Creating a marketing plan is challenging in the best of times. It’s even more difficult when everything feels uncertain.

This past year, we were all faced with challenging decisions. Plans got derailed, and what we thought would be a great year was met with more unpleasant surprises than anyone anticipated. As much as we might want to, we shouldn’t just move on and pretend like 2020 didn’t happen — there are valuable lessons to be learned. 

Many are still feeling the brunt of the pandemic’s impacts. Uncertainty is still a lingering factor to consider when planning out the next year. Despite not knowing what 2021 will bring, there are still steps you can take to plan out your marketing strategy for the coming year.

Here’s what you can do to plan for the new year and maximize your impact in 2021:

Understand your real priorities

This past year may have caused you to suffer some losses, but you can take this experience and learn from it. Make note of any marketing mistakes you might have made in 2020, and use those lessons to shape your 2021 priorities.

Know your audience. Take a look at your customers’ buyer behaviors by analyzing and segmenting your audience. Use tools such as Google Analytics or Facebook Audience Insights to conduct a survey of your consumers’ behaviors and preferences. These tools can provide you with detailed demographic data about the users who are interacting with your business and offer insight into motives, priorities, and decision-making.

Based on this data from 2020, revisit the most effective marketing strategies that really resonated with your audience, and make note of areas for improvement.

Apply the 70:20:10 rule of marketing. Avinash Kaushik, a leader in Google’s marketing and analytics department, explains this mindset for planning well:

“70% of the time we’re going to focus on things that we know that are very core to our business. 20% is where we’re trying to push the boundaries. You get into the known unknowns. And the last 10% is the true crazy experimental stuff. Trying to figure out how to do uncomfortable things that we’re going to fail at more than we will succeed at. But with every success, you build a competitive advantage.”

Determine what activities take precedence over others. Watch your key performance indicators (KPIs) closely to see what is working and what isn’t. You should focus more on essential marketing channels and ones that resonate with your customers.

Create a contingency budget plan. Don’t slash your marketing budget in the moment if things get rough. Have a backup plan in place. Creating a backup budget will help you understand how to shift your strategy if you see a significant increase or decrease in your budget.

Plan, plan, plan

If you encounter difficulties, you don’t want to just throw your whole plan out the window (as some had to do in 2020). It’s possible to put contingencies in place. 

Consider predictive modeling to assess the next course of action. Understanding real scenarios and possible outcomes can help to make minimal-risk decisions when it comes to your strategy.

People working together

Here are some steps to walk you through the planning process:

  • Create a 12-month marketing plan with conservative projections – Going ahead and creating an annual plan will set you up for the outcomes you are wanting to achieve. Always work towards your long-term goals, but be conservative with your projections. Prepare for the possibility of shifting strategies mid-way through the year.
  • Define everything in your planning process, including:
    • Target audience
    • Each stage of your sales funnel
    • Marketing channels
    • Message and content direction
    • Budget
    • Implementation
  • Set up monthly and quarterly reviews – And expect them to change your projections! One advantage of regularly reviewing your annual plan is that you are given the time to reassess your progress. You can plan for new goals or update existing ones based on new successes or losses to minimize risk.
  • Invest in analytics tools – Track outcomes and use data analytics tools to better understand your ROI.
  • Be willing to adapt – We can’t predict everything that will happen. Prepare in advance and don’t try to avoid change. When the unknown comes our way, be ready to adapt.

There may be uncertainty looming over the next year, but there are clear, actionable steps you can take to embrace reality and still be able to come up with a game plan for your marketing strategy. As you’re moving forward into 2021, be prepared to pivot when changes arise. Having more flexibility will help you face the new year with real solutions and less anxiety.

Looking to get a little more direction or help from an expert? Contact our team at UpSwell to get started!

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