Your Marketing Plan Is Dead. Here’s How to Revive It

Although most marketers create marketing plans, all too often these plans end up “sitting on a shelf collecting dust.” Your marketing plan should be guiding you and your team’s daily activity. It should be a go-to resource you revise, adapt and refer to often for the long haul. In other words, it should be evergreen.

You may think that’s unrealistic given the constantly changing world we marketers live in today. You also may be asking “What does it mean to have an evergreen marketing plan, and how can my team and I craft one?” Miriam Webster defines evergreen as, “retaining freshness or interest: perennial”.

Therefore, an evergreen marketing plan is one that will last beyond the current planning and budgeting cycle. And that’s the trick.  Most marketing plans are meant to support the budgeting cycle and secure budget approval.  An effective evergreen marketing plan is one that ensures marketing action is directly related to a business outcome – every day!

For many marketers this means the plan needs to be crafted in a medium other than a Power Point slide deck or an Excel budget sheet.  Why? “The main purpose of MS PowerPoint is to enable the user to create dynamic, informational slide shows through the use of text, graphics, and animation.” And Excel was developed for entering, calculating and analyzing data. For a marketing plan to be evergreen, it needs to graphically illustrate line-of-sight between marketing activities and business outcomes. This way every member of the organization, both inside and outside of Marketing, can see the connection between the work Marketing does and the priorities of the business.

When a marketing plan is created in this fashion, each member of the marketing team can see how the plan they are producing is linked to a business outcome AND to other marketing activities.  The beauty of this approach is that it enables marketers to assess and prioritize NEW requests.  When new requests surface, they can evaluate and select these requests based on whether or not they are linked to the outcomes, and when such requests aren’t, the approach provides a way to engage in a meaningful conversation about what the action is expected to impact and what value is it expected to create.  As a result, a customer-centric (value), outcome-based (impact) measure can be developed.  

Ready to step outside the box? It won’t be easy at first.  Change never is.  However, when you change the format of your marketing plan so the linkage between your marketing and the business is clearer, you are signaling that Marketing is shifting its focus from the activities it undertakes to the business it affects.  You can begin the process with these two steps.

  1. Connective Tissue:  In basic biological terms, connective tissue helps hold our bodies together.  When you create your marketing plan, start at the top with strategy, and work your way down to tactics, making sure you are clearly indicating how individual components connect to each other.  See an illustration of how the entire plan will be formatted when you are finished.
  2. Metrics Chains: There is an almost infinite number of measures and metrics marketers can use today.  It’s critical you select the right ones. Once you have the completed this first step, you will be able to form a metrics chain.

A metrics chain is the sequence of metrics that forms the links between activity, output, operational metrics, and outcome metrics. The first key step is to craft concrete and related performance targets that link your activities and your objectives. When the metrics chain is clearly delineated, you avoid wallowing in a sea of data. You know what you need to know. Working down from the outcome you need to impact to the activities you need to perform to achieve your objectives will illuminate which metrics and measures need to go together.

For example, let’s say your company needs to acquire a certain number of new customers in a specific segment to achieve revenue and market share targets. Marketing needs to generate an adequate number of qualified prospects from that segment who will participate in a trial. To support the objective, your marketing team develops a four-touch (e.g., direct messages, whitepaper, presentation, newsletter), multichannel (email, website, social, webinar, slide share, syndication, etc.) campaign based on the customer buying process and key personas.

Each of those touches and channels has a performance target designed to produce trial inquiries. When properly constructed, your metrics will form a chain between all your marketing programs, product inquiries, trials with customer acquisition, and market share.

These links and associated data serve as an excellent vehicle for connecting your marketing efforts to business results. Metrics chains thus become the foundation for your reporting/dashboard.

These two steps will set you on the path toward transforming your marketing plan from a disconnected set of slides to an action-oriented blueprint. Then, your marketing plan truly becomes a guide worth following. With this approach, you are able to determine whether (and where) a new activity needs to be plugged into the “blueprint”, and what effects it will have up and across the plan in terms of investment and metrics.  In this way, your marketing plan has the opportunity to remain evergreen.