“By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin first uttered these pithy words back in 1790. A couple of centuries later, Winston Churchill echoed the sentiment almost verbatim when he said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” A few decades later, motivational posters and internet memes ran with the message and made it the business battle cry heard ‘round the world.
So, what’s my point? (And I do have one.) Simply this: A solid, step-by-step, long-term marketing plan is your key to success.
Let’s break it down: When you’re building a brand, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive and strategic approach to achieving your long-term goals and vision. Where is your brand now? Where do you want it to be in a year? What’s your Big Picture? And how are you going to get there? A 30-day plan may seem like a good place to start. After all, it’s the least daunting and day-to-day fires do have to be put out — but it also has a nasty way of honing in on the trees and missing the forest. Focusing solely on the short- term can lead to a lack of coherence and sustainability in the long run. If you don’t know what you’re working toward, it’s easy to get sucked into a scramble of hot one-off projects that don’t work together to achieve your ultimate goals. In short, you get lost in the forest.
On the other hand, leaning exclusively on your long-term marketing plan in this shape-shifting digital age is a lesson in futility. While old-school marketing entered around creating a single comprehensive annual plan (we’ll call it the MadMen planning model), it worked well primarily because the business and marketing scene was quite different back in the analog age. Today, a year is way too long to map out specific details that far in advance. Driven by quantum-speed cultural shifts and short attention spans, modern marketing can barely predict outcomes even a few months out, let alone a whole year.
Soooo. . . now that neither an annual nor a 30-day marketing plan can single-handedly achieve your goals, WTH are you supposed to do? Embrace the chaos? Abandon all hope? Order tacos? The answer is (c), order tacos. Then let’s talk marketing.
Enter the 12-Month Marketing Plan.
Wait. Didn’t we just say an annual plan can’t solve all your marketing needs? Yeah. But we didn’t say a 12-month marketing plan couldn’t. Psych.
Think modular. A 12-month marketing plan is essentially an annual plan broken down into 30/60/90-day tiers or modules. Start with your long-term annual goals, then work your way down, module by module, breaking your plan into smaller and smaller fun-size chunks until you reach the 30-day module. At which point you can keep breaking things down week by week, day by day, minute by minute, if you like. If you get down to nanoseconds, get some therapy. You definitely have control issues.
The beauty of the 12-month plan is that it gives you all the benefits of monthly, bimonthly, quarterly and annual planning in one handy, cohesive package. Its segmented construction also gives you the flexibility of adjusting and fine-tuning modules as needed without making a hot mess of your long-term goals. Because let’s face it: Some ideas work just as planned and some just don’t.
1) Annual. Start here. Begin taking stock of your EOY marketing and how it’s serving—or not serving—your brand.
- Lookback. Take a hard look at your Big Picture plan for the past 12months. How’d that work for you? Note what went right and what went horribly, horribly wrong. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. If a strategy missed the mark, analyze why and how to rethink it moving forward. Observe, analyze, adjust, update. You’ve got this.
- Analyze your analytics. See what we did there? You can’t manage what you can’t measure. The numbers will tell you whether you crushed what you wanted to crush or fell short. Numbers can be merciless little dream-killers, but they never lie. Except on the scale.
- How about that creative? Is your creative content setting you apart from the herd? Establishing a brand personality? Achieving your long-term and short- term goals? Optimizing your SEO rankings? Take a look at your creative team.
A lot hinges on that talent pool and it’s no place to scrimp. It’ll cost you in the long run.
- Scope out the competition. Need we remind you that, while you’re busy reviewing last year’s outcomes and planning for the coming year, so is every other brand? They’re also plotting all the strategic, creative and analytic tools they can use to beat the pants off you. Now’s a good time to take note and proceed accordingly.
- Take a fresh look at your brand strategy. That doesn’t mean buying more button ads (necessarily). It means examining your brand mission and your brand positioning. So, what’s the difference? Your mission is the vision that continually moves your brand forward, the guiding light that keeps your team focused and in sync. Hint: It’s in your mission statement. Your brand positioning or value statement describes what makes you different and how that benefits your target audience. It’s their answer to “what’s in it for me?” And ideally, it should be based on what’s actually in it for them.
- Plan on investing in your community. Get involved. When you make visible efforts to support local organizations and activities, people notice — especially when you invite the press. It’s like giving your brand a superhero cape and it helps establish a bond with your clients and future clients. Because let’s face it, nothing says “we care” like sponsoring a big community pizza party. No anchovies.
2) 90-Day. Quarterly planning is a lot like annual planning but with a shorter deadline. The good news is, you’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting with your annual plan. Now it’s time to reconvene, review and refine.
- Review your annual plan. Remember that laundry list of long-term goals in your awesome Annual plan? Yeah, you do, but can your team recite them from memory, in alphabetical order? A nice printout might help. Maybe some note pads. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. No decaf — you want everybody wired and ready to brainstorm.
- Now review the previous 90-day analytics. Time to take stock of what worked and what didn’t. This may include data from various social media platforms, Google analytics, etc. Be honest. This isn’t the time to capitalize your wins and lowercase your losses. Save that for your high school reunion.
- Break things down into fun-size chunks. Divide and conquer. Take your long-term annual goals and deconstruct those babies into a series of smaller, tastier tactics and strategies that can be tackled in 90 days or less.
3) 30/60-Day. No need to reinvent the wheel. 30-day and 60-day planning are a lot like 90-day planning and each other except for the timelines. Also, efficiency in planning and buying media, executing creative and plugging in seasonal promotions is more, you know, efficient when you can look further into the future. And things may hit different at 60 days than they did at 30.
- Review your annual plan. Again. Things change. People forget.
- Now review the previous 30/60-day analytics. Time to take stock again. What worked and what didn’t. Data from social media platforms, Google analytics, yada yada. (See 90-Day plan.) You know the drill.
- Talk about your target. Not in a gossipy way. We mean taking a closer look at your audience insights. Start with the basics: gender(s), age, locations and the like. If possible, zoom in closer and look at education level, profession, hobbies. How can you connect and what’s standing in your way? Efficiency in planning and purchasing media, creative executions, plugging in seasonal promotions — all depend on knowing who you’re talking to.
- Set short-term goals. Consider what you want to accomplish and when. Want to grow your email list? Maybe make more sales on your website? Get specific, e.g., “Our goal is to get 200 new email subscribers in the next 30/60 days.” Even better, “We WILL get 200 new email subscribers in the next 30/60 days.” You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and dammit, way more than 200 people like you.
- Make things happen. You’ve got your 30/60-day goals, now plan how to reach them. We’re talking advertising, content marketing, SEO, social media, the works. So many options, so little time. You’ve got this.
Are you ready to take on your marketing plan? Look no further, because Morgan & Co. is here to support you every step of the way. Our comprehensive strategic marketing framework simplifies your objectives into manageable modules, providing the flexibility and adaptability you need. We continuously monitor performance, fine-tune tactics, and foster collaboration to ensure you achieve maximum results. Give us a call and let’s get started!