Your senior team or marketing/communications groups are flipping ahead in their calendars and realize the "new year" is practically tomorrow and they don't have marketing plans in place. Not to fret, there is still time to make a plan.

Creating a plan helps your team make informed, objective decisions. Every marketing team must be efficient with their dollars and negotiate whenever possible. Pre-year planning allows your organization to play offense and deliver a well-thought-out plan, enabling you to reach your goals.

The advice to “plan the work and work the plan” has never been more appropriate.

Seven Steps To “Make a Plan and Work the Plan”

1. Reflection and Research

    Don’t be afraid of some self-reflection as an organization. An in-depth employee focus group or customer survey can help you identify your most pressing branding challenges and unexplored business opportunities. The end result of a well-designed research process is a set of realistic objectives, unified messaging and support for every move your business makes.

    Paulsen offers a unique approach to collecting feedback through an online, interactive anonymous focus group called a Paulsen FOCUS Session. These real-time sessions have garnered tons of actionable feedback for our clients in 2022.

    2. Reporting on the Customer Journey

      Also, take a look at your tactical year. Ask yourself some basic questions about your marketing efforts during the past year. What worked? What didn’t? Why? Any surprises or overlooked opportunities?

      Dig into your analytics from the past year.

      Surprisingly, we have found that many marketers don’t make use of their marketing and sales analytics. There always seem to be too many forward-facing fires to put out to spend time looking in the rearview. Our team has found that analyzing your sales funnel or digital placement effectiveness is essential to assess goals and KPIs and to adjust future marketing efforts.

      If you need someone to dig into the data, our team is happy to offer some ideas on what 2023 could look like for your team.

      3. Know What Sets You Apart

        Unique: Through your research and reporting process, you should have identified what you offer that no other competitor offers. This is a key positioning insight you’ll have to utilize with frequency.

        Believable: Lean on primary and secondary market research to ensure you’re talking about your product or service offerings in a believable way. If it sounds too good to be true, you’ve missed a step in building trust with potential customers or employees.

        Compelling: Focus on the “why” behind what you do each day. This may require segment targeting to showcase the right “why” for each audience. Be clear and align those motivators with the advantages available with your products or services.

        4. Create a Month-by-Month Budget

          Spreadsheets full of formulas can be daunting, but working from an approved marketing budget provides proper controls and enables you to make accurate projections.

          It’s probably not a good idea to commit 100 percent of the budget in your plan. A contingency of 10 to 15 percent allows you to respond to special opportunities that will arise during the new year.

          5. Develop Your Media Plan

            This is the year to break away from doing what you’ve always done. It starts by taking a hard, objective look at all media options.

            Review last year’s paid plan and determine what worked and what didn’t. What media buys could be measured? Are there new options you should try this year?

            There is no hard and fast rule of what the percentage breakdown should be for print, broadcast, digital, direct mail, outdoor or other.

            Our team at Paulsen can make media planning, buying, placement and reporting easy.

            One very noticeable trend we’ve seen is digital media growth, certainly because of its measurability. However, keep your objectives in mind—if building brand awareness is your goal, print and/or broadcast options may serve you better.

            6. Get Creative

              As a marketer, this is where you shine. But “getting creative” still requires a plan if you want to be successful.

              Work with your team to build an editorial calendar one to three months at a time. It is helpful to plan this out across multiple channels. Not all of your content belongs on each medium, and you will definitely want to plan accordingly.

              This approach can also prove to be more economical in terms of the time and resources it requires. For example, a two-to-three minute video can be parsed out into several social media posts highlighting main ideas, key facts and graphic elements; conversely, a series of blog posts can be grouped together to publish a downloadable e-book or white paper.

              Document how you want to purpose and repurpose your content to save yourself from staring at a blank Facebook post with writer's block.

              7. An Objective Point of View Can Help

              Sometimes having a third party’s point of view can be very helpful in the planning process. Here at Paulsen, we have experienced and knowledgeable team members who have helped numerous companies through the marketing planning process. They will ask the right questions and offer individualized suggestions.

              If you find the planning process daunting, or if time and internal staff resources are spread too thin, give us a call. Our goal is to be our clients' best asset!