There used to be a very methodical way to plan out a year at an agency. Towards the end of third quarter you would start presenting plans for the new calendar year. Clients would know their entire budget for the next year and give agencies the opportunity to plan a full year’s worth of media at once. This allowed for great negotiating power but stagnant buys. Good agencies would shift the plan based on opportunity throughout the year, bad agencies would sit back and just let it run.
Obviously times change. We don’t have a single client that operates in the “old-fashioned” way anymore. With the constant monitoring of campaigns – whether traditional, digital, or social, we are consistently changing buys, shifting dollars and looking at the next opportunity to hit a client objective.
This is a great shift for marketers as most no longer know a full years budget that far ahead of time and some don’t operate on a calendar year at all. Just because you operate on a state or federal fiscal year that does not mean you can’t benefit from great account planning and the negotiating power of media buyers.
So whether your “year” starts in January, June or September, follow these steps to planning success.
Divide your budget:
Sometimes we don’t receive final budget numbers until the start of the fiscal year. That’s okay. July isn’t the worst time to be off-air for traditional media due to lower ratings and digital/social are easier to pick back up.
Once we get budget numbers the first thing we do is plan for media spend, creative time necessary and account/planning time to run the campaign.
Do your research:
At VI, we don’t do anything because we think it’s the best or most creative idea. We spend time putting together primary and secondary research to back our recommendations. Whether it is focus groups with our target audiences or campaign audit information, we spend time understanding everything we think we should be doing.
Set objectives for your campaign:
How do you know if you are doing anything well if you don’t have your objectives set? Based on research, client desires, etc., you should plan out measurable objectives that can be tracked during and after the campaign to determine success. Measureable is the key word here.
Communicate needs with internal departments:
After the first three steps are discussed, strategists begin meeting with internal departments to review research, concept ideas and develop plans. These meetings are the glue for marketing plans, as everyone needs to be on the same page to create plans, strategies and tactics to reach the set objectives. Of course these discussions may alter the division of the budget, and that’s okay.
Involve the client:
The client should be involved in every step of the process. Buy-in from the client at each step allows you to partner together in their marketing success.
Monitor your activity:
You set objectives so make sure you set conversions and event goals that track what you need to help you monitor the objectives. If you can’t measure it, you don’t know if it is working or not. Do not forget to include budget for evaluation if that is the necessary form for measuring success.
It no longer matters what time of year you start this process. You could go through the planning process many times over for many different campaigns. The key to fiscal year planning is to take your time and follow these steps and not rushing, thinking you might be behind.