Wait, is it really almost 2016?
As unbelievable as it seems that we’re ready to ring in the New Year, it’s something we’ve been preparing for at VantagePoint over the past several weeks as we’ve put the finishing touches on 2016 marketing communications plans for our clients.
A common mantra in the office is, “Plan the work; work the plan,” and for good reason. Giving time to really think strategically about the year ahead is critical to ensuring goals are accomplished. Plus, having a plan in place makes the months flow by more smoothly — a bonus for all involved.
So, where do you start? Here’s a process that works for me.
1) Start with the goals.
What are the business goals, and what (reasonable) marketing objectives can help achieve them? For example, if the goal is growth, then generating leads might be the focus. If it’s to demand higher prices, then improving perceived value in the marketplace might be necessary.
2) Review your audiences.
In the B2B space, it may seem like audiences don’t change much over the years, but don’t put too much stock in that. Each year, review your target audiences and update your list of which value propositions matter most to each group. Also take some time to validate your persona of each group. As millennials enter into new roles, technology changes or various industry regulations add new pressures, things might change.
3) Plot out what you already know.
At this point, you should know what major tradeshows, product launches, annual sales meetings, training events or special anniversaries are planned for 2016 and even early 2017. Gather those dates into one spreadsheet, and pre-schedule internal planning meetings 3-4 months before each event.
4) Consider each key “bucket.”
Considering your goals and audiences, think through each category of marketing initiatives to see if any specific needs come to mind. Buckets to consider are branding, trade advertising, collateral, sales tools/support, training, digital and programs (i.e., customer acquisition, customer penetration).
5) Review your current resources.
What does your company have already that can be leveraged in terms of websites, social media, sales kits and other items? What can be improved? What can be expanded? What’s missing?
6) Think about the bigger picture.
Now that all the necessities and low-hanging fruit have likely surfaced, review the goals and audiences and determine where there might be other opportunities.
7) Cross-reference the budget.
Use historical data to assign budgets to each initiative on the list and compare that to your department’s budget. If you can’t get the funds to cover all that you want to accomplish, strike a few of the lower impact ideas from the list.
8) Schedule and prioritize.
Take that spreadsheet where you’ve plotted out key events and start to add in the other initiatives from your list. Not everything can be accomplished in first quarter, so place things throughout the year in a way that makes sense for workload, seasonality and potential for impact.
Remember, you don’t need to have everything figured out from the beginning. As long as you know you want to pursue a lead generation campaign, for example, you can schedule when to start thinking through the details.
Of course things will come up that you can’t predict — that’s the nature of what we do. But trust me, having what you can predict mapped out ahead of time makes blocking and tackling the things you can’t much easier.
Cheers to 2016!