Making a marketing plan work in today’s chaotic environment can be overwhelming for any business. Perhaps that’s why half of the 350 small to mid-size businesses OutboundEngine surveyed said they don’t have a marketing plan for 2019.

Yet having a plan is more important than ever. Marketing can be an unforgiving venture for small businesses; the room for error is miniscule. Small business leaders worry about spending money on the wrong strategies, and they want to see strategies come to fruition quickly. Often, small businesses set long-term plans without allowing for nimble changes.

In such a fast-changing, crowded media world, companies can no longer “set and forget” their marketing strategies at the beginning of the year. Instead, they must pivot and experiment in real time, making incremental changes along the way to gain traction. To optimize your marketing tactics, you need a solid set of goals and ways to measure those goals.

How to Set and Track Dynamic Marketing Goals

You need to plan agile marketing goals that allow you to judge real-time success and make adjustments as necessary. These goals ground projects in tangible definitions of success. Use this five-step process to come up with a dynamic marketing plan:

  • Vision: Start here. Vision is the most open version of your goals: a picture of how success will look or feel. Having a vision helps you define your goals and objectives.
  • Goals: From your vision, you can pin down the specific aims of your marketing initiatives. A set of goals forms an action plan to help your business move forward.
  • Objectives: Objectives are actions that will ensure you meet your goals, designed to break down conceptual aims into tangible chunks.
  • Key performance indicators: KPIs are numerical markers that help you define what success looks like based on your goals. Track a set of KPIs relevant to your objectives so you can make intelligent adjustments to campaigns.
  • Metrics: These unit-level measurements demonstrate marketing effectiveness according to the KPIs you set. These are the daily numbers you can watch to stay close to your goals.

Using this five-step process ensures that you’re planning for goals and are able to readjust strategies in meaningful ways. Once you know what you want to accomplish and what KPIs and data you’ll need to track in order to judge success, turn your focus back to the consumers.

3 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Marketing Plan

After you’ve gone through the five-step process above, you’re ready to track and extract real-time consumer behavior. Your customers’ interactions with your marketing campaigns and tactics will provide clues on what to adjust and how.

Here are three tips on maintaining a dynamic marketing plan that reacts to your consumers’ wants and needs while delivering on your company’s goals.

1. Form a budget. You need a defined budget to work with before you plan your marketing. Percentages vary based on who’s giving the advice, but spending around 2% to 3% of your gross revenue on marketing is a good start for startups and small businesses. Examine your competitors’ spending, too: How much and where? If you’re spending way less on social channels than your peers, for example, you might be getting edged out.

Once you’ve formed a budget, determine your ratio of tactics. What are your priorities? Make sure you don’t dedicate a vast majority on any one tactic until you’ve tested it out. Stay balanced.

2. Let data drive. Consult analytics on a weekly basis, and dive deeper each month. Keep spreadsheets to measure performance against KPIs, how your conversions are stacking up, how many leads you received from which sources, and so on. Make sure every teammate knows the current goals and objectives, relevant keywords, and how to define a qualified lead for that campaign so the data is valuable and objective.

A solid marketing stack can empower you to start keeping track of your data’s stories. Start with Google Analytics, and set up a UTM code for each tactic so you can see which method is earning you the highest-quality traffic. Leverage tools such as Facebook Audience Insights and Sprout Social to mine data from social media. And if you’re working with a slightly bigger budget, HubSpot is a great comprehensive solution for learning how leads engage over time.

3. Give it three months. In such a fast-moving climate, it can feel urgent to make strategy adjustments, but it’s important to give yours time to show performance. This allows you to witness real patterns and adjust budget based on proven consumer behavior.

Patience is especially important if you’re entrusting your marketing to an outside agency because it can take weeks for strategies to result in behavior changes. But stay busy: Understand the agency’s strategies, ask questions about how to judge success, and keep assessing the results against the original vision.

These days, the buyer’s journey is in constant flux. It’s no longer possible to set a yearly marketing plan and let it ride. Instead, start with smart goals, use data, and let the insights guide you. No matter how far and wide the winds of change scatter it, you’ll be able to keep adapting in line with your goals.