‘Tis the season to trade cliches with your colleagues in the hallways.

“Can you believe the year’s almost over?”

“Where did the time go?” 

I don’t know, Dave, it went where it always goes.

But the casual state of alarm that comes with the end of a year is also the kick in the pants we (perhaps I’m projecting here) need to get our planning in gear. As sales teams frantically fight to hit their Q4 quotas, it’s marketing’s turn to look forward at the year to come. Twelve more months, four more quarters, all waiting to be filled with pithy, compelling content, funnel-driving demand gen. campaigns, and so much more.

But just like the legions of New-Years’-resolution-keeping experts who will soon be trotted out for their annual finger-wagging will tell you, you’ll never achieve your goals if they’re vague. To make a real impact, your team needs an actionable strategy that’s shared, visible, and tracked over the year to come.

What does that look like in practice? After years of working with marketers, we’ve identified three key stages of great strategic planning:

  1. Build a strategy that delivers
  2. Visualize for execution
  3. Monitor your progress

And we’ve developed multiple templates for each stage, which are yours for free, should you want them. (You do.) But today, I’m going to walk you through three of the simpler templates to help you get the wheels turning. And if you’re a Kapost user—or just curious about how planning works in a software built to handle your content from planning to execution and beyond—I highly encourage you to register for our December 5 webinar, 2020 Planning in Canvas, which will showcase how you can do everything I’ll cover in this blog (and more) in the platform. 

See what great planning looks like in Kapost. Resiter for our next webinar, 2020 Planning in Canvas.

1. Identify key objectives

It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many marketers launch into their annual planning without stepping back to consider their key objectives—across both their department and their business as a whole.

But of course, this is a critical first step. Mapping your planned content to your larger goals is the fastest way to get a clear view of whether your ideas match up with what you need to accomplish. It can also be a great tough-love exercise, one that allows you to leave some delightful but ultimately non-strategic ideas on the cutting room floor.

Here’s what your final product might look like, based on a real plan we at Upland Kapost laid out a couple years back. This example use the x-axis to map against personas, but you may want to use this row to reference buying stage, product line, etc.

2. Map content to strategic contexts

It can be difficult to know which contexts are intentionally emphasized versus over-targeted—or strategically less crucial versus accidentally ignored.

To avoid over- or under-saturating, map your content across personas and stages of the buyer’s journey. Don’t think that each section should be equally filled. In fact, they probably shouldn’t be. Consider which of your personas is most important in buying decisions, and at which stage of the process each needs to hear from you.

 

Here’s what this chart might look like in practice:

3. See the big picture

While you’ll want to spend plenty of time getting into the nitty-gritty of your plans, you’ll also want to ensure you communicate the big picture back up to your executives.

To enable effective resourcing and sufficient engagement opportunities, build a timeline that breaks down all relevant initiatives, key events, and launch dates.

When you’re done, you should have all your content here, as well as key event dates and other useful contextualization.

 

What’s next?

If you’d like editable versions of these templates, grab your copy of our Strategic Planning Templates. And if you’d like to see how you can do this in software rather than by hand, register for our upcoming webinar, 2020 Planning in Canvas

Zoë Randolph

About Zoë Randolph

Zoë serves as Content Architect at Kapost, where she oversees messaging, hosts webinars, and authors long- and short-form content. When she's not contemplating the future of B2B marketing, you'll find her immersed in a book, talking politics, or agonizing over the mediocrity of Cal Bears athletics.