Seven steps to successful planning

15th Aug 2018

Depending on what size marketing team or department you have or work in, or if it is just you carrying out all the daily activities for your organisation, you cannot escape from the key phrase ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.

There is no getting away from the fact that we all have to plan. It might be for a campaign, for a product launch – perhaps for an event.

You may not always have the time to sit back and think about the process you need to follow when planning, as you are busy firefighting, so here are seven vital steps that we hope you find useful, and enable you to stop and think for a moment when planning the next project.

Where to start? Well, to move forward, I would advise that step one is to look backwards. I’m talking about research. Look at historical campaigns – what worked and what didn’t? Use tools like Google Analytics to examine which activity generated web interest. See if you can find out about successful competitor campaigns, maybe from the press or from ex-employees. Whatever you are planning, it will take time, money and resources, so don’t miss this important step out. The more informed you are at the start, the greater your chance of success.

Step two, identify your audience. Who are you aiming at? What are their demographics (age, gender, profession, interests)? What are their problems and how can you solve them? What is motivating these people to seek out your product or service? Get a clear picture of who your target audience is and what their needs and desires are.   You may be able to do this through internal intelligence, or you may need to look to independent research to glean the information you need.

Setting goals is step three. What are you hoping to achieve? Remember the old SMART acronym; it is still valuable to keep in mind when thinking about your objectives. Make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound. That way you can get a clear picture of the success of your campaign or event when it is complete.

Step four is to develop your message. If you have completed your audience research correctly, then you will have a good idea what your key messages should be. How are you going to address your target’s needs and desires? Why should they attend this event/buy this product/engage your services? Come up with clear messaging and ensure it is implemented across all elements of your plan.

Counting backwards is your step five. This is the starting point for creating your plan. When is your critical launch date? Working back from this date allows you to see when you need to start the serious work. Allow enough time to brief, to design, to create, to communicate, to test. Any third parties involved may have lead times that you need to take account of. Gather all of this information and work backwards. Do write it down – you don’t need fancy software, an excel spreadsheet will do the job unless you are working on something exceptionally complex.   And always build in a bit of contingency time. Regular meetings with the team involved in delivering the plan will ensure that everything is on track or, it will highlight any delay early so that they can be managed.

Once you have completed your plan, you will know the date on which you need to start step six, the execution. If you’ve planned effectively, this should roll out like clockwork! Of course, in practice, it might not be quite that simple, but a good plan will certainly make your life easier.   Be prepared to review and evaluate along the way. If something is not working quite as you anticipated, you can always adapt it. Nurture and tweak your plan as it unfolds, to maximise the end success.

The final, and seventh step, is a post-activity review. If you set SMART goals under step three, you will be able to evaluate against these and see how successful you were. Feedback from your audience will help you to gauge the reception. Make sure you document your results so that when you come to do your next bit of planning, step one becomes easier!

Good planning doesn’t guarantee success, but it does make it a hell of a lot more likely! As Abraham Lincoln was reported to have said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

By Katie Delamain-Blunt – PDS Marketing

PDS can help you with one or all seven of these steps, if you are planning a campaign, product launch or event. Please get in touch on 01933 672 150.

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