Budget Season is Upon Us: How to Start 2018 Planning

October 16, 2017

It’s never too soon to start working on your marketing plan for the upcoming year. Here’s a good rule of thumb:  Do not open 2017’s budget and “save as” to plan 2018.  So where to start?  Use this 5-Step Guide to get the 2018 marketing planning process started.

Step 1: Determine Your Goals

"If you don't know where you're going, any road'll take you there" said the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

As you are preparing your marketing budget, you need solid input on where the company is going in the coming year.

Do you know the items below for your company?

  • Overall company business plan
  • 2018 Revenue goals
  • Changes planned to products or services
  • Key metrics that are important to your CEO for measuring marketing success
  • Sales team’s initiatives for 2018 that require support, new markets they want to approach (industries or geographies)

If you answered Yes to all of the above, you have great goals and can continue forward. If you answered No to any of the above, schedule meetings, conference calls or have discussions with relevant colleagues and have those discussions until you have an answer.  Yes, plans will change throughout the year but you need to set a target and have clear business goals to create a marketing plan. 

Your goals will set the alignment of your tactics. Your marketing goals should be strategic objectives that are quantifiable and specific. 

It’s important to establish objectives, but we believe in and recommend flexibility to our clients. Many factors will change over the course of the year including competition, platform changes (they call them ‘optimizations’) and business goals.

Step 2: Analyze And Benchmark Past Marketing Successes

In 2018, marketing should not be a guessing game. To develop a successful marketing plan, start by looking back.

Places to look for Insights and Data:

  • Google Analytics:  Such great data and free!
    • If you don’t have dashboards created, a good place to start is running YoY (year over year) data on Source / Medium on traffic.
  • Review you Goals and the Source / Medium for each of those. If you did not have Goals set in Analytics, now is a good time to create those goals since you identified your KPIs in Step 1 above.
  • Email marketing reporting: Who’s opening and clicking? What topics are of interest?  Let past success impact future results.
  • Social Media Platform Insights:  Facebook and LinkedIn both offer great demographic insights on followers.
  • Marketing Automation Tools: If you have a marketing automation system, run the reports that identify what sources are driving the most qualified leads.

Once you have tangible numbers, you can identify which sources contribute the highest percentage of total leads and conversions.

After you’ve collected data from each marketing channel, you should ask yourself two simple but very important questions:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working? 

Unfortunately, each marketing tactic cannot be evaluated in the same way. While print ads offer circulation data, you can’t determine the exact number of readers who flipped through a publication’s pages. On the other hand, display advertising can provide definitive findings as to the size of the audience, the amount of impressions and click data.

Do your best to prioritize marketing tactics based on an unbiased review of their performance each year.

Everything is up for discussion. Too many people have created “sacred cows” that have not been changed in years using the thought process “we’ve always done it”;. I get it; it’s scary to let go and try something new, that’s another place where flexibility comes into play.  Try Q1 without the sacred cow and monitor impact; you can always bring back an “oldie but goodie” if it turns out it is missed.

Step 3: Consider Channel Options

There are multiple marketing channels to choose from when creating a 2018 marketing plan, but most seasoned marketers will recommend an integrated approach. If your budget is constrained (and who’s isn’t), it may be in your best interest to focus on one or two channels. Here are a few channels that most marketer should consider:

1.     Digital Marketing

  • Website development: This is your most important piece for modern marketing.  Whether you’re starting from scratch to create a new website or you’re improving an existing one, users can always appreciate a site that has top-notch UX and updated features. If your site is still not fully responsive in 2017, 2018 is your year to make that happen. 
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) & Display advertising):  According to Google, four out of five people use search engines to find local companies. Advertising via search engines and other websites is increasingly an important part of the marketing mix. PPC is extremely customizable; advertisers can specify bids, ad copy, display time of day, location targeting and more. Display advertising is an economical online advertising method, offering the opportunity to display graphic banner ads on website categories of your choosing.
  • Email marketing:  The stalwart of marketing that is often overlooked for enhancements. Consider experimenting with email campaigns to capture and nurture leads.
  • Social media advertising: For marketers who have established a strong social media presence for their company, social media advertising is an excellent tactic to incorporate. LinkedIn is the most beneficial for B2B marketers, while Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram serve the needs of many B2C marketers.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimizing your website for search engines remains important. How many times do you Google per day? Localized listings, map listings, website enhancements all play a role. 56 percent of local businesses haven’t claimed their Google My Business listing, according to Local Search Institute.  Don’t be those one of those people in 2018. 

2.     PR & Social Media: Public relations and social media marketing are standard for most B2B and B2C businesses. To take your editorial calendar to the next level, put down the press release and consider adding a new method to the mix.

3.    Content Marketing is a tactic that has grown in popularity in the past few years; this avenue allows companies to produce in-depth industry content that draws in a new, more targeted audience.

Content marketing is especially useful in the B2B space because industry content may not be as readily available to interested consumers. This content not only serves as quality editorial copy on-site, but it also has the potential to be leveraged for lead nurturing and demand generation purposes.

4. Traditional Marketing Channels:  Traditional marketing methods have been a staple in the industry for decades and most are still in use. Direct mail, event marketing, television spots and print advertising are just a few tactics that are still a core focus for many marketers. But be wary of opting for traditional methods unless you can prove that the tactics will result in strong leads.  

Step 4: Prioritize Your Needs

This is the hard part. Marketing on every platform is the ideal circumstance, but for small to medium sized business (SMBs), this may not be realistic.

To prioritize your marketing needs, choose the tactic that is the most effective at driving leads and revenue in Step 2 and start there for budgeting purposes. Drop in the mandatory items and then layer in other tactics based on efficacy.

Ultimately, there’s no magic formula. Your marketing budget should be a mix of different methods, based on the resources you’re working with and the audience you’re trying to reach.

As you choose media, document your tactical goals; be specific in terms of targeted results.  Here’s an example:

  • Channel:   Digital marketing
  • Platform:   Facebook
  • Tactic:  Lead Ads
  • Ad Spend:  $2,000/month
  • Goal:    500 clicks, 50 lead forms (conversions)

Many B2B and B2C marketers find that working with their agency partners is helpful in determining the best marketing mix and creating a plan to manage.  At Blue Sky Marketing, we take a proactive position in assessing the marketing mix for clients and offering planning input. Ask your agency for the same commitment to your success.

Step 5: Review With Your Team Or Leadership

This guide should serve as a starting point for your 2018 marketing planning and help you bring increased exposure for your business in the new year.

Marketing plans should not operate in a marketing silo. The most effective plans are shared, discussed, and revised. Lucid explanations of goals, strategies and tactics for each component will make implementation so much easier.

When you get to this time next year and are kicking off 2019 planning, it will be great to have your benchmarks to review. Now, get started.  

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