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” over the next 12 months can be exhausting. Moreover, as we outlined in another article, 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.
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?
Start by determining what areas you want to focus on that tie directly to your annual business growth goals. Don’t get too deep into the weeds by listing out a dozen areas you want to devote attention to. Keep it at a manageable level — say, four or five areas — and identify KPIs that need improvement based on your company’s business development and growth goals for the year. Some example 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?
- 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 focus?
- Event Participation — Is there a worthwhile industry trade show, conference or webinar for your target market that warrants an inbound campaign?
Clearly Defined Marketing Initiatives
Answer a simple question: what do you need to do to contribute to achieving business goals? Clearly define the recommended initiatives and a high-level outline of the marketing activities within each specific focus area based on your goals for the next quarter. You don’t need to write a two-page dissertation about each one, but you should sum up each element you’re proposing in a sentence or two.
This helps get key stakeholders on board by outlining the basics while giving a snapshot of some 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 conversion forms and chat bots on your website, you could explain that further with the following statement:
“Marketing will meet with Sales to talk through some common gaps or new qualification criteria that might be helpful. We will discuss opportunities for improvement, and a plan for measuring results. Marketing will examine landing pages associated with the forms and chat flows to determine how the content might need to be changed or reworded to improve conversions and their quality.”
If a single 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 what you’ve recommended 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.
The only way to know if your annual and quarterly plans reach their targets is by establishing goals that can be clearly measured. And your 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 critical to success, and is especially important when first establishing quarterly marketing roadmaps to document results and build long-term confidence for your team and leadership moving forward. Give each goal a specific numerical value and establish the time period associated with it. 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?”
Hypothesis & 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, “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%.”
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 first get buy-in. Then, assign duties and deadlines to help ensure timely deployment of initiatives and, just as importantly, provide empowerment and accountability. Executing a quarterly marketing plan requires a team effort.
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 related to your goals.
Assess progress mid-way through the quarter to identify strengths and weaknesses and discuss any needed adjustments before the roadmap period ends. Then, two weeks prior to the end of your roadmap period, evaluate the results-to-date to determine next steps. If you made noticeable progress toward a specific goal, but need more time and need to keep the momentum going, make it a focus area in your next roadmap, too.
If one of your hypotheses and assumptions didn’t pan out, you can learn from it and adjust by changing your marketing efforts in the next roadmap period. Or, you might just decide to scrap it! 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 and outlining your key focus areas a quarter at a time, you’ll have a defined plan for the next 90 days that should feel manageable. A quarterly marketing roadmap can also help energize your team and get them excited about jumping in and making a difference with measurable results.
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 plan template or roadmap 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 chunks.
Check it out below. Then, reach out to us with questions or if you need help developing your inbound marketing strategy