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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Jun 27, 2016 9 min read

Warning: 12-Month Inbound Marketing Plans Are A Waste Of Time

Why Data-Driven Marketing (Like Inbound Marketing) Has To Run On A 30-Day Planning Cycle

30 Day Planning Cycles for Inbound MarketingWe used to do 12-month marketing plans. It makes sense. I’ve been doing long-term planning like this for 30 years and, as a life-long marketer, that’s just what we did. But today 12-month marketing plans are obsolete in just a few months, so why go through the trouble to create them?

When you’ve been practicing inbound marketing for as long as we have, you start to see trends. One of the most significant trends is that data drives your decision-making, and when you start planning for a client’s inbound campaign, you have very little data. The data comes when you start executing.

To take advantage of the data and to create more agile, flexible, dynamic and higher-performing marketing campaigns, you have to shift to 30-day planning cycles and consider agile marketing methodologies to help your team improve performance. 

Here’s how 30-day marketing planning cycles positively impact the results from an inbound marketing effort.

You Don’t Waste Time Planning For What You’ll Never Do

Editorial calendars are a great example of how 12-month planning is no longer right for inbound campaigns. We used to plan out calendars for the entire year, only to find that after 60 days we have much better insight into what prospects wanted to read, what they responded to, what they shared and what converted them into leads.

That data becomes the fuel for improved performance when it’s put into the machine. So why waste time planning for 12 months when it makes more sense and the results are more significant when you do shorter-term plans based on data instead of longer-term plans based on assumptions or opinions?

You Respond To Actual Performance Data Instead Of Assumptions Or Opinions

Speaking of assumptions, setting direction can be challenging when everyone has an opinion about what you should do. How do you know what’s right? How do you know who to follow? Typically, the person with the most authority makes the final call. In some cases, the person with the loudest voice makes the final call, but who knows if they’re right or not.

Those days are over. Opinions actually become insignificant in this scenario. Data rules the day and in just a matter of days, data starts streaming in. You see what pages on your site are the most popular. You see what content is attracting the most attention. You see what offers are producing the most leads. You learn what keywords are ranking and which ones are not. To ignore this data and continue executing on a long-term plan is like ignoring the road signs on the highway. You’ll end up lost, with a speeding ticket or worse.

Nothing good can come from ignoring the signs. No inbound marketing program will work if you ignore the data.

You Prioritize Marketing Tasks Based On Results

Once you move to a 30-day planning cycle you get a completely different perspective on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. First you start thinking with what we call a “results today” mentality. What do we need to do today to drive results today? Let’s prioritize the list of tasks, activities and to-dos in order of impact and value. What will take the least amount of effort and produce the biggest impact on results? This perspective is a direct result of a 30-day planning perspective.

Every single one of our clients is having their July prioritization and planning sessions in June. Now we’re ready to allocate resources, deliver high-value tactics and hit any agreed-to performance goals for July. Yes, we can adjust these on the fly, and as more data comes in during June a July plan is easily adapted to take advantage of what the data tells us.

Long-Term Plans Get Done In 30-Day Chunks

Of course you can do longer-term planning, too. You just break it up into 30-day chunks. You want to do a webinar in September and it's June? No worries. Just take that four-month schedule and break it into four smaller schedules. Now each one of those webinar tasks gets incorporated with all of the other tasks getting executed each month.

The biggest benefit of this is even these “longer than a month” programs get better over time. As we promote them, we learn what’s working and we don’t stick with it hoping it will get better toward the end. Hope is not a strategy. If any of our consultants get caught telling clients “we hope this is going to work,” we need to have a conversation with them.

Results And Expectations Must Be Reset Every 30 Days

The old-school way of doing this, where I give you a 12-month lead goal projection, was doomed for failure on the day we did the plan. Think about it: When you do sales projections, do you do them on December 31 and then never update them, never discuss them and never adjust them for the entire 12 months of the following year? Of course not.

Projections like this are ONLY GOOD ON THE DAY THEY’RE DONE. The next day, they’re outdated because something has changed, and then every day after that those projections get less and less accurate. Don’t ever make decisions on these types of projections.

Instead, redo the projections every single month based on the performance from the previous month, based on the data you have that month and based on what you’ve learned over the past few months. If you’re falling behind, change your 30-day plan to catch up. Add more resources to take into consideration the changes you didn’t expect six months ago.

Or, double down on what’s working better than expected. You have to take a much more agile approach to marketing in 2016. This is the only way to efficiently direct your marketing, effectively spend your marketing dollars and, most important, match your marketing efforts to your expected results. There are no secrets, no silver bullets and no special buttons you can press; just hard work with smart planning and solid execution. To use a baseball analogy, you want to hit a lot of singles and doubles, and stop relying on grand slams to win games.

Start Today Tip – Scrap your 12-month marketing plan and get your team together tomorrow to start planning for July. What can we get done? What should we get done? What are our goals? What does the data tell us about what’s working well and what’s not working as well as expected? It doesn’t matter how many leads we thought we would get in July when we did projections in January. What matters is how many leads we can get in July based on what we did in May and June. What matters is how much effort we’re planning on investing to generate what type of results in July. Your entire planning paradigm needs to shift. It’s going to take time, so start this effort today. You’ll see results immediately.

ebook-agile-inbound-cover-250-11.pngIf you want to learn how to move your marketing from sluggish and rigid to agile and dynamic, you need to download our newest e-book, Agile Inbound Marketing: How Better Collaboration Drives A 10x Improvements In Leads.


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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.