How to enhance your annual marketing plan with data, insights + an open mind

Approach your annual marketing plan with goals that are rooted in data and creativity to take your campaigns to the next level.

annual marketing plan blog header

Kicking off annual planning? Start with data, insights + an open mind 

Building an annual marketing plan is a daunting task – particularly for 2024 when budgets are seeing seismic shifts, recession predictions flip-flop daily, presidential elections are near and media consumption is ever-evolving. 

With a flexible approach that incorporates data and cross-departmental collaboration, you can confidently navigate the fluctuating landscape.

graphic that shows the realities facing marketers and communicators in 2024

(Sources: LinkedIn, Forrester, Time, Reuters Institute, Bloomberg, ANA)

Measurement and evaluation is essential to build an annual marketing plan that performs, but so is creative thinking. Here’s the framework we recommend:

  1. Understand larger business goals and activities
  2. Take a diligent review of recent data 
  3. Do industry research 
  4. Get inspired
  5. Evaluate tactics across the PESO mix – paid, earned, shared and owned
  6. Track meaningful KPIs and OKRs

First, understand your larger business goals (and ask ‘why?’)

Whenever we are tasked with creating a PR strategy for a client, we start with defining the business goals to understand the larger context of the organization. 

It’s important to learn the individual goals of the C-Suite as well as the sales, growth or reputational goals of the organization as a whole. So when kicking off your annual marketing plan, make sure to get all the key stakeholders in the room. 

Ask each person what they want to see for the business in the next year (or five or 10 years),  why these goals are a priority for them, how they came to those conclusions and what data they used to inform their goals. 

Be as specific as possible – “increase sales” or “grow awareness” is not enough. Instead, dig deep for answers like, “grow sales by X% for X product line with X audience by X date.”

A few questions you can use to gather important information from key stakeholders and inform your annual marketing plan:

✨ What is your #1 business priority? Why?

✨ What do you want to accomplish next year? Next 5 years?

✨ What are our biggest opportunities? What are our biggest challenges?

✨ What problems do we need to solve?

✨ What data was used to inform our goals?

✨ What could get in the way of achieving these goals?

The aim of this discovery session is not to make it feel like you’re giving a pop quiz but to open a dialogue and start conversations that may challenge how your business perceives itself. It may also uncover what data you still need to verify certain assumptions or point you in a new direction.

Next, look within and outside your industry to inform insights

You’re likely already keeping up with your competitors and have a short list of aspirational brands you love. When building your annual marketing plan, take an even more critical eye at their campaigns and external channels. 

Imagine you were on their marketing team and ask yourself…

✨ Were certain activations successful? Why or why not?

✨ What would you have done differently? 

✨ Does the campaign reflect a larger industry trend you’ve noticed recently? 

✨ What audience do you think the campaign resonated with? 

Find the weak signals across specific competitors, your industry at large and your personal experiences in the world today to draw new conclusions and insights that you can take back to your brand. 

Consider the economy and review business news in general as these can also impact strategies, budgets and consumer mindsets.  

Never plan to copy competitors when building your annual marketing plan, but do dissect what worked for them and what didn’t. Use that information to inspire new ways of thinking. 

The once-defined lines of marketing and brand reputation management are blurring thanks to shifting expectations from consumers. Social causes and political news may make you feel nervous to rock the boat with new marketing ideas right now. We encourage you to lean into new ideas with an open mind. 

Maintain your brand mission as your North Star while considering these new ideas. In our experience, strategies that hone in on authentic storytelling and are backed by thorough research are the most successful.

Now you’re ready to think about tactics + positioning

With all of this new data, research and insight in mind, you can feel confident revisiting your annual marketing plan ensuring your goals are rooted in specific measurements you can track consistently. 

Then you can attach marketing tactics to the goals and determine which are the strongest options for your business this year. Maybe it’s finally ditching a tactic that you’ve always “just done,” turning on a new tactic entirely or reimagining how you engage with another. 

When considering your paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) mix, think about where each of your brand messages will be best received by your target audience and what you’re actually trying to achieve. Take your audience thoughtfully through the sales funnel.

For example… 

If you’re trying to increase either your credibility or visibility, you’ll want to focus on pushing thought-provoking ideas and company news to where your audience is currently spending time. This generally includes earned tactics like speaking engagements and media relations. 

If your goal is to increase product sales, consider tapping paid and shared channels like niche influencer marketing. Creators on social media can share your products in an authentic and relatable way, reaching an engaged audience that is primed to buy.

Sales funnel with recommended tactics and metrics

Establish and track meaningful KPIs and OKRs

Once the tactics of your annual marketing plan are chosen, set performance indicators that match the goals you previously gathered from your C-Suite and senior leadership. 

Once execution begins, be prepared to track these KPIs and OKRs on an ongoing and consistent basis. Whether using external tools or an internal dashboard, make sure it’s something that’s easy to understand and share with your larger team to keep them informed. 

Keep an eye out for early indicators if a tactic is working better or worse than you expected and be prepared to pivot and adapt.

You’ve got this! Now go build a killer annual marketing plan 

Good luck, senior marketers. With the end of summer near, we know annual planning is right around the corner for many of you. Remember to keep an open mind, think big and evaluate the data before committing to any tactics.

What goals are you setting for 2024?

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Belle Communication

Belle Communication is a woman-owned and led, nationally awarded and top-ranked digital PR agency that helps brands think bigger for now + next. The firm serves the CPG, retail, restaurant, tourism and B2B industries, and has partnered with more than 100 brands including Dearfoams, Nestlé, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Nationwide Insurance.