Creating an Annual Marketing Plan in a Year of Turmoil

Many companies are right in the middle or at least starting to create an Annual Marketing Plan. As the year winds down, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to accomplish for your company on the marketing front next year. Next year may be different, but it may mean more of the same. By planning carefully—and with a lot of flexibility—you’ll be ready to tackle all the uncertainty that 2021 may bring.

Although many marketers are still working out the kinks from 2020, one thing always stands true when building an annual plan: It prompts marketing teams to focus on supporting the company’s business goals through marketing activities, including Positioning and Messaging, Content Marketing, Media and Analyst Relations, and Social Media.

Building a plan starts with some of the elements you may most easily find in a corporate messaging document or have gathered from your internal teams. If you haven’t gone through a Positioning and Messaging exercise recently, it might be time to stop and tackle that before building an annual plan. Positioning and Messaging is an integral foundation for any marketing plan.

Ready to get started? There are 11 specific strategic business elements that every annual plan includes. The first five are below. To read them all, download our white paper “Creating an Annual Plan that Means Business.”

  1. An Executive Summary. This will act as an introduction to your overall plan and will be written last but placed first. The audience is the CEO, CFO, and other C-level executives who eventually need to sign off on your plan. It should provide ahigh-level overview of your goals and broadly how you plan to achieve them. Keep in mind that your company’s overall business plan may also include some short-term pivots as executives keep an eye on particular markets because of COVID-19.
  2. A Situation Analysis. What does the industry and specific customer market look like for the coming year? What changes do you expect? How does your company play into the overall market? Some companies may consider doing a full SWOT analysis to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and determine what that means for their business.
  3. Your Audience. The more detail you provide here, the more of a roadmap you are building for the team to follow throughout the year. If your audience is large enterprises, for example, what vertical markets are your key targets? What titles are you targeting at those types of companies, for example, is purchasing your product a decision that department managers make? The IT group? Does the CEO eventually sign off on purchases from companies such as yours? Defining your specific audience is critical as it will shape your go-to-market strategy.
  4. Your Lines of Business. Which lines of business (divisions, departments, etc.) will you be focusing on in the coming year? Which new products and which existing products will be central to your company’s business goals? Ask yourself: “If I had $100, how would I divide it up over the various products and services I offer?”
  5. Your Differentiators. What do you do that is unique in the market? Why should and why do people buy from your company and not the competition? This should have been a key part of your Positioning and Messaging exercise and should include proof points that support your claims.

Because of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and a continuously shifting timeline, we highly recommend drawing up three-month plans to deal with the tactics that your annual strategies are built upon, as well as mini-plans that will guide the tactics of new opportunities as they arise. By having these plans in place and making sure all activities map back specifically to your business goals, you’ll be sure to deliver the results your team needs to find success. Want to learn more? Download our white paper on annual planning.


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