Your 2019 Marketing Planning Guide
It’s time. Sure, we’re actively executing on our 2018 marketing plans — and there are still plenty of wins to be collected this calendar year — but many of 2019’s most successful campaigns will be born now. It’s time for marketing planning.
When we work with our clients to plan for the upcoming year, we divide the work into four distinct steps, all of which contribute to the creation of a comprehensive, month-by-month, channel-specific plan. This plan is designed to be a strategic guiding light; its details can be easily updated throughout the year based on campaign performance, business needs and unforeseen changes in the market, but its structure remains consistent and serves to give the whole marketing team a clear view of the components of any given campaign.
Here are the steps we take for a smooth annual marketing planning strategy process.
Revisit Your Buyer Personas
Brainstorming new campaigns is the fun part, but before we dream big, we must ground ourselves in the people who matter most: our audience, our consumers, the people to whom our communications (ideally) speak.
Have your buyer personas changed in the past year? Have their needs shifted? Are they facing new challenges? Do they have different goals?
Perhaps your own industry has seen some change. Does this affect your competitive landscape or the messages your ideal customers might be hearing from your competitors?
Now — before you’re committed to a concrete strategy — is the time to revisit and update your buyer personas. The insights you gain from this exercise will shape your brainstorming for the better.
Learn From 2018
The year is not over yet, but you’ve got plenty of data to work with. Look at the first three quarters of 2018 and ask yourself: what went wrong, what went right and what could have been better?
Lean on data during this step. How did your digital ads actually perform? What was your trade show ROI? How much traffic did the content on your website drive?
Then, go back to your buyer personas. With their present challenges and opportunities fresh in your mind, think about which channels are best helping you connect with them — and which they might gravitate toward in the coming year.
You’ll use your findings from this year and insights about your buyer personas to adjust your channel strategy for next year, if needed.
Document Your Objectives
You can probably reel off your marketing goals in your sleep: increase brand awareness, grow repeat customer business, generate leads. But what are your marketing objectives, the specific conditions you need to meet in order to reach your goals?
I think of objectives as the essential building blocks that, once met, add up to a successfully achieved goal. For example, if my goal is to increase brand awareness, a good objective might be to attain 1,000 net new social media followers by a specific date. The date is key — almost all of us work better under deadline!
Break down your 2019 goals into concrete objectives. These objectives will make clear where you need to invest your time and energy in 2019, and which channels make sense for you to focus on.
Don’t just name your objectives; document them. Write them in stone, talk about them internally, and set up the accountability mechanisms necessary to keep them on the front burner all year long.
Marketing Planning by Channel
Here’s where the brainstorming finally comes in — and the plan comes together.
Prioritizing the needs of your buyer personas and keeping in mind the things you learned from 2018, imagine the campaigns that will help you achieve your marketing objectives. If you’re working with an agency, this is the part where they go away with all of your data and come back with concepts for content and creative. If you’re handling things in-house, my advice at this point is to think big — you can always scale back later.
When we map out a client’s marketing communications plan, we do so by channel, and we break down the activities in each channel by quarter and by month. Typically, we include the following channels, although in practice these might look different for different industries and clients.
- Direct Marketing
- Print Advertising
- Digital Advertising
- Social Media
- Content Offers
- Public Relations
- Trade shows/Events
- Internal Communications
For small to mid-size companies, we might create one plan that documents all of the company’s marketing communications. For larger companies or companies with several verticals, we’ll create a plan for each product, brand or even campaign.
Mapping campaigns by channel across an entire year allows you to recognize patterns and synergies you might not have seen otherwise. It also helps to ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page about what’s happening when, shifting more of your time from reactive, surprise deadline work to proactive, strategic work. .
Ready to get started with your own 2019 marketing planning process? Follow our steps and download our “2019 Marketing Communications Plan” template.
Sarah Mannone is the Executive Vice President of Trekk, a tech-driven creative services agency. She works with Trekk clients to develop strategic marketing plans and craft measurable programs that that span print, web, social, and mobile. As part of the Trekk management team, Sarah is involved in the decisions and strategy around adopting new technologies and applications to meet the current and future needs of Trekk clients. Sarah is a member of the Forbes Agency Council and a frequent speaker at marketing industry events.