A few weeks back I wrote a post on how writing a plan could help companies to determine ROI on social media, which generated a lot of great discussion by the Daily Fix readers. The same day I asked on Twitter how many marketers actually write a plan, stick to it and measure against it (or do the companies they work for). The answer, for the most part, was a resounding no one. I hope this little informal poll is wrong.
That said if you aren’t using plans for marketing/communications projects, I’d like to share a few reasons with you why you should. Then I’ll share a basic plan outline with you so you can get started to on some basic project planning (hopefully in the New Year!). (NOTE: Marketing plans are too complicated to discuss in a post.)
You have a team that counts on you to lead them in the right direction during a project. Well, how can everyone get there without a plan? It’s a good idea to make sure the team sees the plan and knows it inside and out, that way everyone will be on the same page and moving in the same direction. It’s easier to keep marketers (including yourself) on the proverbial path when there is only one.
In these economic times, unfortunately, marketers are always they first to go. If you have plans that back up the marketing department’s efforts, it might help justify your (or your team’s) performance in delivering measured results and meeting corporate goals. This is also great information to have if you are bucking for a raise or promotion. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.
Maybe you are thinking about taking your career to the next level (or you’re a laid off marketer). Well, you know that a hiring company wants proof that you have been successful–and that means quantitative results. Is there a chance that you may not have that quantitative proof you need even though you know your campaigns were successful? What can you do about it moving forward? First, don’t let this continue to happen. Be sure to ask for a plan from your manager and if they don’t have one, take the initiative to create one. If you are managing your own projects and documenting your measured success, your boss might just thank you for being so diligent (hint, hint).
Steps for writing a measurable plan
Writing a plan is mainly about being SMART. Let’s start off basic. Keep in mind, plans can and do get more detailed than this. As well, there are a lot of different plan formats available; this is just a sample of one.
What is your goal?
Ex: Increase sales of XYZ division or to generate 500 leads in the first quarter?
What steps are you going to take to meet your goal? Typically it takes more than one objective to meet a goal. Objectives should be SMART:
- Specific …. Objectives should specify what needs to be achieved.
- Measurable …. You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
- Achievable (or Audience specific) …. Are the objectives you set, achievable and attainable?
- Realistic/Relevant …. Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have? Think results-oriented.
- Time …. When do you want to achieve the set objectives? By what date?
Ex.: Objective 1: To increase the number of Product X leads by 25% over the next 3 months.
Describe how you will reach your objectives. You should have a separate strategy per objective.
Ex.: Strategy for Objective 1: Use a combination of direct mail, public relations, e-mail marketing and events to increase leads for Product X.
Let’s get more specific. What tactics will you use to implement your strategies? Be as specific as possible. You should have tactics that are specific to each objective.
Ex.: Tactics for Objective 1: Send 40,000 pieces of direct mail piece Y that promotes product X to mailing list Z.
Did the strategy and tactics you select help you to achieve your objectives? Did the objectives help you meet your goal? Do you need to readjust your plan to meet the on-going goals/objectives?
Ex.: Evaluation for Objective/Strategy/Tactic 1: Sent 40,000 direct mail pieces to mailing list Z and received 400 responses that resulted in 4 qualified leads for Product X increasing by 2%. This tactic is on course for expected results.
What other reasons would you suggest to make plan writing a part of every project? What steps would you add to the above plan? If you use plans, how have they helped?