If your year end, like ours, falls at the end of March, then now is the time to plan your marketing for next year. Allocating budgets to the different areas of digital, print and brand marketing and aligning these with your company’s overall objectives for the year will put you in a fantastic position for the year ahead. So, where to start…

The first challenge is to work out how your marketing budget can support the objectives of the company and define your marketing goals. For example, a company wants to increase it’s turnover by 20%. The marketing goals might therefore be to increase website traffic by 100% and increase quantity of enquiries by 50%.

Next, think about your target audience and what you want to say to them. It’s a good idea to segment as much as possible according to vertical markets, geography or other demographic (age, sex, job title etc). Once segments are agreed, try to fully understand your audience, their needs, their daily routines and frustrations – you are looking for valuable insight to base your messaging around so it will hit home. Look at what your competitors are saying and find a way to differentiate yourselves.

Thinking about your audience and how to talk to them should automatically bring to mind a list of marketing channels – website, social media, email, post, print advertising, events etc. Whatever activities you decide to include in your plan, firstly make sure that you use a combination and that they are consistent and supporting each other – we like to use the term “integrated”. For example, a campaign to draw people to a stand at an event might include a teaser email leading to a promotional page on the website, supported by a direct mail invitation in the post and a press ad in a relevant trade publication. All these activities should drive traffic to the website, push people to the event stand and lead to data capture for future communications, or even better, an enquiry.

When putting your plan together, it helps to plot the activities according to the calendar, taking into account busy periods for the relevant industry, trade events, seasonal opportunities and holidays. It is worth leaving some spare budget for ‘tactical’ requirements that might crop up.

Last but not least, note how you are going to track each activity’s performance and return. Gone are the days when tracking response was akin to guesswork, with today’s digital analytics and sophisticated tracking systems there should be a clear result for every campaign. Don’t forget to track right through to conversion so you can demonstrate ROI. Note down the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you will use and check them on a monthly basis. Finally, be flexible – using this real time data you will be able to evaluate activities as you go and may need to revisit the marketing plan.

To summarise the process:

1. Create marketing goals to support company objectives
2. Define and segment your target audience
3. Agree what you want to say to them
4. Brainstorm suitable activities
5. Plan activities according to the calendar
6. Track response, quality of leads and conversion
7. Evaluate as you go and adjust if required

Good luck with your planning!

Written by. Debbie Parsons

Debbie Parsons