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Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution

Marketing Plans Thumb
Marketing Plans

In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Most people understand that proper planning is a crucial ingredient of success, but creating and executing successful marketing plans is a real challenge for most companies. This principle also impacts sales, human resources, operations, and all other major business functions. Although few would argue against the merits of preparation, many companies don't step back and carve out the time needed to do it properly.

Numerous studies show a massive disconnect between their strategic marketing and business plans and the intended results. The statistics range from a dismal 3% to a paltry 33% success rate. Although there are many other specific factors, the following are key reasons why things usually go wrong from the planning perspective:

  • Lack of planning experience or a solid planning process.
  • Not enough research and data used in the decision-making.
  • Not enough detail put into the plan.
  • Unrealistic goals relative to the available resources.
  • Lack of buy-in from those who will execute the plan.
  • A weak or non-existent governance process.

5-Step Marketing Management Framework

To help make your planning more structured and effective – you might benefit from the following framework. The basic premise is that you start at the most strategic level of thinking. Then you continually break things down into more tactical activities. Everything should align closely with your key inputs and business goals. 

Marketing Plans

Building better marketing plans requires some Essential Inputs that form the foundation when selecting your activities and mapping out how you will achieve them. If you don't have these inputs or haven't revisited them lately, some homework should be done first.

Arguably, this is a one-time event, but things often change over a year and sometimes during a quarter. At the very least, it’s wise to re-validate your data and assumptions before the real planning begins

Basic Guidelines for Marketing Plans

#1 Business Goals

These are the goals you are planning to reach during an upcoming period. Marketing examples could include things like the number of leads created, website and social media engagement targets, or brand building metrics. There can also be important large-scale strategic goals, such as deploying a marketing automation tool or hiring for several key roles during a quarter.

During this phase, you also need to estimate the time, cost, and energy it will take to achieve your plan. Make sure the budget and resources are abundant enough to get the work done. Being unrealistic about your goals is a recipe for failure.


#2 Focus Areas

This step defines the major Focus Areas that need attention during the execution period. What are the most important “big buckets” of your plan, and how do they align with your Business Goals? If you look at the examples in the framework, you would be right in assuming that these stay relatively consistent. However, there will be varying degrees of effort put into these Focus Areas at any given time since you can’t do everything at once. Usually, there are 4-6 of these in total.


#3 Major Initiatives

Major Initiatives feed into and support your Focus Areas. For example, if you need to create more brand awareness this year, your Major Initiatives may include things such as SEO and content marketing, social media, digital advertising, public relations, or events.

These can also be more programmatic. Let’s say client retention is an issue for your company and a Focus Area this quarter. In this example, Major Initiatives might include creating programs to improve communications with your customers, such as a newsletter, or a rewards program to help increase loyalty.


#4 Project Plans

Specific project planning is the area where many fall short. There is often a good high-level plan with the right mix of Major Initiatives, but a lack of detailed thinking at the activity and resource levels. By not working through this concisely, it’s easy to underestimate the work needed to execute effectively and on schedule.

When you hear “it took longer than we thought,” – it typically means a lack of detail in the planning phase. Whether it’s MS-Excel, MS-Project, or an online tool such as Teamwork (a personal favorite), the marketing team needs to map out the many moving parts of each Major Initiative to clearly understand who will do what, and when. Contingencies also need to be considered since priorities can change over time.


#5 Execution

To keep your Project Plans on track and running smoothly, you need a good project management process and strong governance. As mentioned earlier, you should employ a tracking tool to measure progress.

You also need regularly scheduled checkpoint meetings. Weekly usually works best while executing a quarterly plan, plus a monthly touchpoint and a longer 1 to 2-day yearly session. I can hear the groaning, but investing in this process is where the rubber meets the road. A steady cadence helps you identify and resolve issues before they side-swipe your projects and allows for mid-stream adjustments.

The final and critical aspect of execution involves measuring results and outcomes, analyzing the data, and making improvements for the upcoming period. This step may also lead you to "stop, do more, or try something different" decisions.

Conclusion

When you use a disciplined approach to create and execute achievable marketing plans that align with your goals, you will get better results! Putting in the time and effort upfront reduces frustration and provides better clarity, resource management, predictability, and desired outcomes. 

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution 1

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Align Marketing Goals with Your Business Strategy

ALign Marketing Goals
ALign Marketing Goals

This is the third article in a series that outlines a proven and detailed process to help create and execute better business plans.

