Marketing · Marketing Strategy

What are some of the practices you find most helpful in creating a marketing plan for the year?

Andy McClure Helping services firms get more consistent leads | Inbound Marketing Certified Consultant | Outsourced VP of Marketing

October 21st, 2015

I work as an outsourced CMO / VP of Marketing. This time of year it's really important for me to develop concise, but thorough and compelling marketing plans for my clients. What are some of the practices and tools you have found useful?
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Max Avroutski

October 23rd, 2015

In circular discussions on ROI, you have to remind them that R requires I+time to see results and even Zero ROI is still a good result to know what not to do, as long as you don't do that Zero for too long and do eventually start getting better results.

I usually say:"If you are not growing faster than your industry then you are loosing what ever small market share you have and you need to invest into your future using marketing."

Experienced marketer had already tried many things and knows more or less what ROI will be based on channel. Others may need to ether ask someone, do research or test them-self. You also have to remind that different marketing efforts require different amount of money. Like for google ads to work on broad generic product they have to invest $250,000+/mo for 6 month to get maybe 5-25% on top of their cost. For niche and brand-able product in a small geographic area $500+/mo may do.

Require promotion codes to proceed, specific landing pages or entire dedicated websites, dedicated marketing phone number, id customers by called from phone number, email, ext - if you are not tracking you are wasting money.

I usually go deeper and redesign a product/service to be more marketable if possible and measure impact of company operations on bottom line, because maybe all your marketing efforts die because no one picks up sales that comes in or doesn't follow up or churn rate is huge due to failed customer support.

Different products or industries have specific marketing budget published, google it, so you can just point to that as a benchmark and then add a skew for market penetration, so a new product needs to market more and if you have 30-40% then industry average may do, unless they want to dominate.

If you want more specific insight, just ask a specific question.

Max Avroutski

October 23rd, 2015

"To your point, how a business should market varies widely depending upon the product/service, market, resources, etc." - that is what I implied.

As I understand your questions so far:

I don't know anyone who does it by year now days, things change too fast, but someone maybe does, the longest I had to deal with is assessed every 3-4 month, which is enough to see and measure results. But I usually change things as soon as I get enough data to make a decision.

1. Get management to allocate approximate base amount of money for marketing no matter what; Example: 5% of revenue; 25% of profit; $5,000/mo, whatever.
2. Get management define how much MORE are they willing to invest in marketing based on increase in marketing results, i.e. faster growth, not necessarily cheaper.
3. Measure everything. If you can't measure then most likely don't do it.
4. Find Customer-Acquisition-Cost (CAC) per channel and associated volume. Know your customer's Life-Time-Value (LTV). Figure out what to go for, more additional customers at higher CAC or less customers at lower CAC.
Tools:
1. Brain - to learn what works for your business/product
2. Eyes - to read about new/old ideas
3. Ears & Mouth - talk to customers
4. Tracking tools and scripts to track customer segments by their motivation, needs, source, cost, ext. - use all tracking tools, top sites use 3-4 different products in addition to in-house, each provides a bit different insight.
5. Spreadsheet to do basic calculations to compare marketing results.
That's it.

If that is not what you were looking for then, please: Give me examples of processes and tools that you have in mind so I could understand what you mean.

Andy McClure Helping services firms get more consistent leads | Inbound Marketing Certified Consultant | Outsourced VP of Marketing

October 22nd, 2015

Chris and Joy,

Thank you for chiming in. Simple is certainly valuable. I think it's helpful even just to hear how others describe their approach to the things that we might all be doing. 

Joy, great reminder about the value of unstructured client input/feedback.

Chris, I like the simple breakdown of external, internal and objectives. 

One thing I wrestle with when it comes to planning is how to demonstrate true ROI for marketing investments. Tying it solely to near-term revenue understates the value. Relating it to overall revenue/profits is sometimes met with resistance -- like marketing is over-reaching to justify our existence/costs. 

When good historical data is available, it's possible to bring lifetime customer value into the picture. Lots of benefits to doing that, including getting the rest of the organization to recognize the huge effects of retention and effective cross-selling and upselling. 

