Just the fact of being asked for specific budget numbers often makes marketers jump straight to tactics before they’ve developed the strategic foundation that should drive those tactics. Unfortunately if you haven’t done that work yet for 2015, it’s probably too late for your budget process. But either way it’s never too late to start doing it the right way.
The 5 steps to an effective, defensible marketing plan:
1. Don’t Guess
The powers that be need to recognize that before you decide where, when and how to spend money, modern marketing requires some pretty sophisticated strategic planning. While your team’s instincts and experience are probably good, you’d be surprised how wrong gut decisions can be. The Connect, Cultivate, Convert model does a good job of explaining why this complex environment requires a formalized strategic approach.
2. Do the basics
The foundation starts with traditional research and insights, like customer segmentation, competitive review and persona development. But it’s what comes next that really counts.
3. Journey Mapping
You need to know what the key interaction points and influences are on the way to purchase, and then advocacy, for each target segment. This tells you when and where to interact with each target segment, but it’s still not enough.
4. Content Strategy
You also need to know what to say, and how to say it to each segment at each interaction point. This comes from the work of a Content Strategy. It includes social media listening to discover what people are saying, and studying search activity to find out what people are doing. This work reveals the psychology of the consumer at each point in their journey and provides essential direction to creative messaging.
At this point you have a strategic plan, which includes who you are targeting, when and where you should engage, what you should say and how that messaging should be delivered, but you need one more thing. The final step is to translate all this strategy into an actionable plan.
The Playbook should:
· Prioritize tactics based on their ability to deliver against goals
· Lay out tactics in priority over time
· Show how each tactic ladders up to the strategy
· Provide budgets for each tactic.
· Project ROI
· Identify KPIs for performance measurement
Tactics should include campaign work to connect with new prospects, tactics to cultivate prospects and customers over time, and tactics to convert prospects into customers. Some tactics may be one-time, others may be evergreen and part of your on-going marketing infrastructure.
When you’ve taken these five steps you will really be ready for budget time. You will be able to tell your management exactly how much you need, why, and what the ROI will be. You will be able to explain how, in the context of corporate goals, you got to your strategy, how the tactics you recommend will accomplish the strategy and why you have prioritized certain tactics within the time period. You will be able to justify each tactic, why it makes sense and how it ladders up to the long-term vision for the brand.
You may not be quite ready to deliver, however, if you don’t have the right mechanics in place. In our digitally centric world these are mostly digital assets like an effective website. These technology components, of what essentially becomes a brand ecosystem, enable you to consistently turn the activity you generate with advertising and marketing into sales and loyalty. But that’s another post.
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