Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on The Bulldog Reporter, a leading publication in media intelligence featuring news, issues and best practices for PR and corporate communications. Follow the publication to stay in the know about the latest in industry news, opinion and analysis.
As marketing professionals, January is a month of crazed phone calls from bosses and clients. They are finally back from vacation and 2017 is here! They need to implement new marketing initiatives to reach this year’s growth goals, and can’t do it without you!
Their energy and excitement is contagious. They want to get started now and know a new website and strong social media presence is key to their success. You rally your team and the brainstorming begins.
Hold it right there.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. It’s easy to get caught up in the new and exciting, but this common mistake is the death of many best-intentioned marketing initiatives.
To truly help our clients and organizations, we need to take a stand. Jumping into campaigns before getting our ducks in a row is a recipe for disaster. Here are the top five things you have to do before launching full force into your company or clients’ 2017 marketing initiatives.
1. Outline the Business Goals and Objectives
Having a big picture view of what your company or client’s business goals are may seem like common sense, but it isn’t always common practice. As a marketer, it’s important that you understand the ins and outs of how the organization you market works and what it wants to achieve outside of just the marketing realm.
Sit down with the key players in the organization and talk to them about their company’s goals. Most organizations develop big-picture goals in one or more of the following four categories:
These goals are focused on the expansion of the organization in relation to markets, employees, offices, etc.
At the end of the day, the money the company makes after its expenses is the profit. This common goal is often associated with the company at large, or with a specific department or service line.
With a focus on the customer, these goals are about improving client or customer satisfaction.
How is your client or company planning to engage and give back to its community this year? Often forgotten, these goals are crucial to success in the new digital economy as they are great ways for organizations to show they care about people and focused on the greater good.
Document these goals. Then, have the company’s leadership team review them for their input and buy-in. Once you have these, share them with your team. Keep them at the forefront of every new marketing campaign and initiative you plan for this year to align your efforts with the big picture goals of the organization.
2. Be Realistic: Analyze Obstacles to Your Success
Most organizations associate marketing success with bottom line revenue growth. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and it’s important that your client or boss understands that marketing is only one piece of the puzzle.
Before you begin planning your 2017 campaigns, work with the company’s leadership team to better understand how the other pieces work by asking these questions:
- What are the company’s core values? Do they have a brand style guide?
- What does a typical customer experience look like for each service line?
- What is the company’s sales process?
- How does the company use technology to improve the customer experience?
The answers to these basic questions will help you start building the foundational understanding of the obstacles that can influence the success or failure of bottom line revenue growth in relation to your marketing success.
3. Define Your Buyer Personas In Excruciating Detail
In our Internet-obsessed, overly advertising-saturated world, targeting women between the ages of 18 and 65 who own a home within a 50-mile radius of your business’ location is not a target market. That may be your company’s average client, but it isn’t even remotely specific enough to be its target audience, much less buyer persona.
Someone once told me, if you try to speak to everyone, you’ll end up connecting with no one. Nowhere is this truer than in marketing. In almost every industry, there are hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of companies that offer the same services you are marketing. Defining a niche buyer persona can be a key differentiating factor in making your message stand out from the crowd.
For every service or product line your company is looking to market, outline a minimum of three ideal buyer personas. Get into the nitty gritty. What type of car do they drive? Where do they turn to for news? What clothing brands do they wear? Until you can mentally imagine meeting your buyer personas, they simply aren’t descriptive enough.
4. Agree on S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Marketing Plan
With your client or company’s business goals in hand, it’s now time to outline your marketing plan. Setting expectations is key to your success in 2017, so it’s a good idea to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for every marketing channel you utilize.
As a savvy marketer, I know you’re familiar with the term S.M.A.R.T. goals, but with the start of a new year, it doesn’t hurt to revisit this concept as you plan for 2017. Although there are many different definitions of S.M.A.R.T. goals, my favorite variation is defined below.
Your goals need to be well-defined and clear to everyone. They should be easily understood with minimal explanation.
Without the ability to measure your goal, how will you know if you succeeded or failed? Every goal must have a measurable metric for determining success.
Goals shouldn’t be created in a vacuum. Get everyone involved in the process to ensure your marketing goals are relevant.
Big goals are great for vision statements, but your marketing goals need to be realistic. If your company or client grew 5 percent last year and are spending the same annual marketing budget this year without a drastic change in tactics or market segment, expecting to grow by 150 percent is setting you up for failure. Make your goals big enough to drive excitement, but not so big that they disengage people for lack of belief they are possible.
Timeframes are crucial to goal success. Give yourself enough time to achieve the goal, but not so much time that the project will expand to the time allotted.
5. Document Your Marketing Plan and Secure Buy-In
Now that you’ve collected the foundational information required to move forward with your 2017 marketing plan, it’s time to start writing. Nothing is more critical to your marketing success in the new year than setting appropriate expectations and getting everyone on the same page for how success will be defined.
The best way to do this is by documenting the business and marketing goals, buyer personas, S.M.A.R.T. goals and marketing plan in one document. Have your client or boss review it to ensure you both agree. Once you have their buy in, it’s time to get to work!