Hank had an appointment with a client. He was scheduled to meet Mac, a contractor, at a model home in a new housing development to discuss some business. Hank had a general idea where he was going, so he busied himself with other tasks until the time came to go to the meeting. As he approached the area of town that the new development was in, he knew immediately that something was wrong. Clearly, the new development was not laid out as he had planned. He fished out his cell phone and brought up its GPS mapping app to save the day. Unfortunately, the streets were so new that they were labeled incorrectly on his app. In fact, the mapping program sent him on a wild goose chase of confusing wrong turns and nonexistent roads. Hank cursed his decision to skip the planning phase of his day, even as he pulled up late for his meeting.
Believe it or not, this is a story about marketing. After all, the more that technology fuels communication (mobile Internet, social media, etc.), the more tempting it gets to adopt a “play it by ear” approach to the business of marketing. Unfortunately, the resulting surprises are the same as they’ve always been: recycled ideas, runaway budgets and unfocused messages that dilute your brand’s image. At the end of the year, you look at the cumulative cost of your efforts and wonder what the point was. It’s an important question to ask – you’ve just asked it 12 months too late.
Instead, “What’s the point?” is the very first question you need to ask as you start looking ahead to the next year of your business. The answer will be one of the foundations of your marketing plan – a road map that ensures that you don’t get lost in the increasingly complicated world of brand communication. Marketing tactics may have changed a lot in the past 50 years or so, but the basics of sound planning remain unchanged. Here’s a blueprint of how Anchor works with clients to plan out their marketing for a year at a time:
Check out the graphic included with this story, and you’ll see that the marketing process begins with Step 1, strategic planning. In truth, this part of the process is ongoing, and mostly carried out by a company’s decision makers, such as the chief executive officer and the board of directors. Through this process, “high beam” decisions are made about the “point” of the company’s overall strategies – things like growth, profitability, etc. These strategies are shared with management’s marketing action team, which often includes those in charge of marketing, operations and sales. The CEO may take part in the team’s duties as well.
In Step 2, this action team develops objectives for these strategies. For instance, they may agree that growth can be attained through a greater focus on the eastern portion of the company’s service area, or that profits could be improved by focusing on a certain product line. Anchor is often included in this stage, where our experience, insights and resources become valuable assets. Once objectives are in place, collaborators are brought in for Step 3. In this phase, those directly associated with marketing – including managers, marketing department staff and the Anchor team – come together in a work session to refine target audiences and sketch out specific goals for the year to come. These goals can come in the form of sales targets, customer feedback data or even company growth.
In Step 4, Anchor distills all of the information and objectives into a plan that includes detailed tactics for reaching the company’s goals. Anchor will use its experienced team to suggest everything from innovative new tactics like interactive mobile media to proven tactics such as television or direct mail. Budgets are also set, as well as a calendar of events. This plan is often presented to the CEO, along with the heads of the marketing, operations and sales departments, in
addition to any other marketing stakeholders.
Step 5 is the execution phase of the marketing plan. It is the critical phase in which the company’s sales team becomes involved directly. It is where the marketing and sales teams work together to deliver the brand’s message to the company’s target audiences. Commercials are run, web sites are built, events are held, sales calls are made and the overall brand message is deployed throughout the year according to the plan. Adjustments are made as circumstances present themselves.
At the close of the yearlong plan, those involved evaluate its success. Step 6 also can include research, a valuable tool in determining the outcome of tactics and the overall value of the plan. Meetings are held to evaluate those ideas that worked and those that should be discontinued. These discussions inevitably lead to new ideas, and those new ideas tie the circular marketing process back to its beginning. As you can see from the graphic, the marketing plan process ends where it began, and strategic planning for the next year is closely tied to the evaluation process of the year before. With new energy and important insights from the previous plan, the process begins anew.
Now that you’ve had a look at how Anchor facilitates the marketing plan process, do you have any questions? We’d love to share details with you and your team. Just give us a call or send us an email, and we can show you how planning can help your company’s marketing succeed.