You already know the importance of a comprehensive marketing plan. It’s a tangible, measured approach to your business’ key marketing initiatives, helping you expand your reach and grow your sales – while saving you time in the long run.
But just as the online marketing landscape evolves each year (along with your competition), so must your marketing plan. Your 2017 plan shouldn’t be a copy of your 2016 plan, especially if any part of your B2B marketing efforts struggled over the past year.
As the new year approaches, now’s the perfect time to refine your marketing plan – and by tailoring it to the industry’s latest trends, you’re sure to stay ahead of the curve and set yourself up for success in 2017 and beyond.
How to Create a Marketing Plan
First things first – there are several elements you might include when developing a marketing plan. For instance, depending on your marketing strategy, your plan might include an editorial calendar for inbound content or key benchmarks by which you’ll measure your success. But no matter which components make up your plan, keep in mind that the foundation of any solid marketing plan comes down to having the right goals, knowing your audience, and maintaining realistic financial expectations.
Be sure to define SMART goals
Not all goals are created equal. If your goal is to “sell more stuff”, how will you accomplish that if you don’t have a way to track progress, a time-frame to measure it in, or actionable tasks to move you closer to your end goal? Large, vague goals don’t work. Instead, you need a marketing plan comprised of SMART goals.
The SMART acronym means:
- Specific: Set clear, tangible goals with specific target outcomes.
- Measurable: You must be able to measure your progress and track your success.
- Assignable/Achievable: Be sure your goals are realistic and that they can be assigned to a specific person.
- Relevant: Your marketing goals should align with your audience’s needs and support your ultimate business goals.
- Time-bound: Your goals need to follow a timeline, with a set start and stop point.
For help creating SMART goals that work for your business, grab our fillable SMART marketing goals template here.
Put smarketing to work for you
We all know that converting prospects can be a challenge. In fact, 40% of salespeople surveyed in 2016 reported it was becoming more difficult to get a response from their target leads.
The solution? Smarketing, one of the digital marketing industry’s hottest trends.
Simply put, smarketing is the alignment of your sales and marketing teams by tying your marketing efforts to your sales objectives. This is important, since today’s customers are making purchasing decisions based on online research long before they come into contact with your sales team.
With smarketing, you create goals that your sales and marketing departments work toward together. (Be sure to implement SMART goals so that both teams are accountable to the results.) Of course, this requires both teams to communicate and work together closely. For this, HubSpot suggests monthly meetings between the teams to make sure your smarketing intiatives stay on track. HubSpot’s sales portal is another great way to keep things running smoothly and evaluate your progress.
Create target personas
As the foundation of your inbound marketing efforts, content marketing will continue to play a critical role in your 2017 marketing plan – which means it’s more important than ever to incorporate target personas into your content strategy.
Target personas are basically an imaginary, ideal customer – in other words, the customer you are targeting with your marketing. To create a target persona, you’ll develop an understanding of any and all factors that would determine whether or not a prospect becomes a customer, from their background and business needs to their personality and motivations.
These target personas are especially helpful at the top of the sales funnel, when you are trying to attract a new audience, and can take your marketing to the next level in 2017.
Create a realistic budget and stick to it
Budgets only work if you adhere to them and are realistic in the first place. But as many marketers know, budgets tend to account for obvious costs (like subscriptions to online software) and ignore the less obvious, unplanned expenses that seem to accumulate over the year.
Give yourself a little breathing room by making sure your 2017 budget accounts for:
- Time – Time is money. Consider the amount of time you’ll need to achieve the following year’s marketing goals.
- Team – Understanding your team’s skill set is vital. Assigning an employee a task they don’t have the skills for will add more time and expense to your project.
- Content – Yes, there is a cost to compelling content. You may be hiring videographers, designers, or writers to help create content, or someone to respond to and engage with people who consume this material.
- Retention – It’s one thing to create and publish content, but you need to budget for staff and technology to keep people in the sales funnel. That means follow-up and loyalty programs, often with software and apps that help you manage customer relationships.
- Ads – You’ll be creating and running paid ad campaigns, both for search and on social media. Don’t forget to factor these costs into your total budget.
As you prepare your 2017 budget, remember that while inbound marketing is an absolute necessity, it can be expensive and time-consuming. When you commit to the process, you must also commit the money in a realistic way.
Using Strategic Marketing in 2017
Strategic marketing involves identifying a competitive advantage in your market and finding a way to exploit it – something that will only become more important in 2017’s marketing landscape.