Here we’ll focus specifically on marketing. The first section provided an overview of the model. The second described the essential key inputs to use as contextual guideposts. This section will focus on making sure the marketing plan is created in alignment with the overall business strategy. This helps ensure that marketing activities scheduled for a particular period will impact the “big picture” as much as possible.

Why Alignment Matters

Making sure marketing activities align with business goals seems obvious enough. But, overarching strategy and departmental plans for many companies end up getting made independently. A bit of a flaw in the planning process it seems. If your CEO asks the question “so what’s marketing doing this coming quarter?” then this likely describes your situation.

There is an excellent strategic planning and governance program I’ve used in the past called Gazelles. It’s basic premises focus on simplified, top-down strategic planning and corporate alignment. Companies perform best when all the cogs in the machine fit precisely together and operate in concert with each other.

It is critical marketers are involved in the business planning process from the beginning. How can they impact the right things if not? The simple fact is, operating in a vacuum is inefficient and will inhibit growth.

The Timing and Impact

With virtually all companies, an on-going target is to achieve a revenue number in a given period. Along with sales, marketing clearly owns a share of this. But, the reality is that campaigns and initiatives executed this quarter, will likely not create engagement, leads, or opportunities until next quarter, or even later. This “time lag” depends on your “pipeline build” time and sales cycle velocities and it can be quite long in some industries – particularly in B2B segments. Marketing is a cumulative process and dependent on many factors including the prospect’s timing. Therefore, when you align your activity to revenue recognition, you better be sure to explain and account for a reasonably accurate timeline.

A good option here is to make sure a corporate objective is “building a healthy funnel” now to impact revenue later. This is a more rational approach – it better reflects what marketing truly does, and it will help grow revenue in time. Hopefully, you have enough history and analytics to predict when. The second challenge marketers always face is clearly understanding and proving the fruit of its labor. It’s easy to see how many people buy online if you set up a fantastic promotion that’s been well-packaged. But what about longer cycle B2B sales?

Obviously, the sales team plays a direct and easily measured role. But how do you assess and acknowledge marketing’s contribution? Was it an initial impression from a website visit, a slick webinar, a great direct mail piece, valuable social media content, or a brilliant resource developed for sale people to use? It’s often complex, but you need to try and get a handle on how marketing-generated activities impact revenue and how your work creates ROI.

Properly Aligning Marketing Goals

To align marketing goals closer to your company’s high-level business strategy, consider the following tips.

  • Make sure marketing is involved in the operational planning process from the beginning. The first reason is a no-brainer – you can’t align with anything if you’re not in the loop. Also, marketing tends to get involved in communication and other programs across other departments, so you need to know how all these pieces fit together.
  • Put substantial thought into the activities you choose and continually challenge yourself. If they don’t tie into the overarching strategy, should you be doing them at all? Sure, a certain amount of foundational work needs to get done that may not immediately appear to be aligned – but if implementing a new CRM is a must, make sure you can explain how it’s going to help improve marketing effectiveness and bring in new business in the future.
  • Pick meaningful metrics and continually track progress. A CEO ultimately thinks about marketing in terms of how much revenue it helps influence. Make sure your metrics are simple, relevant, and can show results through the evolution of awareness, engagement, qualified opportunities and eventually closed deals. Another important exercise involves “back-tracking.” If you know you have the lag time to deal with (and most marketers do), you better be able to show the ways yours actions influenced buyers when they do sign. This means you must have robust systems and processes in place to look back in time and do the analysis.
  • Account for the time lag. As pointed out earlier, depending on your industry and type of sale, there is a rolling horizon when it comes to marketing impact. The results are not immediate unless they are project-based and achievable in a specific timeframe. So, you need to make it clear to everyone that your impact on sales this quarter started in the past and what you have planned now will take time for the results you project to materialize.
  • Be realistic about what you can deliver. One of the common mistakes made when building a marketing plan is not accounting for the actual capacity available on the team to complete it. If you are being too optimistic about doing the impossible, you set yourself up for failure. It’s important to understand and map out your capacities based on the work required before finalizing your priorities. You need a clear view of the people, budget, time and resources needed to execute and achieve your goals.

Alignment isn’t always a perfect science, and it poses some unique challenges for B2B marketers with long sales cycles. That said, the closer you can align marketing goals to the overall business strategy – the better it will be for you, your department and the company!

Better Business Meetings: “The Basics”

better business meetings T2G
better business meetings T2G

In a recent post called “6 Great Reasons for Face-to-Face Meetings” I pointed out the virtues of sitting across the table more often with prospects, clients and partners.

