As the end of 2017 approaches, marketing leadership is tasked with budgeting and planning for the upcoming year. At the beginning of the last quarter, budget meetings start popping up, filling up the calendars of marketers everywhere. So instead of being caught off guard, take these 7 steps to prepare before the actual 2018 marketing planning begins.

7 Things Every Marketer Should to Prepare for 2018 Planning

    1. Review your marketing qualified leads and how they came in over the year: You should be doing this monthly, if not bi-weekly. But, if you haven’t done it at all, it’s never too late to start. High ticket items such as events, pay-per-click campaigns and paid lead programs are all easily trackable through a well-aligned marketing automation and CRM pair. You should be able to see how many unique leads your paid efforts sourced, how many leads your campaigns influenced and how much pipeline was driven by those campaigns.

      *Added bonus – You should see how much revenue you sourced, depending on the length of your sales cycle. Being able to articulate how marketing is moving the needle of the business in the universal language of money is the single best way to justify your budget and your value.

    2. Document processes: Let’s face it, your processes could be a lot more efficient. The nature of marketing requires collaboration between roles within the department, but it can also create unnecessary overlap if processes and responsibilities aren’t clearly defined. Creating efficiency across campaigns is the best way to do more with the resources you already have.

      *Added bonus – Well-defined processes also help you clearly communicate the need for additional headcount and onboard new employees in the new year.

    3. Realign with sales: An added benefit of documenting your processes is that it can help you realign with the other departments. If you don’t have a handshake agreement with sales on when and how leads are being passed, you should use the end of the year to make sure both departments sign off on the process.

      *Added bonus As the marketing leader, you should be able to communicate the prospect experience before the leads are passed to sales and make sure it correlates with the sales process. If you can document this whole process, you’ll also uncover places where you can work more efficiently with sales.

    4. Market Awareness and PR: Market awareness can be a hard thing to measure, but it’s important to track. Pay attention to indicators like placement in analyst reports, number of outlets picking up your press releases, and volume of inbound media requests for interviews. You should also be tracking how many other websites are referring back to your site.

      *Added bonus– Understanding how market awareness and PR fit into your content strategy also help you drive a higher volume of qualified leads. Your PR efforts can also do wonders for creating relevant backlinks on your website, which ultimately will help you rank better on Google.

    5. Content strategy: Outline your content strategy, defining everything from key topics pertaining to your business and content types (eBook, video, blog, paid ads, etc.). Analyze how your content works with the content your salespeople use, whether or not it falls in line with your campaign schedule, and if it matches your business’ Google keyword rankings and your product team’s vision of how you fit in the market.

      *Added bonus – Understanding your content strategy will ultimately help understand your content’s impact on revenue and elevate the quality and quantity of leads coming in.

    6. Sales enablement: Arming salespeople with the right content could be the difference between an opportunity win or loss. Meet with your sales team to understand their needs and to show them how to find the content your organization already has. In order to help your sales team have successful communication with potential and current customers, it’s marketing’s responsibility to ensure they don’t have to jump through hoops to effectively leverage your brand’s content.

      *Added bonus
      – A closely-aligned sales and marketing engine can be a powerful tool for growing your business. By improving the relationship between these teams, you’ll likely see better output since marketing should have a clearer understanding of what sales is looking for and sales will have better insight into what marketing is passing over.
    7. Technology audit: What technology do you have and what are you actually using? If you haven’t previously kept track of this in one place, now is the time to start. There are so many tools out there now for marketers, it can get overwhelming. And, while it may not seem like a large investment at the time, a $100 license here and there can add up quickly.

      *Added bonus – Figuring out your overall tech stack is the opportune time to start thinking about your marketing technology strategy. If you’re paying $250 per month on an analytics tool and $250 on an email marketing tool, you could be getting a lot more bang for your buck by investing in a marketing automation platform. Not only are you consolidating tools, you’re making them work better for you.

Now what?

Now that you’ve gone through these seven points, your next step is to determine how they fit into your overall marketing framework. Use the output of these exercises to build tangible goals in each area of marketing. Tie those goals back to each member of your team (or group within your team). Doing so will pave a clear path to opportunity creation and revenue generation. Properly preparing for your 2018 plan will enable you to build a plan and budget you feel great about. You will also be able to clearly communicate your budget, plan and goals to other stakeholders within the company. Whether it be to other c-level members, sales, product or services, being able to clearly articulate the marketing plan also helps set expectations and rally the company around common goals.