I have some news to share with you. It may be difficult to hear, but it’s for your own good.
<deep breath> OK, here goes. It’s March. Remember all those strategic planning exercises you went through last fall? You know, your digital marketing strategy? How much progress have you made? Yeah, I thought that may be the case. Don’t beat yourself up. It happens.
All too often the problem with strategic planning is NOT having a conversation with the right people about what you are going to STOP doing. People (at all levels) get so caught up in their day-to-day routines that they sometimes miss the bigger picture. They find themselves at the end of March in a conversation with executives about progress against their digital marketing strategy, and a sense of panic sets in. Cue the mad scramble when they realize they need to make up for lost time, and then the inevitable freak out when they realize they’ve just added another project to their already full plate.
So, where do you begin? You can’t achieve your 2014 goals in a single month. You need to break them down into manageable chunks, align and enlist the help of others, and focus on what you can achieve each quarter.
So let’s make this more real. Here’s the scenario: You’ve been handed an online revenue goal for 2014 that calls for a 25% increase over last year. You may or may not have been involved in setting this goal, but it’s yours nonetheless. But here’s the kicker: your budget is flat.
Now what? Regardless of what you have been doing over the past three months, here’s what you need to do. Now.
1. Break down revenue goals into monthly or quarterly numbers. Revenue is an easy one. Creating an ROI model based on known factors such as channels and budget can help you to set expectations and adjust levers based on the seasonality of your business. It will also clearly identify where and if you will fall short of goal.
2. Determine how you will measure success, and make sure everyone understands it. Let’s face it. Numbers CAN lie. Align your customer’s buying process with how you measure success. Ideally, it should be about customer lifetime value. At a minimum in today’s digital environment, it should be attributed across all digital media. It should NOT be about last-click.
3. Establish your baseline. Look across ALL your digital channels to see what is actually happening. If you’ve been measuring success as last-click direct sales, you are likely not taking into account how your customers’ shopping behavior has changed. They no longer live in a direct response digital world. Neither should you. Simply going through this exercise to (re)establish what you thought your baseline was will be an eye-opening exercise for your team, for your partners and for your executives.
4. Quickly identify what you will STOP doing. Optimization is only part of the story. Your digital marketing campaigns and channels can be highly optimized, but if the demand is not there, you will inevitably fall short of your goal. Find those opportunities to redistribute budget and resources based on achieving your goal. Focus on the entire funnel to harness the demand that exists. And understand that if you want to do achieve different results you HAVE to do things differently as well.
5. Re-forecast spending and revenue based on budget reallocation and market growth trends. Now we’re getting somewhere. There may still be gaps in your forecast vs. your goals. This is where you need to focus your time.
6. Create a plan to fill the gaps. Explore new distribution channels, business models, etc. This is where the magic happens. Put on your thinking cap and look outside of the usual tactics and channels. True success often lies just outside of your comfort zone.
7. Establish alliances with people you will need to help you accomplish your goals. You’re not in this alone. Your colleagues have goals just like you do. Find the commonalities in those goals and create mutually beneficial partnerships.
8. Get comfortable with failing, but do it quickly. Innovation can’t happen unless you try new things. Not all of them will work. Find the ones with low risk, create a test plan, run with it and see what happens. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish if you just give yourself permission to fail.
9. Celebrate early successes. Even small wins can open the door to larger opportunities, more budget, etc.
10. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Proactively provide reports, and more importantly, insights to your boss (or your boss’s boss). It’s a lot easier than having to drop everything to run a report for ad hoc requests.
There’s still time for you to turn things around, but only if you act quickly. Let’s commit to each other and to ourselves that we won’t be surprised or disappointed about what we accomplished in 2014 because we didn’t take the time upfront to create an actionable plan to actually achieve our goals.