One of our most favourite quotes from the TV show Friends is when Monica asks Phoebe whether she has a plan and she says, “ I don’t even have a pla!”. In fact, we were only watching this episode the other day, and it gave us the inspiration for this blog post – thanks Monica and Pheobe 😉
It got us thinking, in our experience, a lot of people forget about the planning phase, especially when it comes to digital marketing – it’s so easy to just pick up something like posting on social media – and they also forget why planning is so important.
Unfortunately, we both have been in situations where clients, and even the companies we have been working for, have gone ahead spending money on marketing without creating a plan, or even questioning why they are doing it – let alone whether it meets the overall businesses strategy.
So we thought, let’s shout about the importance of planning!
It’s all about those goals
Whether you’re wanting to start a one-off campaign or something a bit more long-term, or maybe you’re not quite sure yet, setting clear goals for your marketing is the perfect place to start, and the natural beginning of any plan.
Your goals should be specific to the campaign you want to start i.e. increase our Facebook followers by x number, but they should (ideally) also be related to your overall businesses strategy i.e. if a part of your businesses marketing strategy is to increase your brand awareness through social media, more Facebook followers would do this.
Your goals should (we hate to be so predictable) be SMART!
If you haven’t come across SMART goals before, you’re in luck as we’re going to explain them below. If you have, feel free to skip this bit, enjoy the cute pic of the dog, and move on to the next.
Using the example above of wanting to increase Facebook followers, the SMART goal objective would be:
- Don’t just say you want more followers, say you want x more whether that’s a number or a percentage
- Make sure you can track your goal. Do you have a way of seeing your Facebook followers increasing? Yes, you can track them manually or via software – woop, it’s measureable
- Can you actually achieve more Facebook followers? Yes.
- It’s important to set goals that are actually possible rather than trying to take over the world ;p
- Are more Facebook followers relevant to your business? Would more Facebook followers help you achieve your overall business goals?
- Set yourself a time in which you need to achieve the goal by i.e. increase our Facebook followers by x in 6 months – but remember to make the time period achievable
How are you going to achieve your goals?
Creating a plan based on the goals you have set for your marketing will help you to identify how you are going to achieve them, as it allows you to think about:
- Timescale – you’ve already set yourself a goal with a time in which you want to achieve it, so now you know what your timescale is, try and stick to this as much as possible. A great way to do this, create a calendar and plot out when you need to do what by, and in what order to meet your timely goal
- Resources – you can now begin to think about what resources you need to achieve your goals, ask yourself…do you need more staff, do you need to purchase software, do you need external support?
- Budget – set yourself a budget and try to stick to it. Make sure it includes all the costs you can possibly think of i.e. the cost of external support or additional staff – don’t just think about the marketing spend itself i.e. money you might need to on Facebook advertising in order to increase your followers
- Message – what branding and tagline will you use to achieve your goal, will it be the same as your overall businesses branding or something slightly different but closely related (most likely the case for a one-off campaign)? Top tip – don’t confuse your audience by going rogue, if you want to change your branding and messaging completely, plan a campaign to do so with an official launch
Don’t panic if when you start thinking about the ways in which you need to achieve your goals, you slightly tweak them overall.
The process of working out how you are going to achieve your goals can highlight that your original goals aren’t as realistic as you first though – especially if you need external support and they have highlighted other costs or resources you need that you hadn’t originally accounted for.
But, just because you might not be able to achieve that original goal you had straight away, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to achieve it one day, so don’t right it off completely.
Do your goals match your overall strategy?
Another great benefit of the planning process is that it allows you to align the goals with your overall business strategy as, just as we’ve described above, part of the process when setting goals for your marketing is to check that they are RELEVANT – will they help you to achieve your longer term goals!
Have you thought about your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats?
Another important part of your planning process is to carry out a SWOT analysis whereby you think about your business strengths and weaknesses, along with the external opportunities and threats within the industry and environment you business operates in.
This might sound daunting, but if you’ve carried out your overall business strategy already, you’re likely to have identified most of these, so it’ll just be a quick recap to make sure they are the same for your marketing campaign. If they’re different, you might need to spend a bit of time identifying them.
For example, if you’ve identified a weakness in your business as being a lack of time and resources, and you know for your marketing campaign that you need external support because you don’t have enough knowledge of Facebook, then you are already, very quickly, aware that you need to hire external support, and it is likely that you have already allocated budget for this (hopefully).
When creating a marketing campaign, it is important to make sure you don’t start sending out mixed messages to your audience as this can create confusion and a lack of trust with your brand. When you don’t plan correctly, this is exactly what happens!
So, one of the biggest benefits of creating a marketing plan for your campaign is that – because you’ve put in all the work setting your goals, thinking about how you’re going to achieve them, and aligning them with your overall business strategy – your campaign’s message will be consistent with all of your other marketing – woop.
Was it a success?
We would say the biggest benefit of planning your marketing activity is that it reminds you to measure the success of it.
We also know, this can be the part of the campaign that is regularly forgotten about or rushed, and as it can really identify some interesting results, and ones that might not be exactly what you’d expect – we can’t stress enough how important it is and how we would highly recommend you make sure it is done.
So when creating your plan, plot out how often you need to analyse the results, whether it’s monthly, weekly, bi-mothly, bi-weekly, or maybe just at the very end (we’d only recommend this for small campaigns i.e. nothing longer than 3 months).
This analysis will then allow you to understand how successful your marketing campaign was, as well as driving the goals for your next campaign, meaning you can then start the whole planning process again, knowing what you need to tweak or keep the same based on your previous campaigns performance.
Biggest tip form us?
Don’t rush the planning process, dedicate a decent amount of time to planning your marketing activity, ask yourself why you want to do something and don’t forget to measure the success of it – otherwise you’re just throwing money down the drain and no one wants to be doing that.