Tangible takeaways you can put-to-work right now
As I considered how-to describe the creation of an annual plan, it came to me that it seems like a waltz. The steps follow a straightforward “one-two-three-one-two-three…and so on, and so on…” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made it look so easy. It’s important that you follow the steps in order, 1 then 2 then 3. No skipping. And, that’s true with creating your annual marketing communication plan. You can’t skip steps and they need to be done, in order. So, put on your creative “dancing shoes” and here’s how:
- Level-check at the start: First and foremost, it is essential that your MarCom plan aligns with your company or organization business plan. To follow our melodious theme, first know the song so you can gauge when and how to dance along! Your MarCom plan should align and roll up to your organization and operation targets. I know, I know, seems like it should go without mentioning but there have been so many times I’ve seen MarCom plans deploy without first level-checking to confirm business or product lines have capacity for growth and development.
- Create a BRIEF MarCom plan narrative: Just like the waltz, keep it simple. Think of the written narrative of your plan as an executive summary. Depending on the complexity of your organization, this playbook should be from two to three-and-a-half pages, at the most. It will include the following elements:
- Situation: This explains the circumstances and state of affairs in your business or organization, underscoring the need for your goals, objectives, and strategies.
- Goals: These are typically broad in scope, and they are abstract or large concepts. They are expressed in ways that help you know you’ve arrived at your destination. For example, at A-County Healthcare Network, by the end of the year you may want to become an essential community resource for adult and child wellness. Or maybe your company, 7th Heaven Solutions, will launch a new cloud-based network platform that redefines the market and becomes a market driver. Either of these annual goals are aspirational in nature and not easily measured or validated.
- Measurable objectives: These are the “what-it-looks-and-feels-like” results. They are narrow in scope and specifically measurable. So at A-County, you’ll increase patient annual exam patient visits by XX%. At 7th Heaven, your product achieves $$ in first year annual sales and is recognized by the industry at your annual conference.
- Target market/audience/stakeholders: This step is important because naming your audience helps you think of how and when you will reach out to them. For example, if you want to reach out to tax accountants about how to re-brand their business, might be better to do so after the January-April tax season PUSH.
- Strategies: This is the general resource allocation plan you will follow. It’s the philosophical or overarching approach. A great example of strategy at A-County Healthcare is to undertake a multi-faceted promotional campaign aimed at helping patients and providers find alternative methods of pain control.
- Key messages: While sometimes these are created separately, I like to include these in the plan because it ensures our driving themes are front-and-center, and also agreed upon by all on the team. At 7th Heaven Solutions, this includes a features and benefits description and “elevator speech” to incorporate into all materials and presentations.
- Annual calendar sample for you: Should you like to see what a sample looks like, email me with the subject line “Annual Calendar Sample.
- Tactical Calendar: Once the narrative is complete then create your annual calendar. Reviewing the strategies and objectives, your calendar is expressed in very specific terms. I prepare mine in a horizontal-orientation as a pivot table—either in MSWord or MSExcel—and organize them in three-month increments. The left-most column gives a laundry list of tactics. Each row represents a tactic, whether newsletter, direct mail, events. The next three columns reflect a quarter-year. So, column #1 is “January”, column #2 is “February” and column #3 is “March.” Each quarter is summarized on one page. Sometimes, that page is 11x17 in size, but all-on-one-page so you can see what’s “Up” each quarter at-a-glance.
- Tactical calendar sample for you: Should you like to see what a sample looks like, email me with the subject line “Annual Calendar Sample” or...
- What, you want both, you say? If you want to see both, just email me with the subject line “sample MarCom planning materials.
- First and foremost: Know your organizational business goals.
- Keep it simple: Your plan narrative is a summary, not a novel.
- Be nimble and adaptable: While it’s helpful to see the year ahead, leave room for things-you-learn along the way, opportunities, and to change direction, if needed.
Jacquie Goodwill is a transformational leader offering B2B and B2C MarCom services for start-ups and those who need to refresh brand identity. She specializes in providing hands-on support during times of major transition in an organization. Peninsula Strategic Communications: Strategic thinking for valuable, great solutions.