Keys to Building a Measurable Marketing Plan

You need to identify sufficient key performance indicators to ensure whether you are getting closer to your objectives or further from the starting point.

To create a measurable marketing plan, first decide what it is you want marketing to do. While that might seem like a big “duh,” it is amazing how many marketing plans are created based on what the creator wants to do, rather than what the company needs marketing to do. The days of believing and allowing “half the money you spend on marketing to be wasted” are long over, at least if you want to remain competitive and profitable.

A quick aside to keep you on track: Marketing has a range of definitions. What you call marketing is not critical to your marketing plan’s success as long as you can tie whatever marketing is for your shop back to a business objective. Marketing’s role in most shops is about promotion, advertising, website and attracting new opportunities. That is fine, providing those activities can be tied back to specific business objectives. As you read the rest of this column, don’t worry about whether you have defined marketing right—worry about whether the activities you call marketing, which you plan to invest in, will help you achieve your desired business objectives.

As with the plan for any function in your company, the marketing plan must be tied to business objectives or desired outcomes. What is your business trying to do? How are you measuring those objectives or outcomes? What is marketing’s role (as you define marketing) in achieving those outcomes or objectives? Until you can answer these questions, building a marketing plan is a waste of time.

On the assumption you can answer those questions, then the next step is to identify the critical success factors marketing must achieve to ensure it is effectively supporting the business’ objectives or outcomes. What is a critical success factor? We define it as something that must be accomplished to achieve success (the outcome or objective desired). It must be a concrete, definable, measurable item that can be directly determined if it has been achieved. There are sufficient factors to accomplish the objectives and no more than necessary.

Once these success factors are defined, then marketing can consider the set of activities necessary to accomplish those success factors. What specifically does marketing actually have to do to make those success factors a reality? Maybe a social media strategy or a new website is in order or you need to define or launch new products. Whatever you decide, you must be able to tie these activities directly to the accomplishment of the critical success factors. If there is not a connection, it becomes a “nice to have,” not a “need to have” at best, and a waste at worst.

Next is the budget issue. What resources, people, time and money is it going to take to get these activities accomplished? If the budget available won’t cover all the activities, what happens if you cut them back or out? How will that impact your ability to ensure the critical success factors are accomplished? In today’s world, too many marketers can’t answer the question: “What happens if we cut the marketing budget by 15 percent?” Without the answer to that question, the budget gets cut. With a connected marketing plan, the consequences of the cuts are visible.

Last is the ongoing monitoring of the results against plan. Here is where key performance indicators come into play. What must you measure and monitor to know you are on track? What are the metrics that matter? A key performance indicator is simply a metric that matters. You need to identify sufficient key performance indicators to ensure whether you are getting closer to your objectives or just further from the starting point. Of course, competent marketing professionals need to make appropriate decisions about what to change if the performance indicators suggest you are not on track to achieve your critical success factors, which will then prevent the company from achieving its outcomes or objectives.

This is simple if you think about it from a business performance approach. If it were easy, there would be no competitive advantage from being great at it.