As those in the industry know all too well, marketing is an odd and ever-changing force. Sure, there are unwavering best practices and methodologies that are fairly staunch. However, staying ahead of the customer is always key, and to achieve that, you cannot rely on a year-old marketing plan. Why? Because chances are, things have changed since your last.
Enter the quarterly marketing plan: A strategy that’s refreshed and recalibrated once every three months to help your business remain privy to the market and your customers changing behaviors and preferences.
Here, we’re sharing the benefits of a serially created marketing plan, goals to set when creating one, measuring success and more.
How a Quarterly Marketing Plan Contributes to Your Business and Marketing Strategy
Compared to an annual plan, quarterly marketing plans are not terribly different. Of course, the main thing to note is that one is created annually and the other, once for every quarter.
While annual plans offer businesses a few benefits in terms of saved time and resources, the quarterly plan makes up for it in more ways than one. Here are a few standout perks of opting for a quarterly planning cadence in your marketing department:
It’s Easier To Make Quick Adjustments
Creating and deploying a quarterly marketing plan allows for quick adjustments based on changing market conditions or emerging trends, making it much easier to adapt to unforeseen challenges and opportunities.
With shorter planning cycles, decision-makers can act on data and insights more promptly to optimize strategies in real-time.
They Enable Sharper Focus
Unlike most annual plans, quarterly plans allow a more regular measure of marketing goals, enabling you to hone a sharper focus on achievable action items in the short term. This prevents the diversion of resources and efforts to less impactful long-term goals. Quarterly plans also give your team the room to iterate and experiment more frequently, fine-tuning their marketing strategies over time until you find a formula that works best for your business.
They Fit Snugly Into Your Existing Annual Planning Cadence
Quarterly plans fit within the framework of annual plans and should break down annual goals into manageable, bite-sized quarters, ensuring the business stays on track. They should also provide a feedback loop to the annual planning process to allow gathered data to inform adjustments to the annual plan for the upcoming year.
The Art of Crushing It: Goals for a Successful Quarterly Marketing Plan
Creating a new marketing plan every quarter may sound daunting, but so long as you have a solid idea of your goals and how you want to achieve them, you’ll be well on your way to success.
To give you a head start, we’ve compiled a sample of goals and best practices that you can use when developing your quarterly plan:
1. Review Your Yearly Goals
Defining a quarterly marketing plan isn’t meant to replace your traditional yearly plan or set of SMART goals. Instead, the idea is to help you achieve those goals with much greater effectiveness by providing the opportunity to realign and re-strategize multiple times throughout the year.
So, before you get started creating your first quarterly plan, make sure to review the SMART goals your marketing team has set for the year. This can help define the quarterly roadmap for the next three-month period, as any planned marketing activities should more or less relate back to that original set of goals and help you attain them.
2. Identify New Focal Points
Striking a balance between steadfastness and agility can be tough in marketing — but there is a way to have both. Right after you’ve reviewed your yearly goals, sit down with your team and highlight any new focal points beforesolidifying your quarterly plan.
Of course, time-sensitive opportunities may crop up that are impossible to foresee. Shuffling a couple of these into your already-built quarterly plan is fine, but it’s important to identify which are truly critical or of high value, and which can be deferred to the next quarter — where you can plan for them more meaningfully.
3. Perform a SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In short, a SWOT analysis is a method for identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a brand — aspects of your business that you have control over. On the other hand, the opportunities and threats aspect of a SWOT analysis allows you to shine a light on more external factors that could help or hinder you from realizing your objectives.
Alongside your yearly SMART goals, a quarterly SWOT analysis can help refine your approach to marketing for that quarter even further by making you aware of all the most relevant considerations.
4. Identify Your Target Audience and Refine Your Ideal Buyer Persona
Target audience is a term a lot of marketers may be tired of hearing, but identifying it is completely necessary for success. Here, you’ll want to dive into customer interviews and surveys to refine buyer personas. Supplemental to that, it’s important to conduct some research to assess competitors’ content, ad placements and engagement strategies to identify gaps and opportunities to outperform them.
5. Create a Content Plan
We’re partial to creativity at Brafton. So, when it comes time to create your content plan for the quarter, develop a strategy that includes some engaging content formats like interactive quizzes, augmented reality (AR) experiences or virtual events to help capture attention. Of course, these activities should align with your brand and target audience, but there’s plenty of room to play around and step outside the traditional.
