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By now, many companies and marketing directors are already planning for 2018. Seems hard to fathom, but as it does each year, the next few months will fly by and we’ll be moving right into the new year. Where do you stand with your marketing plans, including social media, SEO and content?

Whether you intend to develop an entirely new marketing plan, or update the one you have, it’s never too early to get started. A good one takes time. So where to start? Here’s a checklist to help move you down the road.

  • Do your research. Gather as much data as you can. Look at industry trends, product innovations, changes with your competition, anything you can put your hands on to help give you perspective. You might even consider some form of primary research to help you better understand the marketplace or your customer. Have you ever considered behavioral research to help shed some light on why people are buying your products (or not)? During this process, be sure to look internally as well. Conduct internal focus groups (We call it Discovery) with your sales, marketing and management teams to bring context to your planning. It never ceases to amaze me how insightful these sessions can be.

  • Put it all down on paper. When we conduct focus groups or Discovery sessions, we take notes and after re-organizing all the thoughts, prepare a report which clearly communicates what you learned.

  • State the obvious: Objectives. What do you hope to accomplish this year? What do you need to accomplish? Write it down and communicate it to all involved. It will set the mark for where you intend to take your plan (and ultimately, your company).

  • Strategize. How are you going to accomplish your goals? There are many ways to get things done. What’s going to work best? What will be the most cost effective? What can you do differently? This is where you take a peek inside your marketing mix and reflect upon your products, pricing, distribution, people and promotional strategies. What is the key messaging you intend to use to tell your story?

  • Get in the weeds. After your strategy is set, now comes the time-consuming phase where you do your tactical planning. What are we going to do to implement our strategies? There are so many options for how to spend promotional dollars and this phase includes your budget and timeline so you can see where it might take a little time. Certainly digital marketing is getting a bigger piece of the budgetary pie all the time, but don’t neglect the opportunity to implement some proven traditional methods of implementation. They do still work.

  • Set your KPI’s (key performance indicators). One of the great things about digital is the ability to track things more easily and accurately. Be sure to set some goals for what you hope to accomplish, then monitor and measure them throughout your campaign.

  • Create. Here’s the fun part, when you get to start creating the elements of your campaign, from your concept and visuals to the layout and copy. Shoot for some out-there ideas, along with innovative and predictable ones and then test them to see what’s going to resonate best with your audience.

  • Execute. Marketing is a detailed process and the success of your program lies in the details. Plan ahead and it seems to flow, on time and on budget. Put yourself behind the eight ball and it’s hard to ever get ahead.

For some, this approach to planning may seem like old hat. To others, it may be enlightening. Regardless of where you are in the experience curve, I hope you take marketing planning as seriously as it is. It can make or break you.

If we can assist in any way, please contact me directly. At Stylite Media, we provide a wide range of research, strategy and marketing planning services that help clients build their brands, drive sales and grow their businesses.

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