Incredibly, 2019 is almost here, which means along with year-end budget and project reporting you need to lay out your 2019 marketing plan. We all know that successful marketing relies on planning, goal setting, and market research to ensure goals are in line with, well, reality. But the other truth in marketing is that everyone is short on time to plan and anticipate a strategy for the coming year. Between executing a 2018 plan, attending meetings, managing client demands, seeing through team projects, and the other million little things to do in a day, most of us are lucky to finish an entire cup of coffee without it getting cold.

Five things you can do right now for next year

#1: The year that was.

Was it a good year? A bad year? Realistically there were most certainly highs and lows. Make a list of the five best efforts and the five worst. Have multiple product lines or divisions? Create a list for each. It can be overwhelming to measure every effort you took on, so start small by measuring marketing successes and marketing fails to act as benchmarks you can build into a larger plan. A simple chart will do to map out your quick marketing situational analysis. You’ll also need a SWOT diagram, which stands for strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

#2: Define your competitive advantage.

Who are your competitors? Type some of your brand statements into Google and you might be surprised by who pops up. You have companies like yours who are targeting the same customers and markets, but you also have digital competitors who are ranking higher than you for the terms you think of as yours, your value props. The latter may not be business competitors in the sense of risk to your market share, but they are a risk to your marketing strategy. Make sure you know the difference and make a list of both. An SEO and content audit can help you find this out.

 #3: What do you want in 2019?

This is daunting, right? Break it down into three buckets called sales, brand, and fans. Most companies want to increase their sales. Or to move from small customers to big ticket customers, or launch into a new region or adjacent market. Jot down some percentages of your share of whatever market you think you own. Another consideration is brand, which means that when people think of your product or service in the market, they think of you. Brand has personality and staying power. Most companies want to become the brand standard… the Kleenex of tissues. That’s a great aspiration, but be realistic in defining attainable goals in 2019. Find the low hanging fruit of opportunities to promote your brand today. The third consideration is fans. This goal is about getting the message out, creating a community, and having more followers. You want to make people like your brand. Figure out how this affinity effort could be launched and measured. There are a whole bunch of tactics that go along with these buckets, but to keep it simple, fill out these three goal columns and move on.

#4: Do you have what you need to succeed?

You have to know your limits if you are a small team. What can you outsource? And, what can you do in-house? Now that you have your three big buckets, sales, brand, and fans, you need to position yourself for success. What will your budget look like to achieve your goals? The alignment of your goals with your pool of resources is the single biggest predictor of future success in the next year. Once you outline what you need, write down names of people you’ll need to get buy-in from to make it happen. What are they motivated by in their decision-making? How can you get on their calendar to talk about vision? If you don’t make a plan for support, and you don’t get the support you need to make your goals achievable, maybe it’s time to start making a SWOT of your career plan.

#5: List your tactics.

Suppose your marketing budget gets approved. How would you break it down? Fill in the gaps of your SWOT diagram. For every item listed, have a tactic. Are your services your strength? Build your fan base with a blog. Is low web traffic or poor quality leads a weakness? Consider a PPC digital advertising campaign. Did you get a lot of sales lead “opportunities” but have no idea if they turned into customers? Invest in your analytics, set up monthly meetings with sales teams, and improve your buyer journey from the call-to-action (CTA) to the lead form. Is your website outdated or light on content? This could definitely be a threat to your ability to attract and convert your desired target audience. Once you break down tactics, you have the ingredients to motivate your team to accomplish some exciting marketing projects in the next year.

Use these marketing tips to create a simple marketing plan. If you use these use these 5 steps to create a marketing plan, or at least to get you started toward creating one, you take a big chunk out of the work left to do, and the anxiety you’ve been feeling by worrying about it.

Marketing Strategy Planning Series

This is the second article in our 2019 marketing strategy series. In upcoming posts, we will touch on topics including goal setting, measuring success, defining core messages, and more. Check back on Life Lessons to get your marketing tips for the coming year.