Creating an annual marketing plan that aligns with your company’s growth objectives is no small feat. And one often made harder by the fact that, for too long, business growth strategies were built on a flimsy premise: the customer really had nothing to do with business development. Customers were a mere byproduct of “the funnel” — an afterthought in the sales and marketing process.
Times have changed. Customer referrals and word-of-mouth are now the largest purchase-decision influencers, and it has B2B Sales, Marketing, and Service teams rethinking how to harness the power customers wield in their inbound marketing strategies. Specifically, it’s required a tactical shift from the funnel to “flywheel,” an approach HubSpot articulated that puts customers at the dynamic center of a continuous business growth cycle.
The flywheel leverages force, friction, and the momentum the combination creates: The less friction, the more force. The more force, the faster the flywheel spins to delight customers and feed company growth.
Your inbound marketing strategy needs to reflect the flywheel philosophy — all parts working together to eliminate friction, increase force, and build Sales, Marketing, and Service momentum that serves and revolves around customers. To do so requires a clearly outlined and intentional annual inbound marketing plan built around the five key steps outlined here.
Be sure to check out the infographic below too for an at-a-glance depiction of the process as you work on your own inbound marketing plan for 2020.
1. Identify business growth initiatives for the upcoming year.
A marketing plan developed around unclear — or, worse, unknown — business growth initiatives is an exercise in futility. Reach out to key department heads and decision makers to gather their input on the collective vision of the future. Lean into conversations and roundtables that get everyone on the same page before you start formulating a plan. Refusing to build a marketing plan in a silo adds value, expedites buy-in, and provides a dedicated path for your inbound efforts.
2. Set well-defined goals and progress benchmarks.
Assembling a leadership team to gain insights and perspectives about growth initiatives is one thing. Coming to consensus on goals and what successful completion of those goals looks like is another. The key here is twofold. First, be realistic. Review current year goals and performance to-date to understand what is reasonable in terms of expectations and achievement.
Second, define how progress will be measured. Be specific about key performance indicators (KPIs) for lead attraction and conversion, MQL and SQL percentages, and a regular progress/goals review cadence — generally 90-day intervals.
3. Specify budget parameters.
Just like with goals and benchmarks, you have to be realistic about the money you have to spend to execute an annual inbound marketing plan. Knowing the gross budget simply helps in “big picture” management. Which tactics are worth putting money behind to maximize return on investment (ROI)? Is there a better way to adjust frequency, content format, technologies, etc., to stay within the planned spend and still generate sufficient results?
4. Prioritize strategies and tactics that align with growth initiatives and goals.
With the path, goals, progress benchmarks, and budget in place you can finally settle into the annual marketing plan nuts-and-bolts: the tactics. Since inbound is fueled by content, it’s essential to identify both the type of content you’ll want to develop and the channels you’ll use for distribution.
Creating quarterly content plans that lay out the topics and formats is an effective way to develop a regular cadence and to ensure you’re using each distribution channel (blogs, videos, advanced content, etc.) to your best advantage — including your website. Commit to not letting it lag by implementing growth driven design (GDD) to keep your site fresh, relevant, and updated with continuous learning and improvements. Don’t ignore proven target-based strategies either. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) focuses your efforts on prospective best fits, and there’s the time-honored trade shows, direct mailing, and email blasts could be niche tools that boost results.
5. Remain flexible and agile.
Your marketing plan is essential for navigating the upcoming year, but remember that it’s not written in stone — and shouldn’t be — since unforeseen circumstances will arise. You’ll also want to be nimble enough to use data about what’s working and what’s not throughout the year to adjust accordingly, which is why we recommend the annual marketing plan is used in tandem with quarterly marketing roadmaps that contain specific focus areas and tactics for the next 90 days. This doesn’t mean derailing your marketing plan, but rather adjusting it to address the variables and still keep your larger initiatives on track.
Your annual marketing plan assembles all of the parts needed to keep your business growth flywheel spinning with the most force and least amount of friction. It helps Sales, Marketing, and Service define their roles and points your business toward becoming a customer-centric Inbound powerhouse.
Learn more about the essentials of inbound marketing in our completely free guide. Click below to read it now.