It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
…for annual planning!
Well, it’s Q4, and everyone is scrambling to create their plan for January 1st.
New Year, New You. What’s the deal with that?
I equate annual planning to creating resolutions.
If you wait until January to start going to the gym, you’re missing out on eleven other months of opportunity to make a positive change.
It’s a great starting point, but it shouldn’t be the only time you stop and evaluate.
And if that’s how you operate, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, you. In the back. No, not you. You.
Planning is important, but end-of-year planning is super important.
However, we tend to put so much pressure on this magical end-of-year planning that it feels overwhelming and time-consuming.
Many executives are seeing the metrics for the first time, and will probably have questions about performance.
So you want to be ahead of the game, anticipate questions, and have solutions.
What if there was a better way to approach it?
Oh wait, there is! Enter: Data-driven marketing.
Data-driven Marketing: Understand Your Goals and Goals of the Business
What questions are you asked most frequently? What are you reporting on?
Your team might be in charge of acquiring net new leads or held to a conversion rate—but what is the overall business goal?
For silly reasons, some companies aren’t super forthcoming with this information. Many companies don’t set goals—anything that seems silly.
If you don’t know what the overall business goals are the safe assumption is to increase revenue.
Get Your House in Order and Track Your Efforts
Are you collecting data to measure your goals? When you put something out, like a campaign, do you know the outcome?
Do you have Google Analytics and Tag Manager set up so you can measure conversions? Do you have access to your CRM to know how many net new leads you acquire?
At a minimum, you should have Google Analytics and Tag Manager. These tools are a marketer’s (data-driven marketer or otherwise!) best friends.
Setting up Google Analytics is pretty straightforward, and if you have a website, you should have a tracking tool in place.
There are other tools in the market, but Google Analytics is the gold standard. The free version offers enough functionality for most companies.
Tag Manager is also important to set up.
Google offers a lot of really great resources to help you along.
And there are other companies, like Trust Insights that can help you get up and running.
Advanced ProTip: Google has a free UTM builder tool you can use to tag your digital campaigns.
A UTM tag is a set of parameters or keywords you add onto a URL. It lets you know what people are clicking on and interacting with. You can use campaign parameters for both paid and organic efforts.
For example, let’s say you’re posting your latest blog to social media. You might have UTM parameters such as Source = Facebook, Medium = Organic, Campaign = NovCEOBlog. The URL you post would look something like this:
The UTM builder tool allows you to shorten a campaign URL. Or you can use a service like bitly.
Data-Driven Marketing: Measure, Measure, Measure
This is the most important step.
If you regularly measure your efforts, then end of year planning won’t feel so daunting.
The best practice is to get into a consistent routine ahead of any annual planning sessions.
The reason many people don’t look at their metrics regularly is that it can feel overwhelming. And then, it’s just a data dump.
The best way to stay on top of what’s happening is to break out your analytics by what you should look at daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually.
If you only have Google Analytics at your disposal and nothing else, this still applies.
Here’s the rundown:
- Daily metrics are those that matter most, and you have control over. An example is your goals. What assets are people taking action on? What’s converting? Do you need to adjust your tactics?
- Weekly metrics would be website traffic or users. Are you on par with where you should be?
- Monthly metrics would be page views – at the individual page level. What are people looking at? What’s trending this month?
- Quarterly metrics would be behavioral data, such as entry and exit pages. How are people getting to your site? What are they doing once they get there? What pages do they look at last?
- Annual metrics would be things such as new and returning users. Are you attracting new users? Are people coming back multiple times?
Data-driven Marketing: Set Up a Dashboard and Save Your Sanity
Want to know a secret?
Keeping track of your data (marketing data or otherwise) doesn’t have to be hard.
This is something you can easily set up in a Google Data Studio dashboard. And Google Data Studio can connect directly to your Google Analytics account.
Why would you do this?
Because it saves you from having to pull the data every day. And it’ll help prevent carpal tunnel from all that copying and pasting.
All you have to do is log into your dashboard and refresh it. The data will be up to date already.
Furthermore, Google Data Studio connects to a lot of other tracking systems when you’re ready to advance.
When setting up a dashboard, I recommend following a “Why, What, How” structure.
This means you start with “why” – why are you doing the thing? Why do you care about the outcome? In other words, start with the goal.
Next is the “what” – what did you do?
Finally, the “how” – how did it perform, and what was the outcome?
This is the clearest way to tell the story and help people quickly understand what you’re trying to convey.
Data-driven Marketing: Stop the Madness
The benefits of reviewing your marketing data on a regular basis are vast. You will always know what’s happening.
And if the C-suite asks, you have answers immediately.
If you see something going wrong, you can fix it. You will slash waste of money and resources.
Creating those annual reports is a breeze since you already have all of the data, you just need to roll it up.
There are zero surprises, and there should be little concern from your executives.
Shall I go on?
Now, imagine this scenario. You’re sitting in your annual planning meeting with the key decision makers.
Before the CEO can even say “will there be bagels?” you can show where you saw campaign underperformance, where you did a course correct, and how the metrics improved—moving you closer to your goals.
Just think about how painful is it to sit through a meeting where people are trying to make sense of what they are seeing.
You have the ability to tell the story. Take control of the conversation; data is powerful. And so is data-driven marketing.
Now, you’ll spend time creating new strategies rather than trying to figure out what happened eight months ago.
What if you hadn’t looked at any of this data until now?
Yikes. I don’t even want to think about it.
Data-driven Marketing: Annual Planning Made Easy
So, let’s bring it all home.
Understand your goal, get your house in order, look at your metrics regularly, and set up automated dashboards to take the burden off yourself.
If you have ways to look at your marketing data throughout the whole year, annual planning won’t be such a big deal.
Instead of spending all of your time on “what happened?”—you can refocus and look ahead to “what’s next?”