Annual marketing plans are necessary but exhaustive. The time and resources needed to develop your “next moves” for the coming year can be overwhelming. And what happens when a year’s worth of planning goes awry?
The marketing initiatives you plan to deploy 6–12 months from now may become irrelevant or possibly even obsolete. That’s why high-level annual plans need to include quarterly marketing plans, or “roadmaps,” that work in tandem with annual growth objectives.
Breaking your annual plan down into quarterly marketing roadmaps
can help you remain flexible and adjust as needed to produce desired results.
What is a Quarterly Marketing Roadmap?
An agile quarterly marketing roadmap breaks your annual plan into productive, focused, 90-day chunks that allow you to pivot when needed. Sometimes called a “90-day marketing roadmap,” it includes specific elements, including:
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)
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.
Quarterly Marketing Roadmap Benefits
Before we get into how to structure your quarterly plan, let’s look at reasons why you might want to take this agile approach.
Don’t like the conversion rates or results you’re seeing? It’s simple: make changes based on the data. You have the ability to be flexible and adjust. With more frequent iterations, your marketing team improves its ability to determine realistic goals and processes for achieving them.
While unplanned marketing needs inevitably come up during the quarter, 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
Don’t wade through 12 months of metrics; real-time data lets you know if your marketing goals are in sight so you can adjust. The following digital marketing tools can help you track progress in key focus areas faster to ensure you’re on track to meet quarterly goals.
Determine the areas you want to focus on that tie directly to your annual business growth goals and align with your buyer personas. Keep things at a manageable level and identify KPIs that need improvement based on your company’s business goals for the year.
Lead Nurturing — Is there a content piece or marketing campaign to focus on that aligns with your key product or service?
Event Participation — Is there a worthwhile industry trade show, conference, or webinar that warrants an inbound campaign?
Social Media Engagement — Do you want to leverage social media to promote recruiting, a product launch, or other marketing effort?
2. Clearly Defined Marketing Initiatives
Based on your goals for the next quarter, clearly define the recommended initiatives and a high-level outline of the marketing activities within each focus area. You don’t need a lengthy dissertation for each one; sum up each proposed element in a sentence or two.
Outlining the basics in a quarterly marketing plan template like the one above will help get key stakeholders on board. It gives a snapshot of practical marketing tactics that will help you reach your goals. For example, if an initiative is to improve how you qualify SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) that are generated from your website’s conversion forms and chatbots, you could use the following statement:
Sample roadmap initiative statement: “Marketing will meet with Sales to talk through common gaps and any new qualification criteria. We will discuss opportunities for improvement and a plan for measuring results. Marketing will examine landing pages and chat flows to determine how the content might need to be changed to improve conversions and their quality.”
If an initiative within a focus area will cost $50,000, and your entire annual marketing budget is $100,000, you obviously need to adjust the scope of your quarterly plan! However, if you feel strongly about it and can make a case for how it will result in significant ROI, then gather your evidence and analytics to back it up, and show how your proposed initiatives will make an impact.
Accurate, real-time data is especially important when first establishing quarterly marketing roadmaps to document results and build long-term confidence for your team and leadership. Give each goal a numerical value with an established time period. For example:
Increase website sessions-to-contacts conversion rate by 0.75% by the end of Q3
Increase the monthly number of new marketing qualified leads (MQLs) by 25% by the end of Q3
Increase blog subscribers by 15% by the end of Q3
Use analytics tools to pinpoint problem areas — a conversion form with too many fields, a confusing architecture, poorly placed CTAs, etc.
5. Hypotheses & Assumptions
Make the case for why you’re recommending a specific focus area and its underlying initiatives. Demonstrate how each marketing initiative plays a role in reaching a goal or set of goals. For example:
Example hypothesis: “By placing a featured call-to-action (CTA) and conversion form above the fold on our website homepage, we anticipate our website sessions-to-contacts conversion rate will increase from 0.75% to 1%.”
6. Defined Owners
Executing a quarterly marketing plan requires a team effort. Who on your marketing team will champion various initiatives within the proposed roadmap? If you have multiple team members in your marketing department, be sure to get buy-in. Then, assign duties and deadlines for timely deployment of initiatives and, just as importantly, provide empowerment and accountability.
7. Assessment of Mid-Quarter Progress & Final Results
A quarterly roadmap offers much more flexibility than a yearly plan. Assess progress mid-way through the quarter to identify strengths and weaknesses, and discuss any adjustments. Then, two weeks prior to the end of your roadmap period, evaluate the results-to-date to determine next steps for the coming quarter.
If you made noticeable progress toward a specific goal but need more time to keep the momentum going, make it a focus area for the next period, too.
If an effort didn’t pan out, adjust your marketing tactics in the next roadmap period. Or, you might just decide to scrap it and try something else! That’s the power of a quarterly approach to marketing planning.
It’s better to see a specific strategy isn’t working after three months versus 12 months of effort and budget.
By taking this approach, you’ll have a defined plan for the next 90 days that feels more manageable. A quarterly marketing roadmap can also help energize your team and get them excited about making a difference with measurable results in a relatively short amount of time.
The idea of creating a marketing roadmap will likely be a refreshing proposition for your team; yet communicating how it works isn’t always as easy. To help, we’ve developed a quarterly roadmap worksheet so you can create a strategic marketing plan for your business that’s broken down into manageable 90-day periods.
Check it out below, then reach out to us with questions or if you need help developing your B2B inbound marketing strategy.
This article was originally published in March 2018 and has since been updated for comprehensiveness and current best practices.
Posted by Frank Isca Frank has been key to establishing Weidert Group as an inbound marketing leader over his 10+ years with the agency. He has a knack for using technology to amplify smart marketing strategies, and a deep knowledge of SEO and content promotion, exceptional project management skills, and a thorough understanding of HubSpot's marketing and sales products.