The popular adage “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” conveys the time-tested truth that success doesn’t just magically happen—it takes careful thought and preparation.
That’s why companies both big and small often begin turning their attention toward the next year months in advance, formulating their annual marketing plans and outlining their objectives.
If you haven’t begun working on your strategy for 2024 already, it’s not too late to put together a solid one. Follow the tips in this guide to help maximize your marketing success in the new year.
Why a marketing plan?
Think of it as a bird’s-eye view of your marketing. From this perspective, you can take a comprehensive look at your industry’s general market conditions and landscape along with the overall well-being of your company—all with the goal of intentionally guiding your business’s growth in the upcoming year.
Engaging in this process can yield many rewards. For example, looking ahead may reveal new opportunities, such as an avenue for fresh leads or lower customer acquisition costs. It also enables you to course-correct your business based on predicted market conditions and account for any new business-related laws expected to take effect. Perhaps best of all, an official plan makes your marketing for the year measurable and gets your people pumped about the heights that can be reached.
Marketing plan essentials
If you google “create a marketing plan,” you’ll be greeted with an endless array of articles about what should be in your plan, but don’t be dissuaded by the information overload. Here are some of the most commonly used sections to consider including.
This outline highlights the most critical points of your marketing blueprint, allowing you and your team to get a holistic look at everything ahead. While it’s generally the first page of the marketing plan, you might actually want to put it together last, after you’ve fleshed out the rest of the document.
Market and competitive analyses
Here’s where to dig deep for information about your industry’s current and expected status as well as on how your rivals are doing, how they’re differentiating themselves, and what they’re planning for the new year. The endgame: gather as much data as you can to make your own timely, informed projection for next year.
When it comes to your goals, it’s best to utilize the S.M.A.R.T. goals strategy—make them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to your team’s “why,” and time based—to ensure they’re laser focused. In addition, you should lay out both short-term (i.e., monthly or quarterly) and long-term objectives for the year. Remember, the more detail, the better, as this will give you a clearer vision for what you want to achieve.
Nailing down your marketing spend for the year is key to the entire project, so take the time to be thorough. First, look at what did and didn’t work this year, and retain and eliminate strategies accordingly. Then determine your 2024 revenue goals. Only after these are established can you calculate your future budget for things like ads, social media, and direct mail. (You can download the handy marketing plan charts below to help you do it.) It’s a good idea to keep two worksheets—projected spend and actual spend—to monitor your budget and track your progress throughout the year.
Finally, lay out the means for meeting your goals. The objective is to formulate a thorough blueprint that answers the following question: Who is your customer, and what marketing methods, language, and message will you use to make them a raving fan next year? Be sure to clearly explain the rationale behind your strategies, how this chosen path will lead to success in the coming year, and how that success will be measured.
Keep it fluid
Once your marketing masterpiece is done, seek out the opinions of trusted leaders in sales, creative, and other teams to help identify any possible gaps or improvements, and encourage open-ended questions and discussion to ensure everyone is on the same page about the direction you’re going. Above all, make sure to maintain a flexible mindset rather than a rigid one as the year goes on—this plan can always be modified if circumstances call for it, whether in the short term because a team member had a good idea or in the long term because of unexpected market shifts.
An annual marketing plan is a key tool in your company’s arsenal, allowing you to pinpoint avenues for impactful growth in the next calendar year and what benchmarks you need to hit to achieve it. When you share this strategy with your team, you’ll not only provide clarity, direction, and focus about what’s ahead but also inspire them by providing a clear path for mutual success.
Depending on where you are in the process, start formulating or fine-tuning your company’s 2024 marketing plan.