Nailing the details of marketing planning

The time-tested route of “audience-objectives-strategies-tactics” is a proven foundation of marketing planning. It’s the blueprint marketers use to provide the c-suite with a clear vision and path to meet business objectives. The hard part is how. This article identifies the expert focus you need at each phase to help you master the details hidden beneath each one.

Step One: Segmenting Intended Audiences

The first step is to define who the intended audiences and ideal customers really are and prioritize them by likelihood to purchase, what insights we know about them or any gaps around what we don’t know about them. This exercise includes segmenting into demographic and psychographic profiles. Creating user personas helps facilitate this discovery to determine motivations and triggers to purchase. The mistake often made is going too broad and trying to reach “everyone” in the marketing planning process. The key is to hone in on those intended audiences that are going to drive new customer growth, sales volume or have potential to drive sales.

Tip #1: A good place to start defining and learning more about your audiences is within your very own website’s audience section in Google Analytics.

Step Two: Determining Objectives

Once intended audiences and personas are finalized, this step helps align business objectives between  those who are repeat customers, those most likely to purchase and any new customers. When determining objectives, make sure to define quantifiable objectives and determine where the intended audience is in the sales cycle and/or customer journey. This is critical to our marketing planning success as we use these numbers to benchmark objectives and project sales.

Tip #2: Make sure to define quantifiable objectives within a given time period, like “Increase new customers by 4% in 2020.”

Step Three: Developing Directional Strategies

Directional or umbrella strategies should be clear, concise statements that focus on one idea, and inform how marketing efforts will help meet objectives. (If you’re stringing together multiple ideas, try instead to split them up.) Your job is to continually develop new or refreshed strategies to replace those that aren’t working or help make an existing one better. 

Tip #3: Stuck on generating new strategies and ideas? Here are some ways to flex your ideation muscles.

Step Four: Tactics

This is where marketers frequently start, and potentially fail. You have to consider tactics that will best reach your intended audiences to meet your business objectives and align with overall strategies. Think of long- and short-term owned, earned or paid tactics within a variety of channels as concentrated efforts to help prioritize resources and eliminate wasteful spending.  

Tip #4: Don’t start here. Think of the tactics you choose as concentrated efforts to help prioritize resources and eliminate wasteful spend based on the work you’ve done in Steps One, Two and Three. 

Step: 5: Measure to Evaluate Success

Our final step in the marketing planning process is to determine baseline measurements from which to “grade” our key performance indicators (KPIs) and how to execute and review our ongoing measurement plan. You have to be nimble with your marketing planning efforts, and fluid enough to flex with what the data is telling you. Having a defined evaluation process for data analysis allows a timely review and ultimately leads to better performance. If you’re trying a tactic for four weeks and it’s not working, be prepared to pull the plug and move on. And when you find that gem that’s working well, look for ways to invigorate or improve upon those metrics. 

Tip #5: Create detailed projections of what budget amounts will deliver sales in separate tiered levels and timelines. Use this handy digital marketing ROI calculator to help. 
Tip #6: Lastly, always have a Plan B or Plan C in your back pocket for testing or switching up tactics to allow for maximum budget efficiency and tactical effectiveness. 


The key to successful marketing planning is all in the details at each step of the journey. The road map we all use is pretty standard, but an expert focus on the little things along the way will make the journey and destination that much better.