If you’re like me, you woke up yesterday unable (or unwilling) to believe that it was already December. While the holidays are are in full swing, it’s time to start making some concrete plans for your 2017 marketing team. It may seem late in the game, but it’s definitely not too late to create a solid marketing plan for the new year. Here are some guidelines to help you check all the boxes on your marketing plan and knock 2017 out of the park.
1. Evaluate last year’s successes and failures
The best place to start planning for the future is to look at the past. What happened (or didn’t happen) in the last year is a great indicator of what you should try to accomplish in the coming year. Did you make your lead goals? Did your sales team make their sales goals? Did your company make their revenue goals? These questions aren’t going to give you specifics about what your 2017 plan should entail, but it will give you a good grasp on what is attainable, and where your efforts for the coming year should be focused.
Take some time to have conversations with other teams, especially sales, about how the year went. Does your sales team feel like they were light on leads, or that the leads weren’t properly qualified? Did your company experience a high churn rate? The overall health of the company should be marketing’s number one goal, and the only way to plan for that is to take the time to get a pulse on the current health of your company.
2. Clearly define your goals for the upcoming year
Planning for 2017 requires a top-down approach. If your executive team has already created an action plan for the coming year, that’s a great place to start. After all, you always want your marketing team’s goals to align directly with the goals of the organization. If your company is entering into a high-growth initiative or wants to cut back on customer churn, these things should influence what you’re planning as a marketing team as well.
I suggest you make five or so major, overarching marketing goals. Additional goals or tasks can fall underneath your big objectives. These key goals – that align with your company’s initiatives – will give guidance to the rest of the things you’d like to accomplish throughout the year. For example:
Key Goal: Develop deeper relationships with our customers to reduce customer churn and increase customer lifetime value.
Sub goal 1: Develop five pieces of solid content for our customers
Sub goal 2: Create an onboarding nurture campaign using email and product newsletters
Sub goal 3: Create a social campaign around current customers and top users
Sub goal 4: Rank as a leader on G2 Crowd for customer reviews
3. Nail down your messaging
Messaging is the heartbeat of marketing. Creating intelligent, educated content helps you build a solid relationship with your prospects, and can help turn your prospects into happy customers – and is something that should be key to your 2017 marketing plan. But before churning out a bunch of content, take a look at what you already have. By doing a complete audit of your current content inventory, you’ll be able to identify holes and understand what you should aim to create in the new year.
Your content should not only attract new buyers, but also nurture current relationships you’ve already created. In order to address your customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey, it’s important to identify your audience for every piece of content. Is all of your content top-of-funnel, neglecting those who have already made contact but aren’t yet ready to purchase? Or, are you light on the content that might attract new buyers to your site? Evaluating these things will make it clear what should be on the top of list for content creation next year. If you need some guidance on creating a content plan, check out this 4-step content planning workbook.
4. Have a deep understanding of your target audience
Before you jump full force into the new year, take a moment to evaluate where your company sits in the competitive landscape. Are you the new kid on the block, or are you the industry leader? This should influence your plans for the year heavily. Understanding your market position can help you identify your opportunity. This starts with knowing who your competitors are, what they’re saying, and what makes you different.
Knowing and confirming your differentiators is crucial when you’re creating your 2017 marketing plan. If you know that you’re the best solution for mid-market companies, or that you’re struggling in competition with your competitors, you’ll be able to focus more time and energy around becoming a leader in your industry. If you have the chance, talk with some of your customers about their experience with your company and your product. Getting honest feedback can help you adapt your marketing strategy to target the right audience with the right message.
Additionally, if you haven’t already identified your “ideal customer profile” I strongly suggest you do. Knowing specifics about what makes a great customer for your company is a great place to start when figuring out who your marketing efforts should be targeting. Ideal customer profiles usually include firmographic and demographic information like company size, industry, and common buyer titles. Knowing your customers allows you to communicate better with them, ultimately boosting retention rates and the opportunity for upsell and cross-sell.
5. Make a calendar with important milestones
Creating a strict calendar for the coming year can be a tricky, so it’s best to schedule out what you can, but be ready to roll with the punches. Start with the major things, like new product launches, upcoming announcements, or events you know you’ll be attending this year. Identify all the assets you’ll need such as emails, press releases, or supporting content. From there, you can make a workback plan to facilitate manageable lead times.. If one of your goals is to create a major asset for each quarter, start scheduling out drafts and factor in time for editing and revisions.
Nobody knows what next year might have in store. You might have to change direction or shift your plans significantly, but starting with a plan and schedule will help you achieve the goals you set out to accomplish in the new year.
6. Figure out what it will cost you to be successful (i.e. your budget)
According to WebStrategies, 2017 marketing budgets are expected to remain consistent or increase compared to 2016 levels. This is a good place to start when determining what resources you’ll need to be successful in 2017. If you burned through your budget last year, maybe consider asking for additional budget allocation – but don’t do this without a clear plan for bringing in additional ROI. Make sure your request is validated with real numbers, and strong evidence that more marketing money will equate to a more successful business. On the other hand, if you found yourself spending less than your budget, find a way to maximize that extra money in other areas. Remember that it’s all a numbers game. The ratio that really matters is marketing spend:return.
To nail down which slices of your marketing budget need to be increased or decreased, spend the time to go through each of your marketing activities and determine “Did this help us achieve our clearly defined marketing goals?” If the answer is yes, consider keeping the same amount of budget or increasing. If the answer was no, either decrease the budget or evaluate what you could have done different to make it more successful. With that said, marketing teams should always be evolving. Consider investing in one or two new programs this year that you didn’t do last year. These could be hosting live events or creating a webinar program. Trying a new way to marketing to your prospects and customers might lead to new revenue streams. It’s always good to come to the table with a few fresh ideas in your plan to make sure your team is constantly pushing the envelope.
It’s crunch time for creating your 2017 marketing plan. In general we suggest that you draft your plan, and budget, for the year in November or early December so that you can focus on finishing 2016 strong, and feel confident about sailing into the new year with a targeted plan.