Can you believe it? The end of the year is nearly upon us once again. That means you’re likely hurriedly trying to wrap up all the projects and goals you wanted to accomplish for this year, all while trying to enjoy everything that the holiday season has to offer. And you still need to plan for next year too.
While it can be tempting to skip creating a formal annual marketing plan, especially during such a busy time of year, don’t succumb to that temptation. A documented annual marketing plan sets the foundation for the coming year. It takes that solid foundation for everything you build upon it to be successful.
If you’re reading this thinking that you simply don’t have time to create an annual marketing plan, you aren’t alone. But an effective marketing plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated to create, as we outline in the tips below.
1. Set the stage. All good future planning starts with a look at past progress and achievements. So, kick off your marketing plan with a brief look back. Provide highlights of your current-year to-date, including things like number of leads generated, ad conversion rates, social media followers, email stat averages, website traffic and other related statistics, along with a comparison to the year before so you can document progress or setbacks. Also, outline the challenges you faced during the current year.
2. Rely on research. You know your target audience and customers, right? After all, you market to them on a daily basis. But it’s important to recognize that these audiences can change, even ever so slightly, over time. Use your annual marketing plan as an opportunity to explore whether your target market has evolved overtime. Dig into your own data and some basic market research to ensure that your ideas about your target audiences still align with who they actually are. Include this information in your marketing plan so everyone is on the same page about who marketing is targeting.
3. Analyze the year ahead. A SWOT analysis is a simple and straightforward way to paint a picture of the year ahead. What are your company’s strengths and weaknesses? What opportunities and threats does your business face? Creating a SWOT analysis can help you uncover any internal or external factors that could impact your marketing strategy in the year ahead.
4. Spell out your strategy. Now that you’ve examined your audience and your SWOT analysis for the year ahead, you’re ready to detail how your company will approach the market. How will you stand out from competitors? What messaging will you use? What tactics and channels will you use to reach your audiences? How will your approach differ for various audience segments? These are all important questions to answer in the strategy section of your marketing plan.
5. Budget. An annual marketing plan wouldn’t be complete without a budget breakdown. A simple pie chart is a great way to illustrate the entire budget that your department has been allocated, along with how you will spend that money. Broad categories – such as PR, advertising, events, etc. – are fine for these purposes. You can think of this as a budget snapshot and save the details for a separate and more in-depth budget document.