Annual marketing plans have long been an important element contributing to business success. These sometimes exhaustive documents allow company leaders to set annual revenue goals and lay out a year’s worth of specific actions intended to help reach them.
But what happens when these annual marketing plans go awry — like when a big campaign falls flat after just three months? Typically, marketers still stick to the plan because...what options do they have, really? The wheels are in motion and can’t easily be stopped.
Now companies practicing inbound marketing are seeing the benefits of taking an agile approach to marketing plans by creating a high-level annual plan along with more detailed quarterly “roadmaps” that work in tandem with and contribute to achieving their yearly objectives.
This iterative approach leads to more effective strategies because it allows for iterative modifications throughout the year based on real-time data.
What is a Quarterly Inbound Marketing Roadmap?
The quarterly marketing plan or roadmap (sometimes referred to as a 90-day marketing roadmap) is a plan that includes:
- a 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
- an outline of the specific activities that will help you reach those goals, and
- associated timing for each initiative (when each will be executed during the quarter)
With a quarterly planning approach, 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 which activities will help you reach each goal.
It’s important to note, though, that a quarterly inbound marketing roadmap requires that analytics tools are 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.
The most important part of a quarterly action 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.
Why Create a Quarterly Marketing Plan?
There are many benefits of taking a quarterly approach and using a quarterly marketing plan template:
1. Your efforts are more productive. 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.
2. You bring needed focus to specific goals. 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. It 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. Your decisions are based on data. Quarterly roadmaps involve mid-quarter progress updates, and one roadmap’s insights can feed into the next — all of which are based on real-time data. There’s no waiting until the end of the quarter to see if you’ve met your marketing goals, or wading through 12 months of data at the end of the year. Instead, tools like Lucky Orange, Google Analytics, and your business analytics platform 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 will help you make changes necessary to optimize performance and help you reach those goals.
4. Your strategy aligns with company goals. Does your company struggle with cross-functional alignment? Does your strategy seem to not match the overall brand? Setting a direction for your marketing strategy at the beginning of the year and bringing in voices from around the company allows for an integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy. An IMC strategy creates a unified brand, marketing, and overall experience that your audience will recognize as a more cohesive message.
A New Approach to Annual Marketing Plans
Keep in mind, a quarterly roadmap doesn’t mean scrapping yearly marketing plans and goal setting entirely (you still need a “big picture” look at the entire year that provides the “why” for your efforts). But with a quarterly plan, you can break your annual plan into manageable 90-day chunks that provide focus and allow you to pivot when needed. Using a roadmap framework as a quarterly planning template can help you keep that focus. The best benefit of all? You get to make decisions in real-time to achieve business goals and grow more informed on how to establish realistic and achievable marketing plans now and in the future.
Now it’s time to try it for yourself! Download our free Quarterly Marketing Roadmap Worksheet and take this approach with your next marketing plan.