Paper, Colorful Pens, Sticky Notes & Coffee: How to Create a First-Rate Marketing Plan
After working with a whole bunch of businesses large and small in every corner of the globe, I can say with confidence that mastering online marketing is a universal challenge.
Strangely comforting, right?
This doesn’t let you off the hook from having to figure it out, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone if you struggle, too.
Who Has Time to Plan?
The greatest common pain point is with time management, specifically carving out quality time as a team to plan ahead and think strategically.
Planning allows time to research trends, know your customers, perfect your products, and engage with your best audiences. However, this creative luxury is the first thing I see many businesses toss out when the pressure of stress and production hits the fan.
On the other hand, the companies that refuse to rush, who protect their planning phase and value the creative phase, are the ones who reap the EOY rewards.
I help companies create strategic marketing plans. Here’s a fun exercise on how to create yours.
“Marketing Plan” has a different meaning for different folks. I consider a marketing plan to be a detailed calendar of the year that tells me all of the events, seasons, trends, campaigns and milestones that need to happen in order for me to achieve my established year-end objectives.
I know, that’s a mouthful, and it does require a monster planning session.
But the satisfaction of standing back and looking at the masterpiece of a properly prepared media plan will be worth the sweat. I promise.
Below I share my effective 5-step Media Plan Exercise which I use when workshopping with companies around the world. I recently carried this exercise out with my client and award-winning organic skin care company, Eminence Organic Skin Care, and our inspired day proved to be culture-shifting for this already amazing global organization.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A large wall you can tape paper onto
- Roll of art paper (36″ by 10 yards)
- Blue painting tape (so it won’t take paint off walls)
- Masking tape
- Colored pens
- About 6 different colors of sticky notes
- Stickers, candy, a good sense of humor & a fresh pot of coffee
1. On the wall, mount the paper and mask out 12 equal blocks with the blue painting tape, so you can clearly view 12 months of the year. This will be the media plan calendar.
2. Using the sticky notes, create a color legend designating one color per category. For example, blue sticky notes will be for holidays, pink for trips and travel, etc.
Now let’s get to work on the media calendar.
Phase 1: Collection Process – Gather Calendar Items
- Collect every director’s, partner’s, and department’s schedule in detail.
- Gather all events, all holidays, all trips, all expos/trade shows, all media events, any and all significant dates.
- Collect all seasonal trends, holidays, existing peaks in sales, etc.
- Note all product launches (or any planned product changes, including planned website changes).
Phase 2: Place Existing Events Onto Calendar
- Add all items from Phase 1 onto calendar, creating a detailed map of what’s already happening.
- Pause when done, so you can step back and study what we see.
- Do we like what we see? Are we missing any opportunities? Note if there is anything we’d like to change.
Phase 3: Declare Company Objectives – What do we want to achieve?
- How many social audience fans? SEO goals (keywords, post or page ranking)? Any shows, events or trade shows we’d like to attend? Celebrities we’d like to target?
- Individual contribution (connected to KPIs): What does progress mean for the company as a whole? Do we know declaratively what leadership wants for the company? How can each of us contribute to that goal(s)?
- Are there any additional objectives or goals we’d like to create today? Specificity is essential.
Phase 4: Attach dates to objectives
- Place our objectives from Phase 3 onto the calendar.
- Take into consideration all existing events. When could we achieve our goals? Are we being realistic? Do our goals need adjustment?
Phase 5: Plan strategic digital content to support objectives
- Working backwards from milestone objectives, create calls to action (CTAs), themes and campaigns that make sense and support objectives.
- Create a task list (how many blog posts, live events, etc.). Delegate who will be in charge of each component. This may involve creating mini-teams, consolidating action items, delegating and compromise. Assign due dates for planning items
- Begin the task of creating outlines, assigning interviews, coordinating assets, photo shoots, writing 280-character tweets (but can always be shorter).
- Assign a series of evergreen content for each product or service that can be adjusted last minute for multiple purposes.
If you are feeling overwhelmed at this point… congratulations!
You’re doing the exercise perfectly. At this point in the day, it is natural to feel overwhelmed but excited, and have our brains firing in a million directions with possibilities and ideas.
Stick with it. The goal is to have 90% of digital content written in advance, with a clear library of evergreen content that can be adapted to any exciting media opportunities that arise.
Engaging vs. Creating
The analogy here is like having a party while still getting ready for the party. We want to prepare for the party in advance, leaving ourselves time to do the final touches to make everything perfect. When the guests arrive, we are confident, relaxed, and they love the extra attention to details.
Social media is just like this. You don’t want to be scrambling to create digital content and engage with audiences at the same time. There’s no time to be sincere, or have quality conversations.
By creating a media plan we are creating a system of more quantity and higher quality.
Looking at the wall, now covered in sticky notes, we want to make sure that everything is actually connected or related to an end-year objective. If not, make sure it isn’t an unnecessary distraction. Here are a few final questions to consider:
- How do we want to capture this data?
- Does your current system work, or should we consider alternative project management systems?
- Whatever system you use, it’s essential your entire team uses it consistently.
- Who monitors new opportunities, and how will we fold them into our new system?
- Will we stay six months ahead? Or shall we do this exercise quarterly?
Was this exercise helpful? I hope so! While intense to initially get structured and implemented, the result of this kind of planning can be a sense of clarity, direction, control, an increase in creativity and attention to details, and a greater sense of “time.”