New year’s resolutions. Usually, the process works like this: You’re sick of feeling fat or unhealthy so you resolve to [insert one of the following:] eat healthier foods, exercise more, diet, eat less, go to the gym three days a week, take up running, or whatever you think is the best way to get fit. There is certainly a lot of merit in deciding to do something and then doing it, but how many people stick to it for an entire year? The problem isn’t always a lack of commitment; it’s usually making a resolution without an achievable plan. Marketing departments everywhere are notorious for making these empty resolutions too.

Towards the end of each year, marketing leadership is tasked with budgeting for the upcoming year. In Q4, budget meetings start popping up and marketers everywhere shudder. With one of the biggest budgets in the company (if not the biggest) you’re asked the tough questions: What exactly did we get out of that event? You need additional headcount to do what? …tweet? Do you really need that much for technology?…And so on.

You even see marketers go on shopping sprees in December to make sure they spend all of their allotted money for the current calendar year to ‘make sure they get it again next year.’ (This is the equivalent of making a resolution in November to be healthier in the new year and then stuffing your face as much as possible before December 31st. Except, the ‘use it or lose it’ methodology doesn’t fully apply…) To make the right new year’s resolution, marketing departments need to do a few things first:

  1. Review Marketing-Sourced Pipeline: You should be doing this monthly, if not bi-weekly. But, if you haven’t done it at all, it’s a good thing to do at the end of the year. High spend budget 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 paid campaigns influenced, and how much pipeline those campaigns drove. The added bonus of going through this activity is that you should see how much revenue you sourced, depending on the length of your sales cycle. Being able to articulate how much marketing is moving the needle on the business in the universal language of dollars (or pounds, yen, euros, etc.) is the single best way to get more money next year.
  2. Document Processes: You could get hit by a bus next year. Or, more likely, your processes could be a lot more efficient. The exercise of documenting your processes is great because it becomes obvious where they could be better. These documents will also help you onboard new employees in the new year – remember, you need additional headcount to run your social strategy globally across products (not just tweet!) The nature of marketing requires collaboration between roles within the department, but it can also create unnecessary overlap if processes aren’t clearly defined.  Creating efficiency across campaigns is the best way to do more with the resources you already have. Well-defined processes also help you clearly communicate the need for additional headcount.
  3. Content Strategy: Do you have a content strategy? It’s one of the latest buzzwords in marketing, but marketers have been strategizing around content for a very long time. They simply may not have put it all together in one place. As a follow-up to the last point, it’s good to document your content strategy. Define everything from key topics pertaining to your business, content types (white paper vs. video), promotion channels (paid media vs. blog). Analyze whether or not your content works together with the content your salespeople use, Google keyword rankings, and your product team’s vision of how you fit in the market. The most important part of reviewing your content strategy at the end of the year is understanding its impact on revenue. Essentially, did your content help elevate the quality and quantity of leads?
  4. Market Awareness and PR: It’s important to be realistic about your position in the market – good or bad. What did you do in the past year to maintain or improve your position and what new things can you do to continue to educate the market? Market awareness is a hard thing to measure, but it’s good to start tracking changes. Pay attention to indicators like analyst reports, number of outlets picking up your press releases, and volume of inbound media requests for interviews. Understanding how market awareness and PR fit into your content strategy also help you drive a higher volume of qualified leads.
  5. Re-Align with Sales: If you don’t already have a handshake agreement with sales on the way leads are being passed to sales and back from sales to marketing, you should use the end of the year to make sure both departments sign off on the process. Creating the process is two-fold: First, you need to make sure your marketing automation platform is set up to pass data the right way to the CRM and vice versa. (Salesfusion, becoming Sugar Market, is the best marketing automation platform to facilitate that communication for Dynamics, InforCRM, Salesforce, Sugar and Sage. Okay, shameless but honest plug, over.) Secondly, marketing and sales leaders need to shake hands on the volume and quality of leads created. As the marketing leader, you should be able to communicate the prospect experience before they are passed to sales and make sure it correlates with the sales process.
  6. Sales Enablement: Arming salespeople with the right content could be the difference between a closed-won or a closed-lost opportunity. Meet with sales leaders and representatives to understand their needs (You should probably do this at the start of the new year. December is never a good time for sales to be in internal meetings.) Do they need completely new content or just tweaks to older content? Do they have a presentation that would be better utilized as a shareable PDF? As a product company that’s always innovating, we struggle sometimes with making sure our salespeople are armed with the freshest product content.
  7. Build a Yearly Marketing Plan: This is the final and most important step to making the right new year’s resolution and being a good marketing leader. Now that you’ve gone through the exercises in points one through six, you need 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. In a revenue-marketing world, these goals should always have a clear path to revenue generation.

Your yearly marketing plan becomes your new years resolution. ‘Getting fit’ requires a real action plan to get there. As an example, ‘driving higher quality leads’ is no longer the new years resolution for a marketing team. Instead, it’s filling holes in our content library to better educate leads in our pre-sales nurture, with a clear action plan on what content is needed to do so. As a marketer, if you resolve to do anything this year, resolve to make an informed, achievable resolution!