Curious to hear how others are handling the ROI dialog as a part of annual planning.

Andy McClure Helping services firms get more consistent leads | Inbound Marketing Certified Consultant | Outsourced VP of Marketing

October 23rd, 2015

Hi Max,

Your note is very helpful -- the % of revenue or profit is something I haven't brought into planning conversations in awhile. This is a good reminder. It can help get past the sometimes circular discussion "how much can I assume for marketing budget" followed by "show me the ROI and I'll allocate all you need, but without ROI, the answer is $0..." (not all conversations are that contentious, but sometimes that is the attitude).

I'm good about bringing LTV into the discussion and budget assumptions, but admit I have to be more diligent about calculating acquisition costs. Often I'm working with a company that has been around a long time, so a fair amount of revenue comes from the installed base -- making it easier to get sloppy with keeping on top of new client acquisition costs...

For tools, I was just curious to see what would come back. Your points are useful -- thanks again for the thoughtful response. I've certainly used spreadsheets to lay out the expenditure timing so that Finance can plan (when will a website update cost hit or when will a deposit on a tradeshow be due...). This is often a natural complement to a qualitative marketing calendar that just shows key dates and milestones.

I often end up putting together a spreadsheet that shows last year expenses by category and associated ROI -- then forecasts the same for the coming year at a high level.

Depending upon the company, another important tool (or output of the planning process I suppose) in my experience has been a simple presentation to internal management that talks about the emphasis for the coming year, what support may be needed, and most importantly how marketing's activity will help them reach their departments' goals.

Thanks again for your ideas. 

Jasminder Bharij Owner, Jasautosolutions Ltd.

October 23rd, 2015

Well, we use different avenues of marketing and check the ROI on each avenue...in consequence we focus more and more on the ones that give you the best bang for the buck, specialized marketing for particular products and the old best one- can't beat customer referrals for repeat business and new customers. Retention is one of the biggest factors to consider, another is that globally its  buyer's market right now, if you have a customer that is ready to spend some money, be it the budget is less than what you would expect you better be ready to sell, otherwise once they're out of there they're most probably gone unless you're marketing space shuttles.       

Max Avroutski

October 23rd, 2015

I don't understand. It looks like you are asking questions that are so elementary that even beginner marketer knows answer to them. Maybe difficulty is in applying what everyone knows to a specific product/service? Maybe if you tell us what that product/service is, then we would be able to help you.

Andy McClure Helping services firms get more consistent leads | Inbound Marketing Certified Consultant | Outsourced VP of Marketing

October 23rd, 2015

Great insights -- thanks Max.

Chris Taylor Director, Channel Marketing at Yuneec USA, Inc.

October 22nd, 2015

Maybe this is too basic but for me the core is a marketing plan template. It's simply:

- External situation: Trends, competitive landscape, market opportunity
- Internal situation: Positioning/messaging, target market(s), target audience, SWOT, financials
- Marketing objectives: Goals, strategies, tactics

Obviously this all varies based on the company's situation but typically review the goals/results on a monthly or quarterly basis, optimize and adjust as appropriate.

There's more to it than that and many tools to collect data (such as SurveyMonkey for customer satisfaction surveys) and a lot more. I'm interested to hear from others.

Joy Montgomery Continuous Improvement for Cleantech Companies, Connector

October 22nd, 2015

Retention is definitely a huge one, Andy. Satisfying the Customer's expectations (and realistically setting them to begin with) brings in some other metrics. Reduced returns, fewer calls for tech support, lower production costs as a result of continuous improvement, more referrals from satisfied Customers, etc. Customers make such wonderful partners when you treat them right.

Andy McClure Helping services firms get more consistent leads | Inbound Marketing Certified Consultant | Outsourced VP of Marketing

October 23rd, 2015

Thank you for trying to clarify the question, Max. My interest wasn't so much in gathering ideas for the content of a marketing plan. To your point, how a business should market varies widely depending upon the product/service, market, resources, etc. 

I am curious to hear more about any annual planning process and tools that people are using to identify potential marketing investments, lay out a plan for the coming year, get buy-in from management (and justify it to management), etc.