by Bob Hebeisen
Fall is upon us, and it’s time to start developing your marketing plan for next year.
For hard-working marketing executives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of showing up for work each day and immediately diving into tactical mode. There are always emails from your sales executives to check, content creation projects to complete, nurture campaigns to tune up, and fires to fight. If you’re not careful you can easily lose days and weeks just going with the flow in tactical mode… neglecting your duties as the navigator of the marketing strategy.
Create an annual marketing plan with this helpful template
Marketing Automation and CRM systems enable you to run reports and set up dashboards to manage performance against KPIs, but they are not very good for sketching out your overall plan in advance, dividing your budget between different campaigns, and mapping your capacity and budget against a calendar.
I started using this template at PTC to manage my field marketing budget and also to help VARs plan their own marketing activities and file MDF claims. I’ve continually refined it and used it at several different jobs now. It’s a simple MS Excel spreadsheet so it’s easy to use and adapt for your own needs.
Here are 5 things that make it great:
1. Build a plan fast
The Marketing Plan template lets you pull a plan together quickly with a combination of bottom-up and top-down planning techniques.
Define your campaigns based on vertical market, persona, funnel stage… whatever. Just add the campaigns you want to track to the Pick Lists tab and then, when you are entering each activity, you can select the appropriate campaign from the drop-down list. I usually also color-code the activities for each campaign (blue highlight for activities in one campaign, yellow for another campaign, etc.). Then if I re-sort the rows it’s still easy to pick out the activity for each campaign.
Likewise, define the list of various marketing tactics you will employ. PPC, emails, seminars, CPL, syndication… Just add them to the Pick Lists tab, and then you can select the appropriate value from the drop-down list for each activity you enter.
These pick-lists ensure consistent naming and categorization and feed data into the pivot tables at the bottom of the document that allow you to view the total spend allocated to each campaign and tactic.
Step-by-step, here’s how I usually set about building a plan:
- Step 1: I usually start my plan by entering trade shows and major face-to-face events. The dates for these events are usually set well in advance and they tend to be big-ticket expenditures, so it’s best to get them down on paper early in the process. You don’t want to schedule other activities in conflict with major events, and you will often want to build pre- and post-show campaigns bookending each trade show, so the calendar component of this planning document comes in handy for that.
- Step 2: Then I carve out portions of the budget and allocate them to each campaign in proportion to each campaign’s importance. Later I can go back and carve those buckets of money up into different activities.
- Step 3: Next I take some percentage of the budget (10% per quarter?) and add a placeholder for “unplanned/opportunistic”. It’s good to have a little bit of budget you can throw around if good opportunities come up at the last minute. Did a campaign drive an unexpectedly high number of leads? Then throw some more money at it. If the company is having a tough quarter and you are asked to cut back spend, this unplanned/opportunistic budget is the first thing to cut — it doesn’t hurt as bad if you haven’t burned a lot of cycles planning it or made any down payments.
You will find your plan taking shape very quickly!
2. Prioritize your budget by campaign and by tactic
The pivot tables at the bottom of the plan give you a snapshot of where you are spending your budget. Keep an eye on them to make sure you are not overspending on one campaign or one tactic.
3. Delegate planning projects to your staff
Add a row and allocate $20K to one of your vertical market campaigns. For the activity description, enter “TBD – in planning.” Then ask your marketing manager in charge of that campaign to come up with a plan for that $20K you’ve bucketed. At the end of the week he or she can come back to you with a recommendation based on research of various events or media opportunities. Once you’ve reviewed and finalized the plan, simply modify the original placeholder entry to reflect the characteristics of the plan.
4. Load-balance the calendar
The calendar cells on the right allow you to mark the week when each activity will take place. It also lets you quickly determine your monthly or quarterly spend.
A quick scan down the columns shows you when you will be busy and when you will be slow. Do you need to add a contractor to handle the deluge next month? Did a staff member request vacation just when a bunch of her deliverables will be coming due? Do you have conflicting trade shows that will require salespeople and tech staff to be in two places at once? The calendar can be very valuable to resolve these problems.
5. Present your plan to stakeholders and staff members
This planning worksheet is great for sanity-checking your marketing plan and making sure it aligns with sales and business priorities. In fact, this is a great tool for presenting your plan to your manager and to sales stakeholders. Scroll through the document to show them how the activities roll up to support their objectives. If (when) they want to add an activity, you can show them immediately how it will impact your budget and workload. Negotiate a higher budget or collaborate with them to determine which activities need to be cut in order to make the new request fit.
Get stakeholder sign-off and now you can get to work. Post it on SharePoint or wherever you collaborate. Update it whenever tactics change. Now your stakeholders can check it any time if they have a question about what you’re up to.
→ Download this free template for building your annual marketing plan. (Tip: download the template and use MS Excel rather than trying to use it with Google Sheets.)