Great marketing plans are made better with data. As the annual planning season begins, it is important to include data in the process to set achievable goals, appropriate budgets, and ensure the plans will deliver in execution.
There are five basic steps that most marketing planning processes include: data collection, setting objectives, defining target customers, determining strategy, and setting a budget. Collecting the right data in the first step will ensure good decision-making throughout this process. This article aims to help marketers working on their plans by explaining what data is needed and how that data can be used during each step of the planning process.
Step 1: Data Collection
During planning, data is needed to answer critical questions on customers and marketing performance like:
- What are the attributes of the ideal customer? Tip: Consider demographic info and other attributes that are true for the most loyal and highest revenue customers that also have the least amount of drain on the business from returns, support calls, etc.
- What channels have been most effective in reaching those ideal customers?
- What valid opportunities are there to reach those ideal customers that haven’t yet been tried?
- What segments could we test out based on similarities with our ideal customers?
- Is there something we don’t know about our ideal customer and is there a way we can learn more?
Not many companies have the data needed to answer those questions so typically a combination of internal and external data sources are needed. Marketers should aim to collect:
- Internal data collected on consumers/customers from systems like CRM (customer relationship management) or PoS (point of sale)
- Marketing performance from systems like MA (marketing automation), DSP (demand side platform), CDPs (customer data platforms), and website analytics to name a few.
- Sales and support data on ideal customers based on revenue, support needed, loyalty, etc. that might come from systems that marketing does not have access to.
- Market data that may help to illuminate trends happening in a target market or to identify which markets to target. This may come from analysts, research houses, or looking at online behavioral trends.
- Target audience data that can provide information on the interests of buying personas. This could come from research houses or online behavioral data.
- Target audience data on their online behavior which can indicate the best channels to reach them, the best messaging to use, and product expansion opportunities. This comes from online behavioral data.
While there is a wealth of information to be found from internal data sources, this data is typically historical. It doesn’t do much to indicate where the market is going, how your buyers are thinking, and where the opportunities are for growth. Look to external data sources to help fill these critical gaps.
Step 2: Set Objectives and Marketing Measurement
Setting objectives and determining how to measure their achievement is typically a top-down exercise in most marketing organizations. Revenue goals are set and marketing is told to figure out a way to meet them. However, it is always smart for marketers to gain an understanding of the gap in expectations versus last year’s outcomes.
Marketing needs to look hard at the internal data from marketing efforts over the past year to identify areas for growth or performance improvement. It is also critical for marketing to determine what is realistic for the achievement of goals. If executive leadership is expecting marketing to contribute a certain percentage of revenue, it is critical to raise a red flag if those objectives are not achievable with the resources available.
Assuming objectives have been set that are possible, marketing needs to consider what its key performance indicators (KPIs) are that will be measured throughout the year. Marketers can measure a lot of things, but too much information can be a burden in collection and decision-making. Select a clean north star metric per campaign or channel that is actionable. Meaning, the information can be used to make changes that will impact overall performance. Examples include metrics like: website traffic, conversions, leads, and revenue generated.
Step 3: Redefine and Define Target Markets and Target Customers
The planning process may require refining the ideal customer, defining the ideal customer for a new market, or finding related market segments to expand from the current customer base. To do this, marketers should use a combination of first-party consumer data and third-party data to get insight into who is engaging with the company’s brands and products.
This can be further refined by analyzing customer attributes found in internal data like spend, loyalty, and support calls to identify an ideal subset for the target audience of marketing campaigns. Additionally, external data can be used to identify the key attributes of this subset like demographics, behavioral trends, interests, and where they go on the internet. This can help demand generation efforts focus on channels where the target audience spends their time.
For marketers looking to expand their target markets, the ideal customer data set identified can be compared with larger external data sets to find lookalike markets. This type of big data comparison can also expose marketing opportunities in other segments or via new marketing channels that have yet to be explored.
Step 4: Determine Go-to-Market Strategy
A natural flow from defining target markets is to pick the best channels to reach that audience. Third-party behavioral data can identify where the target audience is engaging the most. This information should be compared to internal data of past performance of marketing channels and tactics to validate channel opportunities.
Once channels and tactics are determined, initial marketing messaging can be created. By analyzing external data, target audience behavior or research can be used to determine the pains and interests of the target audience. With that information, personalized messaging can be developed that will best engage the target audiences.
Step 5: Establish Budget
Reflecting on the outcomes of this process, the marketing budget should be allocated accordingly. Just as it was important to check in on the achievability of revenue objectives, it also may make sense to check in on goals. Make sure that the plan is not over or under projecting accomplishing those objectives based on the targeting and tactics proposed in the go-to-market strategy.
Identifying new market or target audience opportunities may also provide marketing with the leverage to make the case for an expanded budget. If that is the case, consider making it contingent on a pilot or experiment where the additional budget is provided if the experiment is successful.
Use Data to Continually Optimize Execution
Once planning is finished, the need for data isn’t. Put a plan in place to measure performance and revise the strategy throughout the year on a regular cadence using measurements from internal and external sources.
Of course, markets and buyer behaviors change quickly, particularly in consumer markets, so data needs to also drive marketing execution. Getting a continuous stream of external data that can provide insights into buyer behaviors can help companies spot trends early to take advantage of them. Continuous analysis of behavioral insights from third-party sources can truly make or break the achievement of annual objectives.
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