Developing a Marketing Plan: Tips for Evaluating 2012 & Creating 2013

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It’s almost the end of October 2012. Do you know where your 2013 marketing plan is? Don’t have one? Not to worry! Now’s the perfect time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in 2012 and how to prepare a plan for 2013.

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to assume you had some sort of “written” marketing plan for 2012, even if it was simply written long-hand on a legal pad.

Evaluating Your 2012 Marketing Plan

What worked? You’ll likely have a good hunch as to what did and didn’t work in 2012 regarding your marketing activities, but it’s important to take some time to evaluate your assumptions. For example, if you feel the ads you ran in the local newspaper worked great, why do you feel that way? How many sales/new clients did you get from the ads (that you know of)? Make sure you write this information down so you can compare it to next year’s results.

What didn’t work? This gets a little trickier because it’s easy to say, “Well, that didn’t work” if a particular marketing task didn’t yield any noticeable revenue (e.g. new clients/sales). But the question to really ask is why didn’t a particular marketing task or activity not work. Was it because metrics weren’t set up correctly? Was it because you didn’t have the people-power to devote to making sure the activity was a success? (This can be true of social media – it’s easy to dismiss something like Facebook and Twitter for not working, but it’s only fair to make this proclamation if you followed best practices and were active with it.)

What do you wish you had tried or done differently? We use the word “wish” because that’s exactly what this exercise is: creating a wish list of marketing activities you wish you had done, but didn’t. Don’t censor yourself as you create this list – put the craziest or most expensive ideas down on paper.

What about your budget? Was your marketing budget on target with what you could afford to invest, or were you constantly feeling squeezed? If the latter, how much would you need to shave off the monthly budget to be comfortable? If the former, do you expect to be able to spend the same next year or can you invest a little more? If more, how much more per month? It’s important to know that there are no right or wrong answers here, only what’s right or wrong for your business. Another important note: marketing plans need to be fluid documents – they can change and evolve with market conditions and anything else that may affect your company’s cash flow.

After you’ve evaluated this year’s plan, you’re ready to move on to the next phase.

Developing Your 2013 Marketing Plan

Creating your 2013 marketing plan involves three steps: setting goals, brainstorming marketing programs that will meet these goals, and drafting the actual plan.

Setting goals. Before you sit down and write out your plan, you need to identify the goals you’re planning for. Is your goal to land 40 new clients in 2013? Is it to increase revenue by 10 percent? Is it to launch a new product? Open a new location? Get 1000 more Facebook fans? You’ll likely have multiple goals that will include the must-happen goals, would-be-nice-if-it-happened goals, and the yes-we’re-dreaming-big goals. That’s OK and is actually a good strategy. Put your goals in writing at the top of your plan so you can see/review them regularly.

Brainstorming marketing programs. Now, you need to brainstorm some marketing programs that will help you achieve your goals. For example, if one of your goals is to re-engage customers you haven’t seen in six months, you’ll need to develop some sort of re-engagement campaign. If you’re a landscaper, you might decide to run a re-engagement campaign that will involve sending a series of three postcards in March and April when people are starting to think about their yards. Make note of these programs, since this is the info you’ll add to the actual month-by-month plan.

As you brainstorm marketing programs, don’t forget to consult the evaluation of your 2012 plan – look at the programs that worked, that didn’t work, and that didn’t work but that have potential if executed differently and figure out what you’re going to take with you from 2012 and into 2013.

Drafting the marketing plan. Marketing plans needn’t be big scary beasts or overly formal. The easiest way to create a plan is to open a Word doc, start with “January” and label the marketing tasks you’d like to accomplish. If you send a monthly newsletter, for example, that would be one item you list along with a tentative topic (you might as well get your editorial calendar done at the same time). Here are some more tips for populating your marketing calendar with tasks in no time:

  • For recurring tasks – such as a monthly newsletter – go through and add this task for all twelve months (trust us – you’ll start feeling rather accomplished once you start seeing the progress as you build your plan month-by-month).
  • What other activities take place on a regular or semi-regular basis? Writing blog posts? Taking part in social media? Add it all in. Don’t worry about being overly ambitious at this point – we’ll address pruning strategies in another step further down.
  • If something requires an out-of-pocket expense, attach a dollar value to the activity. For example, if you send a monthly electronic newsletter, you probably use a service provider like Constant Contact or MailChimp. Track the monthly costs.
  • Another tip we recommend – add the number of hours you expect the activity will take. It’s important to have a budget of marketing hours as well as dollars.
  • Assign who owns what. If you have someone who writes and lays out your monthly newsletter, put the person’s name by the task.
  • Compare it month-by-month to last year’s plan and make sure you haven’t overlooked anything obvious. By the way, is the thought of creating a 12-month plan too daunting of an undertaking? Then do a quarterly plan, but make sure you build time into the plan to work on the next quarter’s marketing tasks.
  • Review your goals and the marketing programs you brainstormed and make sure you have everything covered, make sure you’ve calculated the time for each activity, and make sure you’ve kept track of out-of-pocket expencustom measuring cupsses.
  • Be sure to take inventory of your promotional products as well. It’s the perfect time to take stock, re-order items, or invest in something new, like these fun custom measuring cups.
  • Now, put it aside for a day or so and then review it with a fresh eye. Consider the number of activities you have planned per month. Is it realistic? Is your budget realistic, or will it make things tight? Prune and adjust accordingly.

Congrats! That’s it. You’re done…for now. That said, it’s important to note (again) that a marketing plan is a living and breathing document that will – and should – change throughout the year.

A good rule of thumb is to take some time at the end of each month and review the current month’s activities and next month’s activities as well (you could even work this review into each month as one of your tasks). Make adjustments, as needed. You’ll likely need to shuffle things from month-to-month or add new activities as new information and opportunities come in. This is OK. It’s all part of the process.

Do you sit down and create a marketing plan each year (or each quarter)? Do you have any tips for making the process a painless one? We want to hear them. Share in the comments.

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