In this blog I will walk through some ideas to help run better business meetings when the situation requires one. Before we get to that though, you first need a commitment to meet from your host or guest. Sometimes getting a meeting scheduled is simple. Other times it takes effort. For our purposes, let’s assume the meeting is worth the time for both parties and the date has been set. Now the focus is on maximizing impact and that really boils down to thought, preparation, execution and follow-up. It’s easy to overlook details and that’s why the following tips may come in handy.

#1 The Preparation

  • Once confirmed, book the meeting in your calendar system right away and send an invite to all participants so they can add it to theirs. It’s a nice courtesy, plus it’s more binding than a “verbal.”
  • Create a call plan. This is very important if the discussion has complexity and there will be more than just two of you at the meeting. It’s always a great idea as it helps you focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • If you want better business meetings, prepare your presentations and other materials well before the meeting – not 11:30 pm the night before. You only have one shot to make this a great meeting, so make it count!
  • If you have materials you want to hand out, print them on a high-quality printer (preferably colour). Unless you need to, don’t hand out your hard-copy at the beginning of the meeting. It will be distracting. I prefer to say “I’ll email the materials following the meeting.” This saves you the time of printing and gives you another chance to connect and summarize.
  • Confirm the meeting date and time a couple days in advance by email to all stakeholders. Make the tone assumptive so you don’t open the door for a cancellation or rescheduling.
    Pay attention to your housekeeping – bring business cards, plan your route on Google Maps (if you are going to them), plan the appropriate attire, etc. Sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how when you’re busy these simple things can go by the wayside.
  • Practice your talk-track. Also, think about any possible objections and your responses. The more thought you put into it, the better the results.

#2 Just Before the Meeting

  • When you are visiting:
    • Arrive early, but ask not to be announced until 5 minutes before the meeting time. I like getting there 10-15 minutes early for the reasons outlined in the next few points.
    • If it’s your first visit, take time to learn something about the company. Look around, read signs on the wall, talk to people and get a “feel” for the environment.
    • Think through your talk-track once again and get yourself in the right frame of mind.
    • One of the most important things I do before walking into any high-stakes situation is a short breathing exercise. Take 10 deep and slow breathes. This will clear your mind and get you relaxed. Trust me – it works!
  • When you are hosting:
    • Make sure the office, halls and meeting room are all thoroughly clean. This includes any other areas your guests might walk into such as the kitchen or bathrooms. First impressions matter.
    • Arrange to have some drinks, small snacks, or lunch on hand. Whether they partake or not, it’s a nice touch. As small a token as it is, people appreciate it.
    • Let the staff in your office know you will have guests and to keep the noise in check. Let reception know and if you have a security desk, let them know as well. If badges are required, it’s better to have them ready when your guests arrive.
    • Another thoughtful idea is a welcome sign if you have one – let people know you appreciate the visit and value their time by making them feel special.
    • Set up your technology and make sure it works. This includes web or conference call services if you’re using them. Also, have your title slide on the screen if using a projector and be ready to go.

#3 During the Meeting

  • Need I say it after all these years? Turn your phone off or to vibrate and make sure others on your team do the same.
  • Start with an agenda or verbal walk-through of what you will cover. Ask if they agree with the flow and what they want to focus on. Be sure to help them achieve their objectives as well as yours.
  • Be personable and always professional. Better sales meetings happen when you and the people on your team come across as knowledgeable, but not arrogant; and confident, but humble. Usually this is just a case of being yourself.
  • Try to keep it as interactive as possible. Get feedback, ask questions and make sure you are listening and not just talking at them during the entire meeting.
  • Make sure you or someone on your team takes notes. This is important for obvious reasons, but especially to clarify the key issues and actions.
  • Keep track of time and stay on it. Plan your materials accordingly and stay away from “death by PowerPoint.”
  • Get feedback at the end of the meeting. Leave time for questions, comments, discussion and be sure to get agreement on the next steps.
  • Thank them for their time and personally escort them out. If you have an office inside a multi-tenant building, never let your guests figure out how to find you when entering or leaving. The walk also allows for more conversation.

#4 Follow Up

  • Send a “thank you” email later that day or first thing the next morning. Summarize the action items, who owns them and the due dates.
  • Most important of all! Do the things you said you would do and when you said you would do them.

Having better business meetings takes time and energy. You must do the work and pay attention to detail. But, if it’s worth having a meeting, then it’s worth the investment. Hopefully, having a simple checklist such as this will be a good reminder.

The Optimal Marketing Mix? Let Your Target Audience Decide!

