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Creating a 2018 Marketing Plan [Q&A]

By: Alyssa Dannaker

Tactical Marketing Advice from Agency Experts

Instant gratification is not exclusive to the digital age, but it is something that most marketers expect from their efforts today. With the advent of marketing automation tools and the popularization of new buyer-centric methodologies, in-house marketing professionals who are strapped for time and resources are at risk of adopting half-baked strategies or “setting and forgetting” marketing tools. We’re all about embracing innovation, yet in order to truly make the most of new techniques and deliver better results to leadership teams, marketers must stick to a strategic marketing plan that guides all tactics and increases long-term ROI.

We spoke with a few Sagefrog experts on creating a successful tactical marketing plan for 2018 that you can implement on your own or with the help of an experienced agency partner. Hear from Account Managers Joliene Ford and Kevin Schluth and Project Manager Mike Mills.

The tactics used to attract new leads and drive revenue growth are only as good as the plan employed to guide them.

Q: You’ve developed and delivered countless tactical marketing plans over the years for clients. What is the first and most crucial step in developing a successful plan?

Joliene Ford: Setting specific goals and priorities with my clients and their leadership teams before developing the tactical plan is a crucial first step. If a client decides they want to gain ten marketing qualified leads (MQLs) in one quarter, it would require very different tactics than a year-long event marketing-focused plan. This approach allows measurable goals to be the inspiration and driving force behind the marketing plan and resulting tactics that I recommend.

Kevin Schluth: Many people are anxious to dive into tactics, but a smart first step is to talk budget. Determining your marketing budget can help narrow down an overall objective to inform a tactical plan. If your company wants to jump from being the sixth-best supplier in the region to being in the top three, you need to understand what that will mean for your budget. For those with larger budgets, this goal can likely be attained through a generous mix of public relations and marketing tactics. For smaller budgets, you can still work towards this goal but you must be realistic about the tactics available to you and the trajectory you’ll take over the coming months.

Mike Mills: When we engage new clients, we typically begin with discovery, which entails research on the company itself, a review of previous marketing initiatives and a complete analysis of direct competitors and industry outlook. Assessing past efforts and ROI allows us to create a marketing plan that takes into consideration what works and what doesn’t work for each brand and industry. Compiling a content audit is also a good way to review existing assets and identify simple ways to recycle them into high performing pieces.

Q: As the marketing plan development process continues, what are some key things to consider?

JF: Remember that a tactical plan is an outline for the path you take to reach a goal. When it comes time to execute the tactics, your outline (and your team) should remain flexible enough to reshuffle tactics as needed to satisfy your original objectives. This is where A/B testing and periodic reassessments of your marketing plan come into play. Clarifying priorities and considering how many of them will be covered by certain tactics is also essential during the planning phase. There’s no one right path to achieve a goal.

MM: Changes in budget and long-term goals should be considered throughout the planning phase; what you think you need to meet those goals a year from now could prove unsatisfactory later on. Don’t be afraid to talk with your team if something’s not working. The difference between strategy (what you do to reach the goal) and tactics (the specific actions you take, such as an email marketing campaign) is that the strategy might stay the same but tactics may continually change.

Q: What are the top marketing tools you use and would recommend to other marketers?

JF: As marketers, data is our friend. I recommend becoming familiar with Google Analytics and Moz for benchmarking and useful digital metrics that help you evaluate the health and growth of your site traffic and overall online presence, as well as how you measure against your competition.

MM: I’ve recently started exploring Spyfu, a tool that our digital team uses to determine competitors’ Ads spend and the keywords they rank for. This helps you go where your competitors aren’t, especially if you lack the size or budget to compete with bigger industry players.

Q: How do you keep your clients updated throughout the execution phase and how do you convey results during the analysis phase?

JF: Once we draft a marketing plan, we solidify with the client how we’ll measure our goals and we establish meetings to review tactical progress on a regular basis as well as to review the overall marketing plan at the 6-month mark. This not only helps us as an agency to evaluate our relationship with the client but also supports our touchpoints throughout the year and encourages both teams to readjust the plan if needed to stay on track.

KS: We typically set up weekly or biweekly status calls – a clear and consistent way to share updates and assess the progress of a marketing plan. On the same vein, account managers make sure all data discussions are timely; if we’re discussing information that’s more than a week old, it’s too late. This should also be true for in-house marketing professionals conveying statuses and results to their leadership teams.

Q: What other tips do you have for new marketers and business professionals?

JF: I think it’s wise to keep up with the trends occurring both inside and outside of your industry by looking at what your competitors are doing and looking elsewhere for inspiration. Still, remember that innovative tactics might not always translate well to your brand and I don’t recommend simply abandoning “old school” traditional tactics like direct marketing and event marketing, which still perform very well in many B2B markets.

With every tactic you take on, keep your brand, vision and messaging in mind – brand consistency is key.

MM: It’s very important that all the experts on a marketing team are involved during the development of marketing plans. As a marketing agency, we tap into the expertise of our content creators, search engine optimizers, public relations experts, brand strategists – in short, all the resources available to us – to create a plan that delivers clients an integrated marketing experience. New marketers and other business professionals should take advantage of all that their company’s agency of record (AOR) has to offer when planning for 2018.

Another tip specific to B2B companies is to use 2018 to reassess your website and community engagement. Today’s consumers have come to expect clean, advanced websites with interactive homepages that offer a captivating and engaging experience both on desktop and mobile. If you have staff available to maintain it, implementing a live customer support feature on your site can also help satisfy this need.

Are you already taking the advice of these marketing experts? If you need help with developing an effective marketing plan for 2018, talk to our team directly by scheduling a consultation with Sagefrog. We’ll evaluate your biggest marketing challenges and provide recommendations in the form of a free Marketing Plan Summary. Schedule a consultation below.

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