The process of envisioning and developing a marketing plan can be the most exciting time of year for many businesses. But the nuts and bolts of planning a timeline and a budget can be daunting for some. Here are some common-sense ways to keep you grounded and sane during budget season.
- Start early! That sounds easy enough, but often the first step in the process is the most difficult. The reward, though, is immeasurable. Getting started early, or at least on time, makes every other aspect of the planning cycle easier. Following that, meeting your implementation launch deadlines is much more likely.
- Clarify your objectives. Clear objectives are vital. If you don’t know where you want to end up, it’s going to be hard to recognize which vehicles will best get you there. Or worse, to recognize when you’re off track. Deciding whether your efforts need to result in increased awareness (more on this in number 4) or in e-newsletter sign-ups or in purchases is the first step to defining the elements and costs of your course of action.
- Review. You don’t have to start with a blank slate. Take a look at the elements of your current plan and the metrics so far. The tried-and-true 80/20 rule may be helpful. Which of your efforts (likely 20% of them) produced the majority of your results? Balance those results with your costs to determine your best return on investment. There’s a good start. Now add in this year’s creative new ideas to build out your plan.
- Set realistic – and measurable – goals. Setting challenging goals can motivate a team and bring in profitable results. They must be attainable, though. And in order to report (and celebrate) attaining them, they must be measurable. “Increase awareness” alone is vague, but “increase the number of new visitors to the website” or “increase digital ad reach by 10%” is not. Determining how the goal will be measured also helps narrow which marketing activities you need to include in your budget in order to get there.
- Plan for agility. This is where the rubber meets the road. A plan that is set in stone often causes frustration, more work and delayed results. It needs to allow for flexibility in execution. Keep in mind throughout your entire process that you may not have every answer you need today. Give the plan, and your team, some room to work and permission to adapt.
Periodic status updates and a review of results-to-date often point out needed budget changes. Prepare for the inevitable adjustments that will need to be made along the way.