It's the body of work you carry with you for at least 12 months. It defines everything you do on the job. And, if you do it right, it's your golden ticket to successful marketing.
Of course, I'm referring to your marketing plan and accompanying budget.
If you're on the July-June fiscal year cycle, you're most likely gearing up for your next pièce de résistance, so here are some tips to keep in mind; and if you're on another cycle, keep these tips for your next annual planning.
It goes without saying: A marketing plan and budget must follow the company's strategic plan. Hopefully, the company's strategies are determined within a timeline that allows you to think through and fully strategize your marketing efforts.
I always divide my planning into three essential "buckets" when setting a course for the year: market growth, market retention, and brand. Since I'm also responsible for communications, I build a communications plan as well.
Dividing efforts into those categories seems to work for our team, and it hasn't varied much, even with transforming company strategies.
Brand is typically the bucket eliciting the most discussion, especially when determining key metrics for success. As a marketer, it's important that you ensure everyone is aligned on the importance of brand and that you establish agreed-upon metrics to measure brand strength. Another important component of your annual planning is ensuring you have the right resources and tools for a strong marketing function.
Here's a round-up of foundational elements for your marketing effort that, if you don't already have, should be budgeted for in the coming year.
1. Marketing Fundamentals
Marketing Automation and CRM (for growth and retention)
The precise tools you need depend on many factors, including the size of your company, stakeholder audiences, industry, and, of course, budget. However, every marketing team has a need for using data to better understand its customers, for automating certain repetitive tasks, for improving lead generation and nurturing and managing the demands of existing customers.
Marketing automation tools and a solid CRM database management system can support those efforts; they are essential for effective marketing.
All the Basics
I know this list will spark many more suggestions, but these are basics for a marketing department: Google Analytics, Google Adwords, the Adobe suite, SurveyMonkey, GoogleAlerts or Hootsuite, and simple film editing software. Some are no-cost and others offer upgrades that you may consider an investment worth making.
2. Branding Fundamentals
A Solid Narrative and Brand Guidelines
As the company's marketer, you may know what the brand stands for, but do your employees and customers?
A brand narrative details who you are and why anyone should care. It connects the brand with your customer's needs and establishes the values of your company.
Brand guidelines are the guideposts for implementing the brand; they detail logo usage, color palette, typeface, and imagery. Some guidelines also include acceptable word use and acronyms. They are essential for preserving that brand you're working so hard to build.
If you can develop these materials in-house, great. If not, hire a branding specialist to get them completed. They're that important.
3. Communications Fundamentals
With the mountains of content that communicators need to develop, keeping it all on track and using it efficiently are key. An editorial calendar system is critical for planning your content strategy, assigning stories, managing version control, and helping everyone on your team know who's developing what.
A good system also assists with determining how to repurpose content more effectively and provides a "parking lot" for great ideas that may become great copy in the future.
4. People: The Fundamental Fundamentals
Of course, the people you hire are what really makes your marketing department run. From time to time, it makes sense to inventory your team's skillsets. Generally, you should be ticking the box for people with one or more of these skills:
- Setting vision and strategy
- Creative development
- Project management
- Writing and editing
- Data reporting and analysis
- Technical expertise in digital marketing
Make sure you're providing enough assistance to your team to help them become the best they can be in those areas. If you don't have at least one person with any of those skills already, it's time to start budgeting some training or recruitment dollars.
Again, those are some of the most basic elements of building a solid contemporary marketing department. The specific needs of your industry may require other tools and skills.
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If your company is serious about marketing, it will want to ensure all the fundamental are accounted for when you're doing the planning for the growth and nurturing of a successful marketing effort for the year ahead.
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