Building your marketing plan doesn’t have to be a daunting task. As with any business plan, it is important to define your target market, performance metrics, goals by marketing channel, and a realistic execution timeline.
Questions to ask yourself when building a data-driven marketing plan:
1. What performance metrics does your business care about?
Are your marketing metrics tied back to business goals? Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you analyze performance across the funnel. If you have a lead tracking system in place, consider not only tracking how many leads you obtained but if they are marketing qualified (MQL) or sales qualified (SQL), the potential revenue size, and where they are in the sales process – the data needed to give you both the short term and long term view into campaign performance to gain insights for optimizations. Oftentimes, large purchase decisions aren’t made quickly and aren’t made by one person. Make sure to track metrics that determine how far they are in the buying process like key page views, repeat visitors, account based/company tracking, etc. Its also important to understand what you are comparing results against. New campaigns may not have an equivalent reference point from last year but you can track KPIs such as cost per acquisition (CPA) and return on ad spend (ROAS). You can’t set goals without first knowing what metrics your executives and team want to track and why.
2. How well do you track your performance metrics?
Knowing which metrics to track is the first step, now confirm you have the systems in place to track them. Whether you are using Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Optimizely, Marketo, or Salesforce make sure all KPIs are being tracked and tracked correctly. This may mean building out campaign tracking parameters, confirming goals, and defining events within the customer journey. Set best practices and governance models for standardizing tracking procedures. If you aren’t already, consider tracking phone calls and online chat activity. Make sure you can track performance holistically across all marketing channels and efforts. Look at cross-channel performance and establish an attribution model that makes sense for your company. Logging in to each platform individually and trying to connect the dots is time-consuming and difficult so consider investing in a data aggregation and reporting platform that can attribute marketing to sales activity. As an example, at BusinessOnline our proprietary DataWeld platform connects to multiple marketing technology data sources to help our digital marketing experts better attribute and analyze performance.
3. Are your customer personas defined and is their buying journey mapped out?
Defining your existing customer base and putting them into representative groups based on demographics, firmographics, purchase history, and behaviors is an important step in being able to better support them. Once you’ve formally determined your customer personas make sure you understand their buying journey and identify any supporting influencers that may not have made your primary persona list. As you map out their buying journey start thinking about their needs and what solutions they need from you at each step of the process. Mapping the customer buying journey is the first step in planning any successful marketing plan.
4. Do you compare YOY performance?
How are your current efforts performing compared to last year? There will always be variables like market condition changes, budget cuts, focus on different marketing channel allocation, and strategy shifts. You should be prepared to provide the qualitative insights, but comparing the YOY hard data, such as sales growth, pipeline size and velocity, MQL generation, etc. is still an essential first step. If there are gaps in what you tracked last year or it wasn’t a clean look, see if you have what you need going into the next year. Check to see what worked in the past and what systems you have in place to improve your marketing plan for next year.
5. Have you researched all the available digital marketing channels?
It is important to have the above questions answered first to understand your goals for each marketing channel, KPIs, and your customers buying journey. Now is a good time to evaluate each marketing channel and determine if your efforts have paid off. Don’t just do paid search, for example, because you have in the past! A good starting point is to list all of your marketing channel options even if you haven’t used them before – SEO, paid search, content marketing, paid social, influencer marketing, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, SnapChat, Account Based Marketing (ABM), and predictive analytics to name a few. As you test these channels, you can establish new benchmarks to use in forecasting and budget planning for the next year. Don’t just assume what was successful in the past will work in the future. As technology and buying behaviors change, be sure to consistently test your new strategies live in the market even if with a small budget to get real data.
6. Is your technology stack properly in place?
Finally, address your marketing technology stack. Having the right technology is critical to planning, executing, integrating, and tracking your efforts. There are many options available and it’s easy to think you need them all. Start by auditing what you have and identify any duplicative tools and how often each tool is used by your team. Then list the features you are missing and research the top vendors. If you can identify the right technology stack, one that meets your business needs better, and even cut unnecessary software you have now, you’ll have a much better chance of getting your budget approved.
Start off the new year prepared:
Answering these six questions before building your marketing plan will help you enter the new year confidently saying:
I know what data and KPIs my executive team wants to see and what they define as success.
I have defined the best metrics to track and have a clear process in place to track success of my campaigns.
I understand who my customers are and how they go through the buying journey
I know what was successful and not successful last year and have a plan in place to improve upon our efforts.
I have vetted all the available digital marketing channels and selected the ones that work best for our needs.
We have the appropriate technology stack in place to support our marketing campaigns.
BusinessOnline is a performance-driven digital marketing agency that leverages data to gain deep insights about the specific needs of our clients’ customers in each phase of their buying journey and align digital marketing efforts to meet those needs and measure ROI. If you’re building a marketing plan for next year, contact us today for a comprehensive marketing audit.