Optimal Marketing Mix
Optimal Marketing Mix

Choosing wisely and in the right proportions is difficult. But, it plays a significant role in determining how well your marketing investments will pay off.

In every marketing planning process, it comes down to two simple questions. What should we do and how much should we do it? With limited resources and budget, marketers need a solid rationale for their choices. The strategy will be less effective if it’s based solely on the latest trends, last year’s plan, or guesswork. Like virtually all things in marketing – focusing on the target market will help you develop the best possible scenario.

In this article, we’re going to look at the optimal marketing mix in more detail and why basing it on target markets is so important. While there is seldom a perfect blend, the goal is to get as close as you can.

What is the Optimal Marketing Mix?

Although they are central to the overall strategy, we’re not talking about the traditional “marketing mix” – product, place, price, promotion, etc. Here we refer to the specific campaigns and initiatives you will execute over a given period. It’s the precise definition of the amounts of time, energy and budget you will spend on each primary activity.

The good news is that there is a fairly limited choice when it comes to marketing. If you think about categories of activities such as brand building, lead generation, channel development, or sales enablement – the list is not that long. The challenge is picking the work that will have the greatest impact. If you choose well, your results will be stronger with less effort and cost. If not, the opposite will come to pass. There are other key factors – such as competition, or the complexity and price of your offering. While these are important, they too revolve around a target market.

Why Target Markets Matter

Planning your initiatives in the context of who you are selling to, will always be more productive and fruitful. It seems intuitive enough, but can be easily overlooked when caught up in a busy workload and trying to stay afloat. If you have done a reasonable job with marketing segmentation, you have a good understanding of the characteristics of each target audience. Here are some typical attributes used in defining a target market.

  • Are your prospects B2B or B2C, government, or not-for-profit?
  • Are they small to mid-sized business or larger enterprises?
  • Where are they located?
  • How many companies or consumers make up the target market?
  • Is there a typical type of person who buys your product or service?
  • Where do they meet or communicate with peers?
  • How do they get information to learn about products and services such as yours?
  • How do they buy? What is the buying criteria? How often do they buy?
  • Are there trends in the purchasing processes they use?

How These Factors Impact Decision-Making

When focused on the breakdown of a target market, it should naturally lead to thinking about the approach in specific ways. Here are a few examples and the impact they have on selecting an optimal marketing mix. The list can on and on, but you’ll you get the idea.

  • If you sell B2C to a broad audience, digital and traditional advertising will be a healthy part of your mix. If you sell a complex technology to a well-defined market of a few thousand companies, more direct campaigns will likely be best.
  • If your typical buyers are young and heavy social media users, you will invest more in this area. An activity such as telesales will likely not be high on the agenda.
  • If you’re in a mature, price-driven market – sales and promotional tactics may play a vital role in your plan.
  • If you have a high concentration of prospects in certain cities, in-person activities such as seminars could be wise choice.

Conclusion

Choosing activity based on what you know about your prospects will significantly increase the odds of creating the amount of awareness, attraction, and action needed to achieve your goals. This approach will be more efficient since you won’t waste time and energy aiming your marketing in the wrong places, or at the wrong people. If you don’t understand who they are and what makes them tick, how can you possibly figure out how to engage them? As a side benefit, It will also help you refine your messaging so it resonates most with the people you want for customers.

When you build your next marketing plan, try to look at all your decisions through the lens of your target audience. When a target market guides the thinking in selecting your optimal marketing mix, it’s bound to improve the results.

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

The Optimal Marketing Mix? Let Your Target Audience Decide! 2

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Sales Lessons – 7 Great Ones I Learned From My Dog!

Maggie Sales Lessons
Maggie Sales Lessons

Whether you do it professionally or not – we all sell, all the time! Negotiating with your kids about bedtime, interviewing for a new job, and talking your way out of a speeding ticket are all great examples.

Whether you do it professionally or not – we all sell, all the time! Negotiating with your kids about bedtime, interviewing for a new job, and talking your way out of a speeding ticket are all great examples. It occurred to me one day that some of the best sales lessons I have seen in action come courtesy of a 6-year-old, 24 pound Cockapoo, we call “Maggie.” In her constant quest for attention, a walk, a scratch behind the ears, or anything that tastes better than Kibble, Maggie repeatedly proves that we can take away some valuable sales lessons from our four-legged companions. There are are a few more, but here are my favorites:

#1 Always Adding Value: Not to take anything away from cat owners or those with other pets, but after all, a dog is known as “man’s best friend” for good reason. First off, Maggie acts as a 24x7 security system and alerts us when anyone is near our property. Granted, her stature and demeanor won’t scare off trained Navy Seals – but her “big-girl bark” is at least a deterrent. Like most dogs, though, her greatest gift is the joy we receive from her unconditional affection. Maggie adds real value to our lives each and every day, whether she closes a deal or not.

