When Should You Be Planning Your 2018 Marketing?


At this point in the year, you’re likely fully immersed in your 2017 marketing program, analyzing what’s working, making adjustments for what’s not working, tracking progress toward your goals, and juggling resources to ensure all your bases are covered. But it’s coming time to add one more thing to the list of items you’re managing… your 2018 marketing plan.

Why should you be working on that now? Because January will be here before you know it, and building an annual marketing plan is not something you can effectively do in the first few days of the new year. Plus, you’ll save yourself time, stress, and money by building a strategic plan in advance and starting to make media decisions now versus later.

To help you out, we’ve put together seven steps you can start working on now to ensure you achieve marketing success in 2018.

7 Steps to Take NOW for 2018 Marketing Success


1. Start with a Review of 2017.

Even though the year is not quite over, take a look at the data you’ve collected to understand how well your marketing strategy has performed in 2017. Not only can you make adjustments for the last few months of the year, but it will give you a jumpstart on 2018. Take time to review not only campaign performance, but general trends you’re seeing so that you can identify opportunities and challenges. Also take time to assess your target audience and buyer persona. Has it changed over the last year? Do you need a strategy refresh?

This is also a great time to meet with some of your primary media partners and go over campaigns you’ve run with them. Utilizing their expertise and collaborating with them to determine what was most successful will only help you moving forward. 

2. Set SMART Goals for 2018.

As a reminder, SMART goals are:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivational)
  • Achievable (agreed upon, attainable)
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
  • Time-bound (time-based, time/cost-limited, time-sensitive)

Set your SMART goals based on the results you’re seeing so far in 2017, factoring in goals for 2018 such as new products or services; growth in a particular niche, customer segment, or market; or increased website traffic, leads, or customers. Ensure that your goals meet each of the five SMART goals criteria.

3. Determine Your Budget.

Use the data from your analysis of 2017 to evaluate each of your channels and plan your 2018 marketing budget accordingly. In addition, consider current marketing trends, and remember that even though there’s almost always a bit of guesswork involved in predicting where you will get the most bang for your marketing buck, you shouldn’t set your budget based on assumptions. 

It’s also not a good idea to cut back reactively on your marketing budget because 2017 numbers aren’t where you want them to be. While you may save some money up front, cuts to your marketing budget will likely end up costing you in the long run. We suggest having a clear idea of what your growth goals are and matching your marketing budget growth to those goals. You can’t expect to grow if you aren’t investing in a growth strategy.

4. Choose Your Marketing Mix.

Guided by your analysis of the past year, your goals, and your budget, determine where it makes sense to invest. Which media platforms, channels, and tactics will reach your target audience? If 2017 is looking like a great year so far, don’t assume that the same mix will work next year—or that a different approach couldn’t make things even better.

Be sure to explore your options and ask your trusted partners for advice on what they think will most help you achieve your goals. Make your decisions based on educated options, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! 

5. Map Out the Year’s Campaigns.

Your yearly marketing campaigns include opportunities for growth, annual conventions and trade shows, seasonal sales and consumer trends for your category, holidays, branding needs, and more. Get events and dates you know will occur on your calendar first, then step back to look at the big picture. Next, determine what promotions or milestones to focus on. Lastly, be sure to incorporate branding campaigns along with action campaigns throughout the year so you have consistent advertising to rely on. By mapping out the entire year, you can be sure to have a solid foundation for your marketing plan. However, we encourage taking a flexible approach to the specific timing and budgeting, as things can change along the way. 

6. Commit to Staying On Track.

Consistency is essential for meeting your marketing goals, so make the commitment now to be consistent in your marketing in order to achieve success in 2018. Different companies will have different systems in place for ensuring commitment and consistency, so develop your practices based on the goals, objectives, and culture of your business. What will work to hold your team accountable and keep them motivated to make the most of your marketing? Uncovering the answer will take time and conversation. 

7. Start Placing Your Advertising.

It’s not too early to start placing your advertising for Q1 2018, or to start making placement decisions for the entire year. By acting now, you can take advantage of better pricing, save yourself time down the road, and get ahead when other advertisers are scrambling to replace their ads for the new year.

As a business owner or marketing director, you know the importance of planning when it comes to growth and success. If you wait too long to start planning your marketing for 2018, you may end up rushing to put together a plan that will not produce the results you’re looking for.

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