Jan 2, 2018

Preparing Marketing Resources for the Year Ahead

This is part 2 of 2 parts on taking stock of your marketing, and planning your resources for the year ahead. Read the first part here.

With notes about your existing marketing categories based on the last article, now it’s time to look at how to get where you want to go. How does your assessment of the categories we discussed cover these questions?

Fundamentals: Are these where they need to be? Are there any holes? Do the business name and brand still accurately reflect where the business is headed today?

Messaging: Do your mission, vision and values reflect the right company? Does everyone in the company feel comfortable “talking the talk” in the elevator? Do you have a quick tagline that’s a unique takeaway for your customers?

Infrastructure: Is the infrastructure you need up-to-date and ready to go? The website is clean, current and contemporary? The sales materials are sharp and complete? The print materials, trade show display, business cards are all current and in stock? Your email marketing platforms, search engine optimization and social accounts are updated and consistent?

If not, make sure you’ve got notes about what you want to change. Anything that you plan to fix, create or improve in the categories above is going to be a project. They are efforts you will be able to start, do and finish. But you’ll need to do them alongside the programs you’re also planning below. You can do it.

Programs

To start planning your programs, it will help to start jotting them down across the year. A simple 12-month calendar on a spreadsheet can work great. List the category items down the far left column, and the 12 months in the column headers across the top.

Here are some of the common program categories. How you split yours may be different — you may choose to create sub-categories or different ones entirely. But anything that should run all year is going to be part of a program.

  • Advertising: Think about where you need to appear and which audiences to reach.
  • Blogs: If you are blogging, how often do you plan to publish
  • Case Studies: Can you produce and feature customers in case studies? Monthly?
  • Content Marketing: Is there any instructional or informational content your customers seek that you can create?
  • What content do your customers want? Can you produce it?
  • Email: Are you doing email newsletters, promotions or customer updates? How often?
  • Events: What’s the event calendar look like for your company? Teams, sectors, locations dates? What’s needed to support this activity?
  • Public Relations: Are you reaching the media, analysts and industry groups who matter?
  • Sales Support: What materials do the sales teams need this year and when will you produce it?
  • Social Media: What is your social media strategy, who’s managing and building your social communities, what’s the content and how often?

Once you’ve got these categories and these questions framed, you may have pages of notes and multiple spreadsheets, but this is essential to planning your approach.

Resource Planning 

Now that you’ve got an idea of what you need to do, think about what resources you need in terms of people, money, energy and time to do them.  To execute on these programs, now you need to apply resources. This is where your company has to decide the strategy that’s right for you.

If you’re a small company, you may be the single marketing manager responsible for everything. If you’re a large company, you may have teams of marketing people and outside agencies to support you. Your entire marketing budget may be $5,000 or $50,000 or $50 million. Everything takes resources: there are always finite amounts of people, money, energy and time.  You may want to spend some of your budget on hard costs, like software, media buying and printing, or on soft costs, like additional headcount, freelancers or agencies to get it done.

To know how to proceed, look at the skills required to do the things you’ve set out for yourself in the year ahead. Do you have the skills in your team already? If not, you can either build the skills internally (slower but cheaper) or hire them (faster but more expensive). Perhaps you can hire someone with the ability and skills to either do or manage several areas of your marketing program above.

The only way to manage a comprehensive marketing effort made up of multiple programs is with a comprehensive budget and plan. It should include every resource you dedicate toward your marketing effort, from the cost of internal marketing to employee payroll and benefits to the cost of printing and trade shows. This lets you see where your allocation priorities lie — and decide whether to adjust them up or down.

Let’s say you’re running a company whose entire marketing budget is $50,000 for the year. You don’t have a dedicated marketing person, but you have someone who handles it. However, the companies you compete with spend $500,000 per year on marketing, and they have two full-time people dedicated to marketing on staff, in addition to some agency or freelance support.

Since you’ve assessed your past marketing fundamentals, messaging, infrastructure and programs, you know what you’re doing well and what you want to improve. The difference between what you invest in marketing and what your competition invests in is 10-to-1. You need to find more resources. Looking at your goals for the year, and doing some research, you see it’s going to take about $250,000 to do what you want to do. That’s not as much as the competition invests, but it would be a major step forward for you.

Budgets & Plans

The difference between your current total marketing budget and your planned total marketing budget is how you are going to plan your resources for the year ahead. (Even though you need people, time, energy and money, it all comes down to budget, because money can buy more people and energy within a finite time period.)

Then take your marketing calendar you created earlier, and start allocating your budget into the months across the year where you will either purchase something or pay for someone to do the work — both internal and external. Your 12-month budget, with comprehensive categories will make it clear how to spread your resources to cover all of your priorities.

The art and skill in managing a comprehensive marketing program is in the choices you make about which priorities you put your resources into, and in which order. At the end of the year, you can return to the assessment in part one of this series to start the process over again — evaluating your fundamentals, messaging, infrastructure and programs, and determining where to improve in the year ahead.

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