Marketing Strategy And Planning Has Accelerated; You Have To Accelerate, Too
From the time I started out in marketing and up until about three years ago, I did everything on a 12-month cycle. The 12-month marketing plan and 12-month editorial calendar were very common in almost every company. Agencies worked in a similar way.
Thinking out the entire year provided some value, but as marketing evolved, so did the planning cycles. Today, we do everything on a 30-day cycle to take advantage of technology, data and our results-driven focus.
If you’re still looking at marketing with a long-term lens, you might be missing out on some opportunities to drive results through adjustments that are easy to deliver in weeks, not months. Here are some tips and techniques from our proven 30-day inbound marketing planning cycle we use with clients.
Get Ahead Of The Opportunities
Marketers can’t afford to be reactive anymore. You have to be proactive. By thinking about, planning and prioritizing tactics every 30 days, you don’t have a chance to fall behind. This Agile sprint-style planning keeps you ahead of the opportunities and allows you to focus on those tactics that will produce the best results.
Use Data To Make Priority Decisions
This approach means you’re not at the whims of executives or leaders who are making decisions based on assumptions, perspectives or opinions. Instead, you’re looking at the data from the previous month, reporting on and responding to the actual performance of your marketing programs. Then you’re making planning decisions based on that data.
Here’s an example: You sent an email campaign out last month to 3,000 people. How did it do? What do you have to do this month to improve that performance? Is another email the best use of your time? How did your landing page upgrades do? If they did great, double down on that tactic and drive an even higher conversion rate.
You keep adding tactical deliverables and upgrades into your 30-day plan until you’re out of budget (in our case) or your team is completely allocated. This ensures you get full value from your investment in your team or with your agency partner.
Connect Longer-Term Initiatives With Shorter-Term Execution
A lot of people ask me, “What about longer-term initiatives like the webinar that’s scheduled for November?” It’s a good question, but it’s one that is easy to handle with 30-day planning. One of your 30-day plans is going to include looking out across the entire year and identifying activities you want to execute like webinars, conferences or events you’ll be attending.
Next, you simply break up the work around those longer-term activities into their relative 30-day planning efforts. For example, if we have a webinar coming up in October (which we do), we’ll do some promotion and planning in August, more in September and then in October the tasks will be promotion and execution of the actual event. It might take a little practice initially, but after a couple of cycles, it becomes very natural.
Cycle Around On Company Strategy, Too
Companies have a tendency to change their strategic go-to market strategy, too. CEOs and leaders need to pivot at times to take advantage of market dynamics or to adjust based on company performance. This 30-day planning cycle actually helps marketing be more adaptable to these changes, but we also overlay a 90-day company strategy discussion on top of our 30-day marketing tactics sessions to give us a chance to connect with company leaders in case a strategic shift is coming.
Now we can quickly adjust the 30-day planning to match and provide input, insights and marketing intelligence to company leadership so they have all of the information they need to make the right decision for the overall company direction.
Look At Your Budget Based On Opportunities To Drive Results
Budgets are a reality for every marketing team. Either you have a monthly budget that’s been planned and allocated, or you’re working with an agency and you’ve co-created that budget based on what you need the agency’s help with. Typically, 12-month budget planning doesn’t give you a chance to change based on performance and it doesn’t take into consideration what might get shut down based on poor performance — saving you money. Nor does it take into consideration what might need to be invested in based on performance — costing you money.
What the 30-day planning cycle does is it allows you to prioritize every month based on the budget. Using the methodology we use with clients, the first tactics going into the plan are those that will drive big results for the least amount of effort. This allows us to get a lot in before we start impacting the budget dramatically. Then we add the bigger tasks that also have a big impact. This approach ensures that the most important work is always prioritized first and results are always top of mind.
Use A Tactic Backlog To Capture Great Ideas
In the heat of the battle, work that must get done can overshadow good ideas. The tactic backlog prevents good ideas from ever getting lost. Every month, all ideas (good ones and not-so-good ones) are captured in the backlog. Each month, the backlog is groomed, removing ideas that are not so great or ideas that might take a ton of time with uncertain results.
This is going to take some getting used to. But once you settle into the monthly planning rhythms and focus on building up the tactic backlog, prioritizing monthly and making priority decisions based on data, you’ll see a lift in program performance.
Marketing teams tend to be more reactive than proactive. Marketing tends to respond to opportunities or requests, instead of sticking to the plan. This is the best of both worlds, allowing you to respond opportunistically while still being thoughtful and strategic in your 30-day planning.
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