Fresh Approaches for Your 2023 Marketing Plan
If you have a calendar year-end, you’re probably already deep into planning and budgeting for next year. You’ve read multiple “how to adapt to a post-pandemic world” articles. The kids have returned to school, and hopefully, you took an actual vacation this summer. Socio-economic-geo-political news continues to pelt your brain, and you might really miss that favorite little coffee shop that went out of business last year. This is the backdrop for creating an amazing, high-impact, cost-effective, hopefully career-elevating plan. Where should we focus?
I’m going to assume that you have some amazing marketing plan templates you like to use. You know your budget numbers, and you track marketing metrics as a regular practice. I’m not going to offer ideas in this article to build a better tactical plan, per se, instead I’ll focus on every firm’s most valuable assets: our people and our knowledge (data).
Mentoring the Next Generation of Growth Leaders
I’m also assuming that your department plays a part in learning and development at your firm. If you teach classes or mentor/coach client-facing professionals, it’s worth performing a rigorous assessment of your content, curriculum, and learning objectives.
Keeping in mind that older millennials are in their forties, most entry-level hires are from Generation Z and Boomers and Gen Xers still hold top decision-making positions, here are some ideas to think about:
- Master Classes for Veteran Leaders. I think current, established leaders still need some support in wrapping their minds around the profound changes to business and working culture. What about a series of master classes to support them? Instruction and discussion around changes in client expectations, how to build trust in a digital/hybrid world, and what specific elements of client experience are most important could be game-changer topics. Yes, everyone has done their own reading, but coming together in a structured way to talk about bigger-picture thinking could be powerful. Some things to consider:
- The format could be casual, like consuming some content (article, TED talk, podcast) and then having an open discussion. The group could be small because realistically this type of thing simply doesn’t appeal to everyone.
- Janet Balis’ article in the Harvard Business Review, “10 Truths About Marketing After the Pandemic,” talks about old truths and new truths. For example, an old truth is that “relationships matter.” The new truth is that “relationships are everything.”
- Simon Sinek, who has popularized “What’s your WHY,” has a great series of courses available for a very reasonable cost.
- LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, and many other learning platforms have excellent, rich content for very reasonable prices.
- (Client Journey Mapping and) Design Thinking Workshops for Everyone. I did a recent marketing team offsite, taking them on a crash course on design thinking. (Remember that trend?) It was refreshing, and only after our workshop was it obvious how we could employ this perspective in our daily work. The (very free) resources I used were:
- An explainer video that defined (drily) what design thinking was,
- An awesomely old video from ABC Nightline from 2009 where an IDEO team reimagined a shopping cart (which brought the practice of design thinking to life), and
- An exercise where we shared ideas of potential products or companies that would be cool, chose one idea to work on and built it out in less than an hour.
We ended up with the most amazing business idea that had nothing to do with marketing or accounting/professional services. It was fun, refreshing and inspiring – and I think it was that very departure from daily life that helped us learn better. The point was to get outside our own heads and look at things differently, which is essential for client journey and client experience discussions.
Design thinking (and demonstrating the absolute importance of understanding client journeys and experience) can be taught to everyone, no matter how junior or experienced. It can be done simply, cheaply, and funly. Client-centric, human-centric approaches are hard to keep in focus; we lose sight of those things daily. And we must repeatedly remember to practice that discipline. Why not include everyone in this? Because even though formal ownership of client experience is probably best seated with a specialized role (marketing or a committee), I would argue that it’s everyone’s responsibility to engage in thinking about client experience and the client journey.
- Teach Story, Teach Trust. Some time ago, we saw a shift toward a relational approach to sales. We started to hear pieces of neuroscience entering our personal and work worlds, including conversations about the “psychology of trust.” This approach teaches that fundamentally, trust is a feeling. And there are better (and worse) ways of connecting with and fostering trust with prospective and existing clients. There is a lot of talk about your WHY and your story and personal brand, etc. If you’ve never heard of this stuff before, I’m trying my best not to provide too many spoilers, but digging into this area of neuroscience and relationship-building is another fascinating area to think about when developing your BD skills competency programs.For example, do your new managers really know that the objective in a sales meeting is not to be perfectly, technically correct? Do they know it’s not just about impeccable first impressions? Do they know that it’s really about connecting with people?
Data and Your Plan
Forgive me if this is already obvious to you, but I think it’s important to evaluate trends and data every year, no matter what. We talk a lot about ROI, conversion, and metrics. Every year I look at my well-designed standard reports, and I also try to find new ways to look at the same data. I sometimes feel like I’m just playing with numbers, rows and columns. But it’s purposeful play, if you will. I always find at least one thing that gets me thinking down a different path. As you slice and dice, I offer up the following for consideration:
- Outsource as much as you can to vendors or other team members to gather data into one place.
- Dedicate a set period of time for your own personal “offsite” where you can enter a flow state and follow the white rabbit of data inquiry without interruption; let your curiosity run at its own pace.
- Slice and dice in different ways, such as:
- Sales, net revenue, or other numbers by practice area, industry, geography, time period
- Cost of acquisition for different types of engagement
- Impressions, clicks and conversions for all your channels (website forms, emails, advertising, social media)
- Evaluate how your budget spend has shifted over the past few years
- Give yourself permission to approach data in a non-scalable, analog manner. This might mean interviewing people one-on-one, reading through individual comments in surveys or reviewing old emails. Not all data is numeric and chartable.
- Ask your vendors if there are any reports or analysis that other clients ask for that you’re not getting.
And when you present your findings to management (which I strongly encourage you to do more frequently than only at budgeting time), if you aren’t already doing so, emphasize the connection between the activity you oversee and the impact to the business. Not just sales – get beyond sales. But how is what you’re doing making the firm more “future compatible.” This makes behind-the-scenes projects and data grunt work more valuable and relevant. Some examples include:
- Why do we need to spend so much money on data integration and cleanup? Because it will enable us to continue to advance in our digital client experience in A, B and C ways.
- Cleaner data or stronger integration between such-and-such systems will save every staff member at least five minutes filling out these useless fields.
- If the partnership is considering being acquired, strong data strategy and practices – including marketing data – will be ever more valuable.
Happy 2023 planning! And if you have great ideas, please do share with AAM on the Open Forum.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not constitute advice or necessarily reflect the opinions of Seiler LLP or its affiliates.
 Yes, yes. I know “funly” isn’t a real word, but it’s in the Urban Dictionary!
 I think the phrase “future proof” is great, but it’s also pretty misleading, don’t you?
About Leah Yoneda
I am the director of marketing at Seiler, LLP, a leading advisory, tax, and accounting provider based in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. I have 20 years of experience with professional and financial services firms. My strengths include: building teams; marketing strategy and planning; B2B branding; client experience strategy; marketing technology, operations, and policy; CRM, marketing automation, email marketing; business development skills coaching; brand, positioning and messaging; social media for professional services; events management; and public relations.
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