As a marketer, it’s easy, what with the crush of back-to-school, the busyness of the fall and the mania of the impending holidays, to focus on the task (or mini crisis) at hand. However, now is also the time to strategically lay out the plan for the upcoming year.
Here are six steps to help guide your planning process.
- Set a date
Trust us, nothing motivates like a deadline. Pick a date on the calendar, block out a half-day, have your agency bring the team that is working on your business, and reserve a space large enough to accommodate everyone. Which leads to #2.
- Location, location, location
We have found that planning meetings work best at an off-site location. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but a new + different meeting space gives everyone A) the signal that this is significant and B) permission to think big, outside of the constraints of the office.
To plan for next year, you will want a clear accounting from this one. What worked? What didn’t? What risks panned out? Which assumptions need to be challenged? We’ve found it helpful for both agency and client to be given time to speak from their own unique point of view.
After reviewing the state of the business, it’s time to lay out the goals and objectives moving forward. It is helpful to do this in three-year plans. If you don’t have a three-year vision for your organization, creating one can be a fairly involved task and not one you will want to do in this meeting. Assuming your organization is aligned about the future, now is the time to identify the challenges and opportunities that you envision coming up in the next 12 months. An audacious sales goal? A merger? A new competitor coming into the market? A cultural overhaul? Now is the time to list out all of the factors that are affecting your business and clearly define your goals.
With the past year accounted for and the table set for the year ahead, it is time to assign your marketing resources. Budgets are generally the first thing. Do you have enough marketing funds to accomplish the business goals of your organization? If the answer is “no,” you need to scale back your goals or find ways to fund them.
While the money is certainly important, also consider your own time as a finite resource to be deployed. Everything can’t be equally important (or else nothing is). Clearly indicate to yourself, your team and your agency what your personal expectations are and where you will be spending the majority of your time. This is also the time to lean heavily on your agency to help provide a sense of how much advertising horsepower you will need to accomplish your goals.
- Lock it down
Commit your annual plan to writing, and try to make it as real-speak as possible. Ideally, you want to be able to pass this document out to your team, your agency, your sales force, the execs, the board—anyone who will need to know how you are going to crush your marketing goals for the coming year. The clearer you state it, the better it travels.
As we like to say at Swim, “it’s not rocket surgery,” but effectively planning for the future is the easiest and best way to keep your stress level to a manageable level and avoid the “behind the 8-ball” feeling that comes with always being reactionary and playing catch up.