Long-Term Planning Is Out When Data Drives Optimization Of Inbound Marketing Tactics
You can keep doing it the old-school way, with 12-month marketing plans and six-month content calendars. But, even your integrated, three-month marketing campaigns might be too long given what we know about today’s marketing.
What we found is that Agile marketing and 30-day plans give us the best opportunity to be nimble. We can better respond to what’s working well, what’s working better than expected, what’s not working as well as expected and what’s not working at all.
We used to create 12-month inbound marketing plans for our clients and realized that we rarely followed through, simply because the situations changed almost as soon as the ink on the plan was dry. A lot of people have had similar experiences. Marketing planning like this is only accurate on the day it’s created, so why do long-term plans when short-term plans deliver better results?
Here are some keys to the 30-day planning cycle for inbound marketing.
Prioritization Based On Data
Almost everyone has an opinion on what marketing should be doing and when, but data should be the lead determinant of what gets worked on. When you run 30-day planning cycles, you have the time to collect data, analyze it, respond to it and create a prioritized set of tactics to improve program performance over the next 30 days.
Almost every business experiences requests to do work that appears to be important and urgent, but is it really? Redo trade show booth graphics. Redesign the logo. Create a new brochure or product spec sheet. These requests seem important and urgent, but if you don’t have a process for prioritizing them, you might end up working on the wrong tactics.
Prioritize the work based on what’s going to take the LEAST amount of time and produce the MOST or BEST results. Optimizing a landing page that might double the leads generated from this page is going to take just an hour or two AND produce big results. This type of tactic needs to be at the top of the list.
More Frequent Collaboration
Using a 30-day planning cycle allows you and your team to collaborate more frequently and adjust the priorities more often. This means that everyone is on the same page and that the time in between conversations around priorities is short.
If you have an internal team, keep them focused on a defined set of tactics for 30 days. If you work with an inbound marketing agency team, you should have a similar experience. The agency team should be recommending the priorities for 30 days, and you should be approving them. Inside or outside, this approach optimizes your investment and ensures a positive ROI on your investment in marketing.
Just because you’re doing 30-day planning doesn’t mean you can’t run longer campaigns. While I wouldn’t recommend anything longer than 90 days, you can break up the 90-day campaigns into three shorter and smaller campaigns.
Each month, focus on the top prioritized tactics within the campaign to optimize results. This gives you the ability to be agile, adapt to the actual results and focus resources on those tactics that produce the best outcomes.
If you’re promoting a webinar and email marketing isn’t working, you can switch from email to social media promotion or paid search. Instead of sticking to the campaign plan for 90 days, you adjust on the fly, reallocate funds and produce better results.
Ability To Respond To Strategic Pivots
Based on our experience, almost 30% of small to mid-sized businesses change their go-to marketing or strategic plan within the calendar year. This basically requires marketing to start all over again, including defining target personas, messaging and differentiation and usually redoing at least some of the marketing tactics, like the website.
With a 30-day planning cycle, these restarts are a lot less painful. Again, work can be prioritized quickly and executed just as quickly. Since most of the marketing is only 30 days out, there wouldn’t be much time or money wasted, and once the new direction is finalized, the marketing team can quickly implement the tactics required to start generating leads.
Improved Business Results
Speaking of leads, this is one of the main reasons for planning your marketing tactics on a shorter cycle. Since you’re prioritizing work based on what impacts results, you’ll quickly see a month-over-month improvement in most of your key performance metrics: more website visitors, more leads, improved conversion rates, more sales-qualified leads. If you’re also working on the inbound sales aspect of your business, you’ll see more closed leads and shorter sales cycles.
One of the major criticisms of inbound marketing is the time it takes to start working. This can be true if you’re executing longer-term plans. But, once you move to a 30-day plan and keep cycling on a 30-day planning schedule, you’ll see that results come faster and the improvements from testing impact your insight on what to focus on and which tactics are producing the best results.
Start Today Tip – You can switch from long-term planning to short-term planning in no time. Once you see the advantages, gather your team and create a list of tasks, tactics or actions that need to be taken over the next 60 days. We refer to this list as the backlog. Once you have a backlog, you and your team pull from it based on the work that can be done the fastest and produce the best results. Create the list that everyone agrees can be executed in 30 days. Now you have your first 30-day plan. While you’re executing, anything new that comes up gets added to the backlog for your next 30-day planning session. Keep cycling like this, and you’ll see results in no time.
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