If you’ve been in marketing for any length of time, you’re familiar with creating an annual marketing plan. The time and resources needed to develop your “next moves” for 12 months can be overwhelming. Moreover, there are potential pitfalls and risks associated with annual marketing plans — at least in the way they’ve been developed and executed in the past.
With rapidly changing markets and technology, the marketing initiatives you plan to deploy 6–12 months from now may become irrelevant or possibly even obsolete. As we covered last week, there are benefits to creating a high-level annual plan supported by tactical plans created on a quarterly basis instead.
Breaking your annual plan down into quarterly marketing roadmaps can help you remain flexible and adjust as needed to produce desired results.
What goes into creating a quarterly marketing roadmap, and what should this 90-day marketing plan template include?
- Focus areas
- Clearly defined marketing initiatives
- Quantifiable goals
- Hypotheses and assumptions
- Defined owners
- Assessment of mid-quarter progress and final results
So, let’s break each of these down.
Start by determining what areas you want to focus on that tie directly to your annual business growth goals. Keep it at a manageable level — say, four or five areas — and identify KPIs that need improvement based on your company’s business goals for the year. Focus areas might include:
- Website Attraction — How can you implement a growth-driven design approach to web design and a topic cluster/pillar approach to your content to reach your target audience and improve SEO?
- Conversion Rate Optimization — What pages of your site are visitors abandoning and how can you improve them to encourage more conversions?
- Lead Qualification — How can contact forms or conversational chatbots be improved?
- Lead Nurturing — Is there a content piece or 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?
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 two-page dissertation for each one, but you should sum up each proposed element in a sentence or two.
Outlining the basics will help get key stakeholders on board by giving 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:
“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 — maybe a major campaign for a product release or a complete website overhaul — 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 a significant ROI, then gather your evidence, including the analytics available from your marketing automation software to back it up, and show how your proposed initiatives will make an impact.
Any marketing strategy roadmap requires establishing SMART goals for each focus area. These quarterly roadmap goals should have a direct impact on at least one of your overall marketing and sales KPIs for the year.
Accurate 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
With inbound marketing, you have the advantage of real-time data to inform your decisions. If things seem “off,” you can make iterative changes throughout the 90-day period rather than look back a year from now and wonder, “Where did things go wrong?”
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.
“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%.”
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.
Assessment of Mid-Quarter Progress & Final Results
A quarterly roadmap offers much more flexibility than a yearly plan. Making changes within your 90-day roadmap requires tracking results along the way and gauging how you’re doing.
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 quarterly roadmaps will likely be a refreshing proposition for your team; yet communicating how it works isn’t always as easy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a marketing roadmap template or example to use as a guide? 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 inbound marketing strategy.
This article was originally published in March 2018 and has since been updated for comprehensiveness and current best practices.