You should still be using all the tried and tested, familiar channels (because we know they work), but don’t be afraid to try new things and see if they land. If not, there’s always next quarter to tweak and refine content.
6. Plan Your Marketing Activities
Lastly, you’ll want to plan out your marketing activities for the quarter. These should stretch beyond the assets you’ve planned in the content planning phase and include engaging and collaborative ventures that your target audience can actively participate in. Here are a few ideas to spark inspiration:
- If suitable for your brand, incorporate unconventional, low-cost marketing tactics like flash mobs, street art or guerilla marketing stunts to generate buzz.
- Seek unique collaborations or partnerships with industry players to expand your reach.
- Implement sustainability and social responsibility initiatives and employee advocacy programs to increase appeal.
- Think of ways to incorporate gamification elements in your marketing efforts to drive engagement and loyalty.
- Try out more immersive experiences, such as pop-up shops or branded events, to help create memorable brand interactions.
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Measure Up or Miss Out: Keeping Score of Your Marketing Strategy
Next up, measuring for success. If you’re not tracking marketing metrics and keeping your own score, it can be difficult to know whether you’re ahead or behind where you’d like to be in terms of achieving your goals.
Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
KPIs will vary between businesses depending on the overarching goals and objectives for the quarter, but it’s important to measure them no matter what they are.
If your focus is on social media for a particular quarter, consider tracking actionable metrics such as:
- Paid and organic reach.
- Click-through rate (CTR).
- Engagement rate.
Just make sure that, no matter what KPIs you choose to track, they present actionable data and aren’t surface-level vanity metrics. If you need help deciding what might be considered actionable vs. vanity, read on.
Avoid Vanity Metrics
There are hundreds of ways to measure success in marketing, but it’s important to get one thing straight: value over vanity metrics.
Valuable metrics are often direct, actionable measurements that are easily related back to ROI, whereas vanity metrics are a bit more hollow and lack substance. Examples of value metrics include things such as conversion rates and sales.
Vanity metrics, such as page views and social media followers, can still be valuable (especially if one of your goals is to increase social media presence, for example), but they generally aren’t enough to measure success in the grand scheme of your marketing plan.
Use a Content Marketing Platform
Using a content marketing platform that’s been built and tested by content marketers is extremely beneficial. Platforms like this allow your marketing team to plan months in advance — which means you can start shaping your next quarter right now to stay one step ahead.
This type of tools make organization easy. Label specific campaigns and create unique names and identifiers to find exactly what you’re looking for. When you start rolling out quarterly plans, they can build up quickly. Being able to navigate to each one for review helps speed the process along.
Borrow, Tweak, Succeed: Your Marketing Plan Template Makeover�
We know this is a lot to take in, and if you already have an annual marketing plan in place, creating a new quarterly one from scratch might not sound like the most fun. The good news is that we’ve created a blog detailing the key components of a marketing plan andincluded a free, downloadable template.
All you have to do is borrow it (download it, it’s yours to use and reuse), fill it out and tweak it as you see fit. While we tried to make it as robust as possible, the importance of conducting your own research cannot be overstated. This is just a template, after all, and should be used as such.
Add sections that you need and forget about those that you don’t! We trust that you know your niche best.
Spice Up Your Digital Marketing Strategy With Different Flavors of Plans
But wait — there’s more. The more frequent cadence of quarterly marketing plans allows you to create hyper-specific plans for particular times of the year. Need some ideas? Consider adding these marketing plans to your roster throughout the year:
- Seasonal plan.
- Product launch plan.
- Influencer collaboration plan.
- Community engagement plan.
- Event-based plan.
- Customer retention plan.
- Sustainability and CSR plan.
- Mobile-first plan.
- Inclusive marketing plan.
Enough Talk. It’s Time To Build Your Own!
You heard it here: The secret to becoming more agile and sharpening your focus lies within the quarterly marketing plan. Shorter windows and more opportunities to review, realign and adjust are a recipe for marketing success.
Better still is the ability to view and manage your quarterly plans all in one place. Brafton’s Content Marketing Platform enables you to do just that — like clockwork.
Join tens of thousands of global enterprise users and request a free trial today.