Annual marketing plans are necessary but exhaustive. What happens when a year’s worth of planning goes awry? It can be hard to hit the brakes once a plan gets rolling.
Modern companies practicing inbound marketing are enjoying the benefits of taking an agile approach to marketing plans. Their high-level annual plan calls out the need for more detailed quarterly marketing plans, or “roadmaps,” that are created during the year to work in tandem with annual growth objectives. This approach leads to more effective strategies because it allows for informed modifications throughout the year.
Since we’re talking advantages, let’s examine the biggest benefits of taking a quarterly approach with your inbound marketing strategy.
What Are the 3 Benefits of a Quarterly Marketing Plan?
- Productivity — Informed adjustments improve a team’s ability to achieve goals
- Focus — Having a manageable number of initiatives naturally creates better individual and team focus, which drives productivity
- Data-Based Decisions — Don’t wade through 12 months of data; real-time data lets you know if your marketing goals are in sight so you can properly adjust
As you see, each benefit influences the other two. Let’s dig into them one by one.
Don’t like the conversion rates or results you’re seeing? It’s simple: make changes based on the data. You can decide to make changes instantly or let the campaign run its course so the data is more complete.
You have the ability to be flexible and adjust based on what you’re seeing. With more frequent iterations, your marketing team improves its ability to determine realistic goals and processes for achieving them.
While there will be unplanned marketing needs that inevitably come up during the quarter (which you’ll be better able to deal with since you’ve got flexibility with the quarterly plan), a 90-day plan keeps your team focused on a manageable number of initiatives that directly align with your goals.
This provides a framework to evaluate items that come up and push them to a future quarter if they won’t directly help you achieve those goals.
3. Data-Based Decisions
Quarterly marketing plans involve mid-quarter progress updates, and one quarter’s insights can feed into the next — all of which are based on real-time data. Tools like Databox, Lucky Orange, Google Analytics, and your marketing automation platform analytics help you track progress in key focus areas faster to ensure you’re on track to meet quarterly goals.
For example, let’s say one of your goals is to convert 20% more website visitors into leads. Analytics tools will help you pinpoint problem areas on your site that could be standing in the way of reaching your target audience — maybe it’s a conversion form with too many fields, a confusing architecture or a lack of content that aligns with the needs of your best prospects. Data helps you make changes necessary to optimize performance and help you reach those goals.
The Roadmap: Your Quarterly Marketing Plan Template
An agile quarterly marketing plan template, sometimes called a “90-day marketing roadmap,” includes specific elements, each providing its own waypoint along the roadmap.
- List of prioritized “focus areas” or “strategic initiatives” for the quarter
- Resource allocation (percent of marketing budget or time to be used on each initiative)
- Measurable goals for each area that trickle up to business growth objectives
- Outline of the specific activities that will help you reach those goals
- Associated timing for each initiative (when each will be executed during the quarter)
Using a quarterly plan template, you can look at primary business goals and tie each to specific activities within a 90-day time frame.
For example, if your company needs to push two major products in the first quarter of the year to align with a seasonal buying cycle, you might assign 50% of quarterly marketing resources to each over the 90-day period. You would then set a goal for each key focus area (e.g., obtain 10 marketing qualified leads for Product A and 8 for Product B) before determining the activities to help you reach each goal.
The most important part of a quarterly marketing plan is tracking. You’ll not only see quarterly results for your marketing initiatives but regular progress updates, too, that give you insights into how well your activities perform throughout the quarter. This data will tell you what steps to take – good results indicating that you should double down on areas that are performing well, and lackluster results indicating that you should modify your tactics.
In other words, unlike an annual marketing plan, you’re not waiting until the end of the year to know how well the plan worked; you see it quickly and have opportunities to improve.
It’s important to note, though, that a quarterly marketing plan requires analytics tools to be in place (or, ideally, that your digital marketing is done on an automation platform like HubSpot). It’s really the only practical way to monitor the performance of everything you do and all the ways your prospects engage (or don’t engage) with your website, emails, offers, social media, and more.
Related Video: 3 Inbound Marketing Analytics Tools You Need
An Annual Marketing Plan Is Good; You Can Do Better
Keep in mind, a quarterly marketing plan doesn’t mean entirely scrapping annual plans for your inbound marketing strategy. You still need a big-picture look at the entire year that provides the “why” for your efforts.
A quarterly marketing plan, however, breaks your annual plan into productive, focused, 90-day chunks that allow you to pivot when needed. Using a roadmap framework as a quarterly plan template helps you keep that focus.
For more detailed instruction, also read:
How to Create a Quarterly Marketing Roadmap That Gets Results
The best benefit of all? You get to make real-time, data-based decisions to achieve business goals and grow more informed on how to establish realistic and achievable marketing plans now and in the future.
It’s time to try it for yourself! Our free Quarterly Marketing Roadmap Worksheet provides an overview of the roadmapping process and offers templates for you to use. Download your copy now!
This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and current best practices.