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MARKETING PLANNING FOR 2019 (Part 1)


CEO Shares Steps to Create a Marketing Plan to Get Results

By Jeffrey Barnhart

With the dog days of summer and Labor Day behind us, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s marketing plan for your business. If the thought hasn’t even crossed your mind at this point, chances are, you’ll miss a critical window—which could impact your business’s success in 2019. Businesses should begin working on their annual marketing plan by October 1 and finalize it no later than December 1. This window will allow enough time to do the appropriate research and planning. It also will enable you to challenge the plan, make changes, recommendations and modifications, in addition to having the time to get valuable input from various staff in your organization.

If this process is started later, you will not have enough time to perform this due diligence or share the roll out of the plan with everyone to get their buy in and tweak it, as needed. If completed earlier, you would just be looking at ideas, rather than understanding where your business will tie in from a year-end perspective. By October 1, you should have a good idea of where you’ll end up for the year, which will serve as a guide for what you want to achieve in the upcoming year.

Consider a marketing plan your “roadmap for success.” There are many benefits to having this plan in place before the new year. It not only will serve as a guideline for yourself, but also for the company and everyone who is a part of that plan. It also will outline where you want to go, why you want to get there and when you want to get there, so you’ll have that information in one place. Likewise, it helps a business measure its success.

Here are some steps to create a marketing plan, to get results:

Analyze the current market situation.

Begin by looking at the process in terms of current market positioning and trendlines. Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA) utilizes a proprietary discovery process, Marketecture™, to engage in a strategic analysis, which helps its clients understand how their business can be best positioned in the marketplace. Customer pain points, buying motivations, competitive challenges and marketplace forces impacting its client’s business are analyzed. CMA then orchestrates Marketecture insights into differentiated positioning, captivating sales messages and, ultimately, a game plan of tactics to get results for its clients. As part of that process, a SWOT analysis is developed, which identifies a business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Also, competitors and external influencers that could take shape in the upcoming year are examined including:

  • Political
  • Socio-economic
  • Legal/regulatory
  • Technological

The agency utilizes The Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) Growth-Share Matrix, which considers growth opportunities by reviewing a product line and considers where to invest, discontinue or develop new products. It’s divided into four categories (dogs, wildcats, cash cows and super stars), based on an analysis of market growth and relative market share. The greatest emphasis should be on the area that’s going to give you the greatest return, which are the super stars. This process also gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your product mix and answer questions including: Are there things you are currently doing that you don’t want to do next year because it hasn’t worked? Are there things you might want to do more of?

Define target audiences. 

Determine which audiences you need to target. These are the groups in which you are trying to reach, to promote your business, products and services. Identifying target audiences will assist you in ascertaining which tactics to employ, to reach those audiences, and increase the chances of moving them to action—whether it’s down the sales funnel or purchasing your products or services.

Following are categories to examine:

  • Location (local, national or international)
  • Demographics (age, gender, occupation, income level, marital status)
  • Psychographics (values, hobbies, lifestyle, personality, attitude, behavior)
  • Industries (medical, accounting, lighting, nonprofit), if a B2B focus
  • Personality type (persona) and pain points
  • Motivations

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and measure them.

I’ve grouped marketing goals and measurement together because one feeds the other. Marketing goals need to be in line with your business goals and what your business can achieve. Each goal should have a timeline and completion date. They also should follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal structure—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. One of the most important components of the S.M.A.R.T. goals is the measurement aspect. Measurement tools can include sales conversions, media impressions, blog traffic, web site hits, etc. By measuring your business’s success, you can take a closer look at the return on your marketing investment and can shift dollars to the areas that are giving you the most return, which is important for marketers. According to a Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2017-18, after three consecutive years of increases, marketing budget growth stalled in 2017-18. Budgets slipped from a peak of 12.1 percent of company revenue in 2016 to 11.3 percent in 2017. Marketing leaders must now justify past budget commitments and show the returns they deliver, to ensure the future fiscal health of marketing.

Determine strategies and tactics.

Strategies should answer the “how” in a marketing plan. Some examples are: How will your product stand out in the marketplace? How will you differentiate your business, products or services from your competitors? They should be wide-ranging enough to encapsulate a mix of tactics. They need to tie back to the goals and strategies, as well as answer the question: what will be done? Tactics can include digital marketing, public relations, social media marketing, advertising and promotional. Within those broad categories are smaller tactical elements encompassing websites, podcasts, video and email marketing, webinars, pay-per-click, blogs, press releases, brochures, newsletters and sales kit materials to name a few.

Develop a budget.

Keep a look out for CMA’s next blog, scheduled to be posted at the end of September, “Marketing Planning for 2019 (Part 2): Secrets to Developing a Marketing Budget to Drive Growth.”

A marketing plan to a business is like a game plan to a football team. Coaches need to develop a game plan, before they play a team, much like the necessity for a business to create a marketing plan each year. It provides businesses with a plan of action, which they can reference throughout the year—at least on a bi-annual basis, if not quarterly—to see if it’s on or off target. If off target, you can determine where and readjust as needed. The game plan is all about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, how they’re going to play and the calls they’ll make to increase the chances of winning, which ties back to the SWOT analysis in a marketing plan.

This approach also empowers you to look at other influencers within the environment and how they’re impacting your business, which you might not have anticipated. Technology is a big one and can be a major disrupter to your business. An example is if you were a camera company in the early 2000s and weren’t looking at the proliferation of iPhones and technology with cameras, then you weren’t planning for what could be obsolete to your product. In addition to all the benefits I outlined, having a marketing plan lets a business take a deeper dive into what it’s doing and how it’s doing it, along with serving as a refresher that keeps businesses from doing the same old, same old, every year.

Are you scheduled to begin working on your 2019 marketing plan? Contact us today, to get started.

Jeffrey Barnhart is president and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, an award-winning, full service marketing agency, that builds reputation, relationships and return on investment.