By Bridget Kochersperger
‘Tis the season… for out-of-office messages and wrapping up the year’s projects with your team at work. Did you set aside time to plan for 2017?
That old adage, “New Year, new me” isn’t just for your personal goals; it works in business, too. As you look into the future, you can envision a new, improved version of 2016. In 2017, you can take all those lessons you’ve learned over the past year and combine them with renewed optimism, motivation, and the endless possibilities laid out before you. Why not apply that mindset to your marketing plan for the new year?
Read on for a few tips to make planning easier, smarter, and more strategic in 2017.
Take time for reflection
It’s important to start the planning process with an audit of your 2016 efforts. Look at the different facets of your marketing mix, both individually and as part of campaigns. Have you seen consistent social media follower growth throughout the year? Was there a surge during the integrated campaign your team completed surrounding Father’s Day? Where is your website’s inbound traffic coming from most consistently in terms of owned media? Did your leads from social media increase when you added a particular call to action on your company’s Facebook page?
Searching for correlations and causations during a marketing audit is critical to your 2017 planning process because it shows your team what worked, what didn’t work, and what initiatives can be improved to reach your marketing goals in the New Year. And though you may think you have a handle on what the numbers will say, it’s incredibly important to break out those spreadsheets and really study the nuances in the results. Analyzing after a few months have passed gives you and your team fresh eyes to critically evaluate your efforts and results.
If you find you don’t have this data readily available, another important question to ask is, “Do we have the measurement procedures in place throughout the year to ensure we’re tracking metrics that matter to our company?” If not, consider adding measurement to your list of 2017 New Year’s resolutions. Having a firm reporting procedure in place on a monthly, quarterly, or project basis ensures your next audit will go more smoothly.
Set your goals with measurement in mind
If you’re a veteran marketing director, you likely know all about SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. And though each of these is an important element of the goal-setting process, setting measurable goals is perhaps the most critical piece of this. While qualitative results are crucial to understanding your customer and your company’s reputation, at the end of the day most marketing programs will be measured by quantitative data and the ability to prove that the year’s goals were, in fact, met.
But before you start making notes to increase social media followers or email news subscribers, consider the company’s goals. Sometimes it’s easy to lose track of the bigger picture when you’ve traditionally been judged on a particular set of criteria like increasing PR impressions by X percent or averaging Y number of unique monthly visitors on the website. These numbers are important, we know. Challenge yourself to move outside of the box and ask, “How can I prove my team’s contribution to the company’s success?” If your audit proved the highest number of website visits leading to conversions came from your company email newsletter, set goals surrounding its audience size, open rate, and click rate to build on those results. If your research shows that your primary audience reads a particular local publication, set goals surrounding the number and types of stories and thought leadership opportunities secured in that publication.
Visualize the year as a whole
Now that you’ve analyzed past efforts and set your goals, it’s time to dive into the nitty gritty – objectives, strategies, campaigns, and tactics. The best way to ensure you approach the new year with an organized, well-researched, integrated strategic marketing plan is to look at the year as a whole instead of one, two or three months at a time. This is the part that can intimidate even the most seasoned marketing manager, often because of the time commitment involved.
To help save time and to ensure you account for every holiday, industry-related event, seasonal campaign, company program and notable date in history, we recommend starting with a 12-month editorial calendar. This can be done in a word document, an excel file you’ve designed to mock a visual calendar, or a Google Sheet for maximum collaboration capabilities. It’s a simple tool that gives you a clean, visual representation of the year ahead and allows you to plan around these important dates. Plus, you can build in vertical integrations when you’re ready to assign tactics.
Leave room for adjustments
It’s intimidating to plan tactics for an entire year and, often, it can be a waste of time. Consider doing this quarterly, instead. If you are evaluating success on a continuous basis – whether monthly, quarterly or by project – you’re going to learn a lot about what’s working for you, the platforms you’re working with, and new technologies that can change your industry. Your goals and objectives aren’t likely to change, but your tactics might. Working in quarters allows for you to adapt more easily, and ongoing evaluation ultimately leads to higher levels of success.
Planning for the year can be a daunting task, but it’s critical to ensure that you and your team start the new year off on the right foot with the same goals in mind. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to seeing your vision for 2017 come true. Wishing you much success in the New Year!