Believe it or not, now is the perfect time to start preparing for your annual strategic planning session. Your firm invests hundreds of man-hours contributing to what will be your roadmap for the upcoming year or two. It’s time to reflect on how successful your marketing plan process has been in the past. Did your plan sit on the shelf? Did you structure your marketing plan with the end in mind? Marketing and business development activities are difficult to monitor without the appropriate quantifiable checkpoints. Many firms do not create a plan that can be monitored and measured, and in turn are not considered successful by management. Start off this new plan in the right direction. By modifying your previous process slightly, you can ensure your firm’s success.
MAKE YOUR PLAN MEASURABLE
What does measurable mean? Elements of your marketing plan should include quantifiable data; data that will allow you to determine your return on investment, provide numbers, timelines, ways of producing black and white results and statistics.
Why do you want a marketing plan that can be measured? As marketing and business development professionals, we are evaluated on our performance. We continually need to establish our credibility within the firm. Quantifiable data proves how marketing efforts can contribute to the bottom line. If you can confirm your department’s effectiveness, you will begin to establish support for your budget requests and build rapport with technical staff and management professionals.
CONTENT OF A MEASURABLE MARKETING PLAN
When establishing your marketing plan there are two basic elements for categorization: firm related categories and market sector related categories.
Tactics for Firm-Related Categories
The following categories are not specifically focused on a particular market sector, but general overall firm related issues and categories.
Client Maintenance: Determine the number of client relations calls that need to be completed by person/firm for the year; establish the number of client testimonials that will be obtained during the year for use in marketing materials; set dates for a target number of client appreciation events; pre-determine a number of existing client meetings/contacts by person/firm for the year; and lastly, determine a percent of revenue from the firm’s top existing clients.
Size of Practice: In order to reach your revenue goals for the year, what adjustments will need to be made to staff members so you can accomplish the increase or decrease in workload? Set a specific number of new hires/lay-offs for the firm or market sector.
Geographic Distribution: If your firm has decided to alter your existing geographic targets, how many offices will you need to open/close in order to meet that goal? In addition, what are the specific dates in which you would like to accomplish certain milestones of this process?
Marketing Support: Quantifying areas of your marketing support efforts can seem like an impossible task. Ideas may include: establishing a specific number of resumes/project pages to update on a monthly basis; determine the number of project photographs you want to obtain for the year; Google Analytics targets for website and/or social media; a list of information to update in your marketing database with dates assigned to completion; or, as simple as a calendar of marketing training workshops to be completed each quarter.
Total Firm Revenue: Compare year-to-date actuals with projected year-end goals. Is your firm on track in terms of revenues, profits and expenses? If not, determine the reason; strategize and brainstorm ideas to improve your results; and develop marketing tactics that address new strategies. Once an overall firm revenue is established, sub-divide the total amongst each target market sector by percentage. This will enable your client relations and business development efforts to be tracked more specifically by market sector.
Overall Proposal Hit Rate: Establish a target hit rate percentage for proposals, short-lists and fee proposals per quarter.
Tactics for Market-Sector-Related Categories
The following categories and tips relate to your firm’s targeted market sectors.
Targeted Market Sectors: Determine fee goals per market sector (i.e., 14% of your revenue will come from K-12 projects); identify specific project pursuits for each market sector that will allow you to focus efforts in order to meet your projected fee goal; establish your staffing requirements for each market sector based on increase/decrease in revenue generation.
Targeted Clients: Take the time to list specific names of clients and/or agencies in which to target; establish the project pursuits you will qualify with each client/agency; and finally, make specific deadlines for contacts and go/no go decisions.
Direct Marketing (face-to-face client contact): Establish a number of contacts to be made to each potential client; identify a number of ‘qualified’ clients to pursue; determine the number of tradeshows/conferences in which you will attend or exhibit; clarify the client associations you will target; decide how many client presentations/brown bag presentations your firm will do this year; and most importantly, review your existing client list, are you obtaining 80% of your work from 20% of your clients?
Indirect Marketing: Determine the number of direct or digital marketing/collateral pieces to be developed and sent out to clients; establish the number of award submittals in which you will participate; develop a means in which you can quantify the number of calls received from indirect marketing efforts (advertising, digital marketing, social media, website, public relations); list the professional association meetings that staff will attend; create a schedule for marketing collateral maintenance (# of updates, dates for updates, new templates); and if applicable, quantify goals for website (calls generated, number of hits, dates for updating, new business developed).
IMPORTANT AREAS TO ENSURE YOUR PLAN’S SUCCESS
Evaluate success regularly. Quarterly evaluations can prevent costly mistakes and ensure that goals have been met. An important aspect of achieving your goal is regularly evaluating where you are; assessing your progress; and making changes as needed to keep on track.
Frequently evaluating the “big picture” is essential in order to adjust your efforts so that your resources can be focused on the tactics that have produced or not produced the results defined by your firm’s initial strategy session. This evaluation will also help to eliminate or reduce time spent on non-productive activities.
Involve key staff in the creation of the marketing plan. The only way a plan can be successful is if all key staff members have been involved in the creation of the plan. They will buy-in to the process if they are an integral part of the objectives and action plans. This is also an important way to begin creating a marketing mentality throughout the entire office. Start talking and including them in initial planning now.
Empower marketing staff to hold people accountable. Someone must be empowered to monitor the progress of the plan. Marketing staff can be a key resource for this effort. If personnel assigned to specific objectives are not meeting their goals, allow the marketing manager to re-assign to a staff member that would be a better fit for the objective.
Use your marketing plan as a catalyst for your regular marketing meetings. A recommendation is to take your action plans one step further by reviewing dates and objectives in your regular marketing meetings. This will ensure that staff members feel accountable for their part by reporting on the progress they have made for the week, month, etc.
Utilize your accounting/operations department’s resources. Your accounting department is a wealth of information that can be useful for your marketing plan. Meet with accounting/bookkeeping staff to review on a monthly basis if your firm is meeting your fee goals, budget requirements, etc.
Realize this is a process. Nothing is more frustrating than putting forth the effort to make something more effective and then to find that it’s not moving forward. If you feel that all of the suggestions above are overwhelming, pick one or two areas in which you feel you can begin and move forward with a vengeance. The small daily steps of making your plan easier to measure are what matters. These small steps will give you the confidence that you are moving in the right direction.