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I just finished writing the 2012 Marketing Plan for mononews.  At this point it is really a recommendation to get us to our 2012 objectives based on my analysis of the market, the competition, a review of our important benchmarks and performance results.

It needs to be presented and discussed, the elements agreed upon, the details finalized.  Feedback and input from others is always a valued and important part of the process.  When everyone is engaged, then it becomes a plan.

It’s hard to estimate how many plans I’ve contributed to, written, or reviewed over the length of my career.  It’s got to be very close to, if not over, the 100-count mark.

I find that writing a plan never gets any easier.  And I believe that’s a good thing.  I would hate to get comfortable or complacent about something that is so crucial to ongoing success of a business, product or Brand.

And we don’t wait until the end of the year (Calendar or Fiscal) to evaluate  our progress and activities, that’s done regularly, in our case every month.  This allows us the opportunity to continuously track our progress against our goals and to identify any gaps so that we can tweak or realign the activities quickly if we’re not on track.

Every time I work on a Marketing Plan, I learn.  I learn about the target audience, about the environment/market, about business and new opportunities, like the ones in Social Media.  I learn about myself.

I appreciate the chance to look back over a year, because the 12-month perspective is wider and provides more objectivity than the monthly reviews, where I sometimes feel I’m chasing after numbers.  It’s easy to get so caught up in the execution, and too often we fail to acknowledge the kudos, achievements and the lessons to be learned from the trials and, occasional, errors.

  1. First the Business Review – a thorough analysis of the stats and reports collected over the year.  Monthly, quarterly and year-over-year comparisons to gauge progress of sales, Share of Market, customer acquisition, usage patterns, web analytics and every other measurable element critical to the business.  View the information in context of the organization, the environment and the competition.
  2. Then search for trends:  Review the results with an eye to progress, shortfalls, lessons learned and achievements.  Make an effort to link to activities and events,  (Note observations.  These are the lessons learned for the plan.)
  3. Reaffirm the target audience, identifying specifically who your customers/consumers/clients are.   If you don’t know who’s buying/using or who might need your product or service, it’s hard to be successful.
  4. Establish goals.  The “What” you want to do or be.  These must be clearly defined and quantifiable statements (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-oriented) of what you mean to accomplish in the coming year.  They may be an evolution of last year’s goals, or may change significantly depending on what has been discovered in the Business review.   Information on SMART goals e.g. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/setting-smart-management-goals.html
  5. Then outline the 3 – 5 means by which the goals will be accomplished.  The “How” These are the overall strategies.    For my thoughts on strategy: https://mononewsblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/what-is-strategy/ and https://mononewsblog.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/got-strategy/
  6. For each strategy, elaborate on what specific vehicles and programs will be used –  the “who”, “when” and “where”.  These are the tactics, the details for the execution  of the plan.
  7. Based on each element of the plan (tactic) estimate the spend.  I build an activity calendar with a description of the activity, the timing and estimated expense.
  8. Obtain the buy-in of key stakeholders.  Be it senior management, owners, colleagues, peers, sales and the other functions/departments, engage and invite feedback/input on your proposed plan.  Others can help validate the plan elements and shared ownership facilitates the implementation.

It’s not perfect, it’s a work in progress!

Every year I am totally overwhelmed by the data and information – no matter how big, or small a company and how many tools I have.   Every year it seems to take me a long time to work through the process.   Every year I seem to despair of ever developing a clear, cohesive and comprehensive plan.

And each time I complete the plan I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and renewed purpose for the year ahead.  Look out 2012!