The first step, obviously, is identifying that competitive advantage. That could be anything from maintaining an in-depth knowledge of your customer’s needs or offering a new product your competitors don’t have.
Use content strategizing to expand your content’s reach
Content strategizing is simply being purposeful about your content – in other words, ensuring that all your content is created with an eye toward a specific outcome.
Successful content strategizing requires three key pieces of information:
- Know what you have. Perform a content inventory to evaluate what content you already own. You may be able to reuse or repurpose some of it.
- Know who your audience is. Use personas and data you’ve collected from analytics software to determine what content your audience responds to.
- Know your conversion goals. Your content should always be tied to a specific plan for conversions and sales.
When you know these three things, you can create content-driven campaigns that generate leads and sales. The alternative is creating content free from strategy - content that exists but doesn’t work with any plans or other content to bring people into the sales funnel.
Make use of freelancers
Marketing is a lot of work, and you don’t have an infinite supply of time and energy. Depending on your team size, budget, and marketing plan, it may be wise to farm out some of the work to freelancers.
If you don’t have a designer on your team or just need a little extra help, websites like 99designs can help you. Alternatively, consider Upwork, a site that matches you with designers, writers, developers, marketers, customer service agents, and accountants. Fiverr is another great place to find artists, writers, videographers, voice-over actors – just about anyone you could possibly need to help you create a variety of professional-quality content. These types of sites make it easy to find a freelancer for every budget.
Remember, strategic marketing is based on finding and maintaining a competitive advantage. Freelancers can help you maximize that advantage at a cost your business can afford.
Stay on top of social media trends
Do you know what’s hot right now in social media? Social trends change constantly, and what you did last year won’t necessarily work for you in 2017. Social media platforms come and go (we’ll miss you, Vine), and audiences shift constantly.
Live streaming video blew up in 2016, and it’s only going to become more popular in 2017. Video content has always been popular, but live stream video has some new twists:
- Better user engagement – People comment 10 times more while watching a Facebook Live video than a regular video.
- Longer viewing – People spend 300% more time watching a Facebook Live video than when it is no longer live.
- Lots of content – Companies are creating massive amounts of live video. It’s never been easier to publish video to the world. That means there’s a lot of competition for viewers.
Facebook gives live stream content a boost in the News Feed, while Periscope (from Twitter) boasts two million daily active users who create about 40 years of video content on the platform each day.
But live streaming video isn’t the only shift. Snapchat brought the idea of bringing expiring content to the front, an obvious solution for a glut of social content being created by brands and users. It’s proven so addictive and popular with users that Instagram has created their own version of Snapchat’s “stories”.
Meanwhile, chatbots, programs that mimic conversation with a human, have found their way onto Facebook, Skype, Kik, and Slack. Brands are using them in many ways, from streamlining customer service to having fun with customers (like Taco Bell’s TacoBot.)
These are only a few social trends that will continue to play out in 2017, but by understanding the ways social media is evolving, you can better update your marketing plan accordingly.
Pay attention to your paid ad campaigns
It’s easy to create an ad campaign with a “set it and forget it” mentality.
Ad campaigns require constant monitoring to see if they are performing well and helping you meet your marketing goals. You need to know that you’re not going over your budget and that the ads are effective in garnering attention as well as converting customers.
A great way to make this process simpler is to use HubSpot’s Ads add-on feature, which lets you consolidate all of your ad management in one location. HubSpot Ads lets you create both search and social ads from their dashboard, making it easy to create ads and track conversions.
There’s another big reason to use HubSpot Ads – they turn your ads into an inbound campaign. Take LinkedIn’s native ads, for example. HubSpot Ads tie your ads to your best inbound content. Too often businesses create ads and forget to build them on their best inbound content. They fight against themselves a bit, ignoring already proven popular content and creating ads for something people may or may not be interested in.
Keep your Marketing Objectives Clear
With all the attention on inbound marketing and acquiring new leads, it’s easy to lose sight of your most valuable asset – your current customer.
By all means, be sure your 2017 marketing plan includes a robust inbound marketing campaign to attract new prospects to the top of your sales funnel. Just don't forget your marketing objectives must also account for your current customer experience.
- Are your current customers loyal?
- Do they have a great experience with you?
- Do they feel valued?
Your marketing objectives for 2017 must include plans for retaining current customers, not just generating new leads.
Remember, it is more profitable to keep the customers you already have rather than chasing new ones.