It’s true that “success leaves clues.” And one of the clues you’ll find with successful entrepreneurs is that they have a clear plan for their marketing.
And by “marketing plan” I don’t mean a complex 50-page document nobody reads. That may work in Marketing 101 class but in the real world your plan needs to be much simpler. If it’s not simple you won’t use it, your team will ignore it and you’ll be reluctant to tweak it because of how much time went into creating it.
Your plan should also be revisited quarterly. There’s nothing wrong with having an annual plan but chances are things will change. And if you’re doing marketing right you should be measuring results and making adjustments based on what you learn. This will help you become a more “agile” marketer.
So if you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on how to create a simple quarterly marketing plan here it is:
Step 1: Assess Your Current Situation
Most entrepreneurs are visionary types. They have the ability to see things others don’t and create something from nothing. This is a great gift. However the danger of being too “visionary” is you can neglect to see the current reality.
This is why entrepreneurs must force themselves to ask questions like:
- “What are the objective facts that describe our current reality?”
- “What was our sales like last quarter?”
- “How many leads did we generate?”
- “Are we meeting our goals (do we have concrete goals)?”
As you go through this first step the key is to focus on the facts. Don’t analyze, interpret or explain them. Simply write them down.
Step 2A: What’s Working?
After you assess your current situation the next step is to ask, “what’s working and why?”
Maybe you launched a Referral Campaign that resulted in new sales. Maybe you decided to blog weekly and you’ve noticed a spike in website traffic because of the valuable content you’re sharing. Whatever it is, make note of it and write it down.
Here’s a common conversation I have with prospects during a consultation:
Me: “So what’s worked best for you in marketing?”
Client: “Well, we were doing AdWords and Facebook ads and that worked well.”
Me: “So why did you stop doing that?”
Client: “Good question! I guess it worked so well we stopped!”
Simply taking time to record what’s working can pay huge dividends (especially for ADD-type entrepreneurs who like to habitually start new things just for the sake of starting new things!)
Step 2B: What’s Not Working?
The next step is to ask, “What’s not working and why?” Again, review the facts from last quarter to see what happened.
Maybe you took the advice of some “social media consultant” and spent an hour each day on Facebook only to realize that while you got more “likes” you didn’t get more sales. Or perhaps you’re spending $1,500/month on “SEO” yet your rankings aren’t improving.
Remember, with the technology available today any marketing you do should be held accountable for results. Whether it’s your own efforts or those of a vendor, you must demand results. Don’t allow people to give you excuses for why some marketing activity isn’t helping you reach your goals.
Step 3: Set Your Priorities
After you’ve reviewed the facts and looked at what’s working and what’s not, it’s time to set your priorities.
Many people skip this step and jump right into goal setting (which is the next step). This is a mistake. If you start making goals without first defining your priorities you end up with a bunch of goals that may or may not lead you where you want to go.
It’s pointless to set goals and achieve them if they don’t move your company in the right direction. Think of your priorities as “themes” or long-term projects.
For example, one priority may be to “develop more systems and written processes for your business” or “to fill the sales team’s pipeline.” Whatever they are, write them down.
Step 4: Make Quarterly Goals
Once you know what your priorities are then you can create goals to support them. For example, if one of your priorities is to increase top-line revenue this year then you can set some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound) Goals to help support this.
Here are some example goals that would support top-line revenue growth:
Go from $100,000 in monthly sales to $175,000 in monthly sales by the end of the quarter.
Go from 10 consultations a month to 20 by the end of the quarter.
Improve conversion rate of our website by 20% this quarter.
Notice all these goals are specific and have deadlines.
Step 5: Decide Which Projects To Do
Now that you have written goals the next step is to decide which projects will help you achieve them. This is another area where it’s important to prioritize. If you’re like most entrepreneurs you have no shortage of project ideas in your backlog. So you must prioritize those projects in light of your priorities and goals.
Some example projects may be:
Redesign the Demo Landing Page and Thank You Page.
Create a Monthly Newsletter
Publish a White Paper and promote it to the press.
(You can either take the time to go over the details now or do it later. If you have a project manager then it’s your job as the leader/visionary to create a clear enough description of each project so your project manager can take it and run with it.)
Step 6: Create a Not-To-Do List
This will help protect you, and your team, from those impulsive ideas that feel like a good idea at the time but are really distractions in disguise. Remember, there’s a reason you take time to make a plan because without a plan you end up doing whatever you feel like…which leads to more chaos. A Not-To-Do List helps you avoid that.
So in this step ask yourself, “What specific projects have we decided we are not going to do this quarter?”
Step 7: Create Your Scoreboard
As you execute on your marketing plan it’s important to keep score. This could be as simple as a whiteboard you have hanging on your wall or as advanced as a digital scoreboard that integrates with your marketing automation software.
Whatever it is, the point is that you need to keep score. So if you’re keeping it simple then write your goals down on your whiteboard and the progress you’ve made. If your goal is to increase revenue from $100,000/month to $175,000 then write that down and then write down where you’re at each week. And don’t stop keeping score just because you’re not winning yet.
Schedule Time To Plan Your Marketing
Now it’s up to you to take action. Pull out your calendar and block out 3 hours sometime before the beginning of next quarter. And before that day make sure you gather all the important pieces of information you’ll need to answer all the above questions.
I hope this step-by-step guide on how to create a simple quarterly marketing plan helps you take your business to the next level!
I’d love to hear from you if you end up using this framework. And if you’d be so bold as to share your answers to some of the questions that would be awesome too!