#2 Identifying Opportunities: Always on the hunt and ever-alert, Maggie reflexively looks for opportunities, especially when “human food” is at stake. The beeping microwave, commotion in the kitchen, or a crinkling potato chip bag from anywhere in the house are all beacons of hope. With her keen sense of smell and exceptional hearing, Maggie always seems to be there when opportunity strikes. Once her commission has been paid however, there are no “high-fives”, or time spent basking in the glory – it’s right back to business!

#3 Influencing Decision Makers: From years of training, along with her keen intuition, Maggie knows her target audience extremely well. She has clearly identified the decision makers in our home and how to best approach each of them. Our dog has taken the time to know and understand her prospects and then executes accordingly. She knows precisely when and how to push for the order with each individual. This is an important and fundamental strategy that often separates the best sales people from the rest of the pack – pun intended.

#4 Patience and Persistence: If you have a dog or have in the past, you will relate to the phrase “like a dog on a bone.” Maggie will sit and stare for what seems like hours when she is mooching for a treat. Her focus is unwavering and she will come back again and again. As smart as she seems though, Maggie conveniently forgets the meaning of the word “no” and usually wears you down. At times this can be a bit annoying, but when you finally give in, it’s always with a smile and somehow she makes you feel good about it.

#5 Continual Learning: Old dog, young dog, it doesn’t matter. Canines can be remarkably fast learners. I’m not sure where Maggie sits on the intelligence scale, but she picks things up quickly. We started buying dog toys from the same store recently and after seeing her new “squeaky weasel” or coloured “chew ball” emerge from the shops’ branded bag only a couple of times, Maggie got the message. When that bag comes in the house now, she goes into overdrive because she has learned that fun and exciting things usually come out. When toys don’t materialize, Maggie goes back to point 4 above and persists until she realizes, this may simply not be her day. With a look that says “how could you do this to me?” she finally saunters off undefeated because that bag will return!

#6 Positive Attitude: Although you wouldn’t know it from the sad, brown eyes leading up to a transaction, Maggie seems to know exactly how “sealing the deal” will pan out. I can’t prove this of course, but she appears highly confident she will get what she wants and I sense that particular movie is playing over and over in her head. The look of expectation on her face loosely translates into “I’ve added value in this relationship through many unique and highly rewarding exchanges – now it’s your turn to give me some of that steak you’re eating.”

#7 Enthusiasm: Regardless of what mood she’s in, Maggie runs excitedly to the door every time she hears the key in the lock. She makes you look forward to this moment of the day and for a brief time you feel revitalized from her predictably warm reception. Whether begging for food, playing with a ball, or engaging in a session of “rub my belly,” dogs are wonderfully enthusiastic. The exceptions of course are daily nap times, baths, vets, and toe clippings. The point is, dogs exude a strong positive energy that’s hard for even the most hardened soul to resist. The lesson – enthusiasm sells! I realize a dog is far less complicated than we mighty humans and that a significant portion of their behavior is instinctual. That said, it’s quite impressive when you think about our beloved pets in the context of selling. Dogs naturally possess some of the most critical sales skills needed to succeed, and they have a gracious, calm way of managing the sales process. They don’t spend time bragging about their company and products because of course they can’t. Instead, dogs work at building long-lasting and meaningful relationships that offer high value to all parties involved. Isn’t that what selling and buying should really be all about? As a side note, if you watch the way young children get what they want, you will see some incredible selling taking place there as well. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it. If you have a pet you think is an exceptional “seller”, or other similar comparisons, please share.

I realize a dog is far less complicated than we mighty humans and that a significant portion of their behavior is instinctual. That said, it’s quite impressive when you think about our beloved pets in the context of selling. Dogs naturally possess some of the most critical sales skills needed to succeed, and they have a gracious, calm way of managing the sales process. They don’t spend time bragging about their company and products because of course they can’t. Instead, dogs work at building long-lasting and meaningful relationships that offer high value to all parties involved. Isn’t that what selling and buying should really be all about? As a side note, if you watch the way young children get what they want, you will see some incredible selling taking place there as well. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it. If you have a pet you think is an exceptional “seller”, or other similar comparisons, please share.