Four Key Ingredients To A Winning 2014 Marketing Plan

'Tis the season when all modern marketers gather their data, rally their teams, push their CEOs and CFOs to lock down on budgets, and set about developing a marketing plan that will bring success in 2014.

Yet not all marketing plans are created equal -- nor are the processes to go about developing these plans. So what does it take to create a marketing plan that will focus your limited time, resources and budget on what matters most to enable the business to beat its targets? 

Here are four planning ingredients that will set your marketing program up for success in 2014.

1.    Focus the marketing effort on moving the needle.   Your planning process must begin with clear visibility into how your company plans to generate revenue to hit its targets next year. Are big chunks of revenue tied to new or yet-to-be launched product or service offerings?  Is the sales team counting on breaking open new industry verticals or geographies. Does the company's success hinge on renewing 95% of your existing customers, or getting them to buy more product? As your team begins to navigate a potentially cumbersome planning process, where and how your company is counting on success gives you very clear signposts you can use to frame your team's goals and prioritize program investments and initiatives.



2.    Model your success.   Once you know exactly where and how you intend to impact the business, you need to map out very tangibly what it will take to get there. Let's say you are looking to generate $10 million in marketing-driven revenues against the enterprise segment of your business. Based on expected conversion rates and average deal size, how many leads, MQLs, sales accepted opportunities and deals does your team need to drive? And based on the leads you need to secure and the expected cost per lead by channel, how many marketing program dollars will you need?

Clearly, you will need solid historical data to begin building out all your modeling assumptions. However, fair warning -- if you have not had some healthy debate with others on your team for each assumption, there is likely a monster (or two!) lurking in your model. You and your team need to ask yourselves the hard question: Can we count on what happened in 2013 to shed light on how we model 2014?” You also have the opportunity to shape a new reality as you optimize your lead management processes, lead scoring methodology, Web forms, launch new products, get better at enabling the sales team -- all of which change your modeling assumptions for the better.

3.  Balance your mix to avoid bottlenecks.    As I described in a previous column, avoid the trap of allocating all your budget exclusively to lower-funnel lead-generating activities. It can be tempting to focus all your program dollars on direct-response-centric programs -- and if you are just kicking off your marketing effort, that could work for a little while. But as you scale your initiatives, you will quickly bump into the fundamental truth that relative to the broad audience you are targeting, there is only a very small percentage of target prospects actually on the hunt for a solution today. Therefore, to hit your lead and MQL goals later in the year, you will need to invest some dollars early in the year in upper-funnel and mid-funnel programs that will reach, influence, and begin preparing prospects to engage when they are ready. You can either invest now or leave it to your competitors to take the lead.

4.    Integrate to optimize.    You can put together a world-class email nurture campaign, a webinar series that will be the envy of your peers, or a targeted online display campaign that breaks new ground. But if you have not taken the time to holistically plan out how you are going to break through program and channel silos to drive coherent and integrated campaigns, you will likely be stuck in mediocrity. Anchoring your programs’ effort to quarterly themes or to two to three primary messaging platforms is a great foundation to begin with -- and will ensure that the mix of your integrated programs will drive more value than the sum of its individual parts.

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