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What Do Marketers Need in Their Christmas Stocking? A Strategy and Budget for 2019

Here we are in December, and there’s no avoiding the C word any longer. It’s Christmas time for one and all, ho, ho, ho. Many marketers, of course, will no doubt be sick of it already, having been riding the annual trend since October at the latest. Black Friday’s been and gone. Cyber Monday – a distant memory. Now it’s time to take an introspective look and make sure their own Christmas stockings are brimming with everything they need for the year ahead.

Let’s not forget, for marketers, Q4 is just as much planning season as it is the season for bombarding buyers (both B2C and B2B) with tinsel-tinged campaigns vying for their Christmas cash. Or at least it should be. For here we are right at the end of the fourth quarter, and if marketers have thus far been too distracted by the silly season’s frolics to get a solid strategy lined up for 2019 already, then they best hope Santa’s elves will be willing to work overtime over the next couple of weeks, as the New Year is looming large.

Annual Marketing Plan

Marketers are only as strong as their annual marketing plan – and a marketing plan is only as strong as the work they put into it.

Here’s the long and the short of it. If you don’t have an annual marketing plan sewn up by now, you need one by January.

The annual marketing plan is the all-important, overarching benchmark for your marketing goals over the coming 12 months. It details exactly where you are now, and where you want to be in a year’s time. Smart marketers create an annual plan as a roadmap that identifies priorities, short- and long-term expectations, which initiatives they’re going to keep over the coming year, and which ones they’re going to toss on the garbage heap. It also documents Plan B and Plan C, should Plan A turn out to be a turkey.

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The annual marketing plan is so crucial, yet too many marketers don’t have one.

In fact, according to Smart Insights, only one half of marketers have a clearly defined (i.e. documented) marketing strategy that they stick to. What’s more, only 37% have a documented content marketing strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

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The fact is, without an effective plan, it’s going to be nigh-on impossible to run a tight ship and ensure your organization reaches its full potential in 2019. As the old adage goes, if you fail plan, you plan to fail – and if marketers want to fend off any annual budget cuts for their department, failure is not an option.

Need a quick guide to help you get a plan together before January? It must be Christmas, because you’re in luck.

Smart Insights also produces an infographic marketers can use to benchmark their plan. Take a look – follow the rows and columns, work out where you are, where you need to be, and document your 2019 strategy accordingly. At the very least, it will help you get started before 2018 is out.

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Ok, jingle bells, you’ve got your plan. But marketers can’t go dashing through the snow until they’ve got some money to feed the horses.

There will likely be some new tools to add your Christmas wish list now you’re in the process of forming a strategy for 2019. But you’re not going to get any of them unless you secure the budget – and if you’ve got no budget by this point, then you need to go and speak to the CFO right now.

Want to start taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) personalization solutions? Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR)? Visual and/or voice search? What about analytics? Probably – these are all high priorities for marketers at the moment, particularly analytics. In fact, according to The Nielsen CMO Report 2018, 79% of CMOs expect to increase their investment in analytics and attribution by 44% (on average) in the next twelve months. But, no matter what your plans are for increased investment, you’ll need to present a solid business case and get full backing from the CFO (not to mention the CIO and CTO) if you want to secure the budget – and time is running out.

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And what about your existing channels? Social media, search, online video, email, online display, mobile display, content marketing? Want to invest more in any or all of these in 2019? Go and speak to the CFO now.

The good news is that 82% of CMOs expect their digital media budgets to increase over the coming 12 months, according to the Nielson report. Even so, marketers still need to secure their slice of the pie – so you best get yourself organized sharpish.

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Final Thoughts

When’s the best time for marketers to start planning for 2019? Long before they’ve opened the first door of their advent calendar, that’s for certain.

However, if you’ve been asleep at the wheel for the past couple of months, it’s time to wake up and start turning things around. Now is the time that marketers need to benchmark, to evaluate their successes and failures of 2018, define their goals for the coming year, identify important dates and milestones, and start researching new technologies that will deliver a competitive edge in 2019. They also need to reach out to sales and figure out an alignment strategy for the next twelve months, and of course – most importantly of all – get in a meeting with the CFO and secure a budget that will deliver on every front.

It may seem late in the game (because it is!!) – but better late than never. Put simply, it’s not Christmas time but crunch time for marketers. Get your plans and budgets signed off and finalized over the coming couple of weeks, and start 2019 strong and confident. There’s no time left to lose.

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