath your big objectives. For example:
Key Goal: Deepen customer relationships to reduce customer churn by X percent.
- Subgoal 1: Launch onboarding/upsell email nurture programs with above industry standard engagement
- Subgoal 2: Identify mostly likely to churn and create video tutorial/email nurture campaign to get them engaged.
- Subgoal 3: Develop and activate a plan for Net Promoter Scores and produce monthly case studies featuring your best customers
Also seek to establish hard methods by which your goals will be measured, in order to document your successes or failures. You will not only want to know if your efforts worked or not, but what contributed to their success or failure.
Marketing Planning by Channel
Here’s where the nuts and bolts of the plan come together. Prioritize the needs of your buyer personas and keep in mind the things you learned from 2018. With those items before you, imagine the campaigns that will help you achieve your marketing objectives. If you’re working with an agency, this is the part where they go away with all of your data and come back with concepts for content and creative. If you’re handling things in-house, my advice at this point is to think big — you can always scale back later.
Establish your 2019 themes and messaging as the roots of your marketing tree. All your marketing activities should be rooted in these themes and overarching messages.
Lay out your marketing communications plan by channel, and break down the activities in each channel by quarter and by month. You may include the following channels, depending on your industry, business size, budget, and goals.
- Direct Marketing
- Print Advertising
- Digital Advertising
- Social Media
- Content Offers
- Public Relations
- Trade shows/Events
- Internal Communications
Mapping campaigns by channel across an entire year allows you to recognize patterns and synergies you might not have seen otherwise. It also helps to ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page about what’s happening when, shifting more of your time from reactive, surprise deadline work to proactive, strategic work.