Here are five marketing planning process steps that can be followed. 

 Step 1: Document Your Business Goals and Budget

When dealing with the tactics and execution of a marketing plan, your marketing team should ask the leadership team to define their business goals for the next 1-3 years. Your goals should be externally focused, internally focused, and it could even be a mix of both.

When it comes to the development of these goals (at the business level or otherwise), write them in the “SMART” format that ensures accountability. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound and represents business goals such as:

o   Increase product line revenue by 30 percent to $2 million in the next 12 months

o   Double revenue through distributors in the next two years

o   Increase profitability from 25 to 30 percent by the end of the year

While you are setting business goals, be sure to also set a marketing budget for the year. A good rule of thumb for setting a marketing budget is 6-to-12% of gross revenue with higher spending in the early phases as you establish your marketing plan foundation. 

Step 2: Conduct A SWOT Analysis

When it comes to planning marketing, you want marketing that provides a consistent flow of high-quality leads to help fuel new sales opportunities and drive growth. You want your marketing plan technical target audiences and customers to be happy to hear from you and not dread it. And you have a limited budget and tight bandwidth.

The way to achieve all of this is to use a smart marketing approach that builds a marketing strategy and execution plan aligned to your business goals and starts with a SWOT of your current marketing program. Document strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in terms of your competitive position, target markets, target audiences, current positioning/messaging, the maturity of your offerings, channel partners, etc.

Step 3: Identify Your Target Personas

You probably know the profile of your most valuable prospects and the sales process your company uses to convert them from leads to opportunities to customers. However, as your company grows, you won’t know each prospect’s unique situation, and one message won’t work for all. You’ll need to customize your plan marketing approach by creating plan marketing buyer personas.

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers based on demographic data, online behavior, and your educated speculation about personal histories, motivations, and concerns. For example, you may define one of your personas as VP of Engineering Vince, a business executive who cares most about cost and long-term support. A second persona could be Engineer Elliot, an engineering manager or senior staff engineer who is an expert in your technology area and wants to do a deep dive into the technical capabilities of your product or how you deliver a service. Elliot greatly influences Vince, but Vince makes the final marketing planning decisions. Vince and Elliot have very different marketing development concerns.

Here’s an example of a buyer persona to help give you an idea of how to develop your personas. 

The first step in creating your buyer personas is to brainstorm who they could be. Once you have your full list, identify the ones who have similar needs or roles and consider merging them. From here, prioritize your list of personas by considering their impact on the final purchase decision, their relationship to your company, and the size of the audience persona group. Once you’ve finished brainstorming, create your actual personas.

Step 4: Develop Your Marketing Goals

Armed with your business strategy, areas of greatest opportunity, and defined persons, you are now ready to create your marketing goals. Goal setting is critical to aligning your marketing development organization, narrowing your focus, and setting your overall marketing strategy.

Documenting your goals ensures your team is aligned around your top marketing priorities and what you expect to achieve through your marketing efforts. Your goals can be externally focused, internally focused, or perhaps a mix of both.

Write your goals in the SMART marketing planning format that helps ensure accountability. SMART stands for:

·   Specific

·   Measurable

·   Attainable

·   Realistic

·   Time-Bound

For example, your SMART marketing plan goal could be to “15% increase in the number of qualified leads passed to sales in the military market by Q4 2021”. Develop at least three, and no more than five, steps in marketing planning process goals. 

Step 5: Build Your Activity Plan

Now that you’ve created your marketing strategy planning process goals and have a budget, you are ready to develop your activity plan. The most effective way to approach turning your marketing strategy into an execution plan is by using a marketing development campaign structure. You can think of planning marketing campaigns as buckets of activities focused on a common theme or goal.

With limited time and budget, a campaign approach gives you the big picture before you get into the weeds of which new video you will produce, which white paper you will write and promote, etc. 

Planning marketing campaigns can run the gamut in scope. They can be anything from a major product launch to building thought leadership in a particular segment to increasing web traffic and leads. Here are two examples of marketing campaigns and their stated marketing plan goals and KPIs:

CampaignLead generation and conversion

·   Description—Through content and partner co-marketing, attract quality leads that convert to opportunities

·   KPI 1—Increase leads by 35 percent to 210 per month

·   KPI 2—Increase lead opportunity conversion from 6 to 8 percent

CampaignPartner marketing

·   Description—Develop and implement a channel co-marketing program

·   KPI 1—Publish at least one lead-generating piece of co-branded content per quarter

·   KPI 2—Generate 100 net new leads through co-marketing activities

Strategy is an evolution and something that takes a great deal of time to develop. However, mapping out a clear, strategic direction will ensure a cohesive marketing plan that maps to your personas through campaigns and is time-bound and budget-driven.