Setting aside the time to think and plan your marketing is easier said than done. Especially now, marketers are busy doing the doing, supporting clients and keeping visible, often with less budget.
This is only ever going to be short-term and reactive and doesn’t address what the shape of the marketing and bizdev is going to need to be in the future, to respond to our rapidly changing marketplace.
Here’s our thoughts on how to make that marketing planning and thinking happen.
Start with why
In this context, I don’t mean ‘why’ in the sense of purpose (important as that is). It’s why you might need to revisit your marketing thinking and planning.
A recent survey in B2B Marketing magazine found that 80% of companies said that the recent crisis had affected their plans either seriously or moderately. Definitely not business as usual; plans have been torn up.
Whilst most marketers have been tied up with managing the now, at the same time they’ve needed to adapt messaging, consider new audiences or swap marketing channels to reflect accelerated digitisation of life.
Being busy with current marketing, however, is only a short term solution. At some point you need to lift your head, pause, take a step back, review what’s working or not and why and think about the next three and six months. Plan for what is in your gift to manage and keep enough flex to adapt around the edges as needed. Not least because managing resources (time, budget and people) is critical to success and to focus on priorities.
Reasons to rethink
The reasons why you might need to re-think your marketing plan are various, and are true whether or not we’re in a crisis:
- Clients, marketplaces, competitive landscape change all the time. Our current crisis in that respect is no different, albeit an extreme example.
- Your pipeline might be looking a bit thin, or you may have lost a key client, or you might find your not converting as many warm prospects to paying clients as you would wish.
- The work you’re doing or clients you’re working with make your heart sink rather than sing.
- Customer behaviour has changed affecting how many are buying your products and services.
- You feel overly reliant on one or a few clients.
Any or all of these point to the need for a properly thought-through marketing plan. Your tactical activity might be working now, but if your business is experiencing any of the above – it’s time to get strategic first to make sure your marketing activity will work in the future and continue to engage with your audiences.
Get the marketing planning and thinking done
When I talk to clients about their marketing plan I often get one of two responses:
- We don’t have a plan;
- We have a plan….. but it turns out it’s a list of activities.
Only 50% of businesses have a marketing plan, not all of which include the strategic elements.
Don’t get me wrong, a list of activities is important. Knowing what marketing to do, when, who’s going to do it and milestones. But it’s the last thing you do in the planning process.
Before that, there’s the thinking about the client, their journey, what they’re thinking, saying and doing, the products and services you offer, pricing, your messaging, who your clients turn to in making their decision, what would help make your clients really happy about your service to name a few.
It takes time to go through all of this, and some deep work. Many businesses don’t spend the time they need to in this regard and go straight to the activity, keen to get on with things. However, it is this thinking and planning that makes the difference between marketing that works and marketing that doesn’t engage or build relationships with your clients and prospects.
So how do you get the marketing thinking and planning done?
- Follow a proven planning process, step-by-step to guide and focus your thinking.
- Pay for a someone to support you through this process, guiding, directing you, being a sounding board, providing an external perspective and regular accountability.
- Set aside time. A day, a week, two days a week for the next month, whatever works for you within the timescale you need to share that plan with the management team on an agreed date.
- Regular meetings. Put monthly and quarterly planning meetings (with colleagues or external advisors) in the diary to help keep on track and flex the plan in response to changes.
- Weekly check-ins with someone to share what’s progress this week and commit to next week’s actions that will get you closer to having a plan.
How to make marketing happen
Once you have a purposeful marketing plan in place, then it needs to be actioned. Consistency is key – but again, can be difficult if as a marketer you’re being asked to do urgent things or pulled in other directions which take you away from actioning what you’ve planned.
To progress your plan, as with the strategic side of it, you’ll need to invest in time, knowledge or money, or a combination. Nothing will get done unless you do.
- Templates and tools. These help to take the strain. From guides and checklists to cloud project management software and social media scheduling tools. Build your own library of resources and tools that you can dip in to as and when you need.
- Remove the hurdles. Make a list of what’s getting in the way – frustrations, problems, limitations, beliefs, fears and then make another list of ideas to overcome these. Commit to taking at least three actions.
- Regular inputs from external sources to keep you creative, imaginative and up to speed with what others are doing. This could be webinars, seminars, interviews, podcasts, talking to people, networking with peers. Make sure you note down your key takeaways and turn that into some kind of action – diarised or delegated.
- Location. Find a different location occasionally to do your work. It helps to change your mindset. Taking a walk outside counts – there’s something about being outside and movement which frees your brain. Take a notebook though to jot down ideas as you have them and then translate those ideas to actions when you get back to your desk.
- Champion. Often in professional services firms where the lawyers, accountants, surveyors are also part of the marketing and BD effort, you need an ally, a champion – importantly one who leads by example. Pick your champion carefully, explain their role and get them on board.
- Peer support. From an internal buddy to keep each other accountable and help progress to your wider network and a regular booked slot to get something done together.
- Manager support. Agree with your manager some specific objectives and actions you want to commit to and need their support to achieve. Set a date in the diary for you to feedback. This helps to get they buy-in.
- Marketing is a team effort. Share your thoughts, plans, learning with those involved in marketing, including management, heads of BD, heads of departments, to seek their input and feedback. Get them involved in the action planning and taking on some of them.
- Triage. Often marketing teams are asked to do things which are outside what’s planned or do not add value. There are three replies to such requests – yes, no or not yet. If it’s something that can be done quickly, do it. If it’s something that will take more time or you’re not sure it’s the right thing to do, say so and why. It might be that what they want to achieve would be better done through another activity. This is in part effective resource planning and part trusting your experience and knowledge.
- Share successes. There’s nothing like sharing with others even small achievements (yours and theirs) to keep motivated and energised. Make it a regular habit to do so.