Growth-minded companies that are serious about generating revenue know they can’t get the job done without a well-developed strategic marketing plan. After all, you wouldn’t set off on an important trip without your trusty navigation app. So why would you embark on a marketing journey that’s designed to drive your business’s growth without a roadmap to guide you?
The trouble is…things change.
Even if your goals and objectives don’t shift significantly, the variables and assumptions that inform your strategic marketing plan will evolve over time. (Or sometimes overnight, like we all experienced with the pandemic.)
So, exactly when should you update your strategic marketing plan?
What Your Strategic Marketing Plan Should (and Shouldn’t) Do
First, it’s helpful to level-set on the role of a strategic marketing plan.
Your plan should serve as a guide and a basecamp, keeping your marketing team grounded and ensuring they don’t zig and zag every time someone in the business shouts, “I need an email campaign!” or “We’ve got to sponsor this event!” It’s the roadmap you consult to make sure you’re devoting your finite resources to the right priorities—those that support your strategy and can drive revenue growth. A strategic marketing plan helps you avoid the “spray and pray” approach of just doing anything marketing-related to get in front of customers (because surely that will work, right??).
And yet, your marketing plan can’t be stagnant because your business isn’t. As with any aspect of running a company, when it comes to marketing you need to balance staying focused with remaining agile.
That means your plan should serve as a roadmap. But it should not turn into a rigid restraint. Instead, think of it in the same terms as your company’s balance sheet: It’s your source of truth based on what you know at the time you develop it. Inevitably, the picture will evolve—sometimes in small ways, sometimes in seismic shifts.
COVID-19 is perhaps the ultimate example: When the world essentially shut down in the spring of 2020, most companies had to pivot their marketing immediately. They didn’t throw out their strategic marketing plans altogether, though. When the time was right, they circled back to their roadmaps, re-evaluated, and adjusted.
These Triggers Say It’s Time to Update Your Marketing Plan
With that foundation, let’s address the original question: When is it time to update your marketing plan?
It depends on your company’s specific situation, but generally, changes in any of the following areas warrant adjusting your strategic marketing plan:
- Competition. Has a new competitor emerged? Is a new entrant coming in hot and threatening to disrupt the industry? If the competitive landscape has changed substantially since you developed your plan, it’s time to reconsider whether your strategies and tactics are still on target.
- Industry Trends. Last year could be called The Year of The SPAC (special purpose acquisition company), a trend that created a boon for firms that specialize in taking businesses public. In 2022, federal funding unleashed by the infrastructure bill could drive significant new business for companies in engineering and construction. Shifting trends can yield unanticipated opportunities in your current market or create entirely new markets.
- Internal Capacity. If labor shortages or supply chain constraints are hampering your business’s capacity to take on more work, and your marketing plan is heavy on lead generation, you might need to pivot temporarily and focus more on brand awareness. Otherwise, you’ll end up attracting new customers you don’t have the capacity to serve, creating frustration and wasting resources.
- Partnerships. Perhaps a partnership was brewing when you first developed your marketing plan…but now the initiative is picking up steam and has the potential to become a major revenue generator. You’ll want to allocate some marketing resources to cultivate the relationship and support any new lead-gen goals.
- Product/Service Pipeline. Even when you do your best to get accurate forecasts on the timing of new products or services, it’s never a perfect process. Sometimes a new service or an important update is (surprisingly!) ready to launch ahead of schedule. Other times, marketing isn’t clued into a product in the pipeline until it’s fully baked. When a product or service emerges that you weren’t expecting, it’s time to adjust your plan to give the new offering whatever attention it warrants.
- Campaigns in Progress. Successful marketing demands optimization—using data analytics to determine what’s working well and what needs adjusting, then course-correcting and tweaking to get the best results. As you test each campaign’s effectiveness, you need to stay nimble and ready to shift resources away from efforts that aren’t working and toward those that are really moving the needle on demand generation and revenue growth.
- Crises. No company wants to be hit with a cybersecurity breach, SEC violation, or discrimination lawsuit. But if it happens, you need to make crisis communication a high priority and dial back on lead generation and brand awareness, at least temporarily. (Otherwise, you risk sounding tone-deaf and turning off customers.)
- Certifications. If your company attains certifications that are meaningful to your customers and can open the door to new business, you’ll want to devote some marketing resources to touting those achievements, emphasizing tangible benefits that will get new buyers interested.
Even if you don’t experience substantive changes in any of those areas, it’s best to evaluate your strategic marketing plan on the following timelines:
- Monthly: A once-a-month review of your key performance indicators (KPIs) can provide a good gut check—ensuring your marketing plan is delivering as expected (and allowing you to adjust quickly if it isn’t).
- Quarterly: Four times a year is a good cadence for reviewing your revenue funnel metrics to see which marketing assets are driving leads to and through your funnel. This exercise gives you the data you need to decide what to do more of vs what to dial down.
- Annually. It’s always a good idea to revisit and update your plan as you approach year-end, as part of your annual planning and budgeting process. But an annual review should never take the place of more frequent check-ins that allow you to tweak along the way, optimize your marketing resources, and get the best results.
If you run a growth-minded company and you’re serious about driving predictable revenue, a well-developed, comprehensive strategic marketing plan is a must. But you can’t set-it-and-forget-it. Be prepared to review, re-evaluate, and tweak your marketing plan as things inevitably change, both internally and externally. If you keep your roadmap current, you’ll be on the best path to reaching your destination: higher revenue growth and better profitability.
Ready to develop a strategic marketing plan that will drive predictable revenue and aggressive growth? Schedule a free consultation with our CEO Deb Andrews.