A five-point framework for developing your 2016 marketing plan

Siddharth Taparia, VP of marketing and head of marketing M&A at SAP, outlines some key elements to bear in mind when creating your 2016 marketing plan

Right now, you are probably in the middle of developing marketing plans for 2016. This plan calls for your business to grow at a faster rate than your marketing budgets. So, you have to find a way to squeeze more efficiencies and effectiveness out of your marketing budgets. How do you build your FY16 marketing plan in such a situation, which includes events, online and print advertising, digital marketing programmes, website, content marketing and marketing infrastructure? Here is a five-point framework to help you:

1. What worked well in 2015? Use your analytics to identify which marketing investments performed well in 2015. You can then filter out certain programmes for 2016, because the themes or situations they represented are no longer relevant, or your marketing strategy has shifted. Now you have identified events, activities and programmes from your 2015 marketing mix that you want to continue for next year.

2. What didn’t work well in 2015? Analyse the reasons behind their performance, to ensure you are not eliminating programmes or activities whose weak performance was due to factors outside your control. Armed with this analysis, you have identified elements of the programme mix that did not perform well in 2015 and therefore will not be carried into the 2016 plan.

3. Where do you want to innovate in 2016? There may be new imperatives you need to support in 2016 – such as new product launches or entry into new industry segments or new geographies. Or there may be new things you want to try in 2016, such as a social media initiative or implementing a new marketing infrastructure. B2B marketing is undergoing its own digital transformation and becoming increasingly technology enabled. It is always good to have some ‘experimental dollars’ to try new approaches, tools or platforms in your marketing mix. 

4. Use a simple planning model and iterate: create a planning model that helps you capture your entire 2016 marketing mix and key target metrics. Ensure the allocation of spend across your 2016 marketing mix allows you to meet your overall objectives – in terms of building awareness, generating demand, improving customer relationships or enabling your sales organisation. You will probably iterate this model multiple times until you feel good about your 2016 marketing plan. Target metrics in the model may include: number of leads or opportunities that need to be created, number of new products to be launched, target customer sentiment scores, and expected social media audience growth. You should then use this model to track your actual performance against target metrics, so you know how you are doing against said plan.

5. Keep slack in the system: I believe in a well-known quote that even the most well-formulated battle plans change on first contact with the enemy. Ensure 10 to 15 per cent of your budget remains uncommitted at the beginning of the year, so you have enough room to take on a new initiative that appears in the middle of the year, or you have means to switch to plan B when plan A (and related investments) fared worse than first expected.

It takes a lot of work to create a good plan – aligning with the above principles can ensure it stays relevant and focused throughout the year.