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 a recent article, there are potential pitfalls and risks associated with annual marketing plans — at least in the way they’ve been approached 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 a quarterly marketing roadmap can help you remain flexible and adjust as needed. With inbound marketing, you can also leverage data in real time and make iterative changes throughout the 90-day period rather than look back a year from now and wonder, “What went wrong?”
What goes into creating a quarterly marketing roadmap and what should it include? Here’s an overview of several considerations.
Start by determining what areas you want to focus on. Don’t get too deep into the weeds by listing out a dozen areas you want to aim attention at. Keep it at a high level — say, four or five areas — and identify KPIs that need improvement based on your company’s business development goals. Some examples might include:
- Website Attraction — How can you improve SEO?
- Conversion Rate Optimization — Is there a content piece/campaign to focus on?
- Lead Qualification — How can contact forms be improved?
- Event Participation — Is there a trade show, conference or webinar coming up?
Define Clear Initiatives
Clearly define the strategic initiatives you’re recommending within each specific focus area based on your goals for the next quarter. You don’t necessarily need to write a two-page dissertation about each initiative, but it should sum up what you’re proposing in a paragraph or two. This helps get key stakeholders on board by outlining the basics.
For example, if a strategic initiative is to improve how you qualify SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) that are generated from forms 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 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 product launch campaign 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 plan!
However, if you feel strongly about what you’re recommending and can make a case for how it will result in a significant ROI, gather your evidence along with the analytics available from your marketing automation software to back it up to show how your proposed initiatives will make an impact.
The only way to know if your plan reached its target is by establishing goals that can be clearly measured. This is critical to success, and is especially important when first establishing quarterly marketing roadmaps to document results and build confidence for your team and leadership moving forward. Give each goal a specific numerical value and establish the time period associated with them. For example:
- Increase website sessions-to-contacts conversion rate by 0.75% by May 1
- Increase the monthly number of new marketing qualified leads (MQLs) by 25% by May 1
- Increase blog subscribers by 15% by May 1
Hypothesis & Assumptions
Make the case for why you’re recommending a specific focus area and its strategic initiatives. Demonstrate how each initiative plays a role in reaching a goal or set of goals.
For example, “By placing a featured call-to-action and conversion form above the fold on our website homepage, we anticipate our website sessions-to-contacts conversion rate will increase by 0.75–1%.”
Who will champion various initiatives within the proposed roadmap? If you have multiple team members within 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. A marketing roadmap requires a team effort.
Assess Mid-Quarter Progress & Final Results
One of the benefits of a quarterly roadmap is that it 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.
Do so mid-way through the quarter to identify 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, for example, but need more time and need to keep the momentum going, make it a focus in your next roadmap.
If one of your hypotheses and assumptions didn’t pan out, you can learn from it and adjust by changing your strategy 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 exciting about jumping in and making a difference with measurable results.
The idea of quarterly roadmaps will likely be a welcome proposition for your team; selling the concept to your boss isn’t always as easy. When sharing potential results with your executives, it’s crucial to convey your performance in a way that your C-suite can get excited about. To help, we’ve developed a cheat sheet with information that you’ll definitely want to share. Check it out below. Then, reach out to us with questions or if you need help developing your inbound marketing strategy.