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Strategy Simplified

Author's avatar By Tim Watson 01 Jul, 2020
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From annual to 90-day planning that rocks

Has this happened to you?

You spend a ton of effort creating your marketing plan, you feel great about it. You’re going to move forwards with clarity on those important initiatives.

Tasks are planned week by week and resources allocated...

The ink has barely dried before the first curve ball arrives. You’re back to the plan, juggling and adjusting, trying to hold it together.

That’s frustrating enough, but it’s not long before the next curve ball. Redraw plans again. Soon you wonder why you spent the time trying to plan in first place.

The sand shifts so fast planning seems pointless.

You are not alone. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

The net result is:

  • People outside the team are frustrated because those bold initiatives with planned dates rarely happen as planned
  • People inside the team are frustrated. Continual chop and change kills productivity and is frankly demoralizing
  • You end up with everything becoming the reason for everything else not happening

Nobody wins. It’s depressing.

The good news is there is a way to deliver strategy and get real improvements.

Your One Year Plan

It starts with clarity on your one-year plan.

The one-year plan is simply the list of 3 to 7 marketing goals for the year. These are the most important things that marketing can do to make the biggest impact to the business’s objectives.

The RACE framework is extremely helpful to systematically work through the opportunities to improve your multichannel marketing communications. Reviewing and uncovering the best options.

I suggest 3 to 7 marketing goals for the year, not more. You need to believe this - less is more. More focus on fewer priorities takes you further, faster. Counterintuitive perhaps, but true.

Steve Jobs famously said:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas”.

You’ve got to say no to the other dozen things on the marketing wish list and pick just 3 to 7. If you’ve finished all of them after 9 months you can always add a few more at that point!

With the 3 to 7 goals identified make them SMART. Here is an example of the type of marketing objectives you should have:

  • Implement CRO with at least 15% conversion rate increase
  • Update campaign creation process to remove 25% of the time
  • Trial use of Google Shopping Feed and report ROI
  • Five new quality content hubs published
  • CRM integrated with data warehouse
  • Analytics dashboard updated
  • Evaluate AI technology and provide recommendations

That plus a few measurables is all you need for a one-year plan. With clarity on the one-year plan move to 90-day Rocks.

Rocks are the big things, the most important priorities over the next 90 days. Whilst he didn’t invent the term, Steven Covey uses the term Rocks in his bestselling books 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First. They are also used in the EOS Traction system.

90-Day Rocks

Set Rocks for the first quarter when you create the one-year plan. Then repeat rock setting at the start of each quarter.

To set rocks just answer this. What do you need to get done in the next 90 days to feel you’re on target to reach your one-year goals?

Each person in marketing should be accountable for 2 to 5 Rocks each quarter. Many rocks will, quite rightly, directly relate to the one-year goals. A few may fall outside of the those, allowing handling of the incidentals that arise during the year.

As with the one-year goals ensure you write the Rocks as SMART. The whole team must be agreed and clear on what done looks like. You might end up with a rock list like this:

  • Complete customer insight to determine the main obstacles stopping conversion - John
  • Select external support with Shopping Feed expertise and define trial - Sue
  • Create two content hubs - Sue
  • Welcome automation journey templates updated – Julia

Notice every Rock must have a single name against it, the person who is delivering it. That person may not be directly doing all the work but organizing, managing, pulling in resource, giving direction. They are the person who will take the glory for completing it - and the shame for not.

A good set of rocks means:

  • Every team member has clear focus of the most important activity for 90 days.
  • Everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Inside and outside of the team.
  • Accountability is clear.

You might be surprised at the planning simplicity. The reality is simple is best. Simple gets results.

No complex ever-changing Gantt charts or other centralized multi-level task planning tools.

To get their work done a Rock owner may decide to create a job board, Excel sheet, Gantt tasks or another way of managing the work. But that is incidental.

In the weekly marketing team meeting check all rocks are on track. Each team member confirming every week that they are on track or off track. When off track it’s a chance to work out how to get back on track.

Why 90-days

90-days is an excellent choice of time between reviews and setting rocks.

It’s long enough to achieve significant work, whilst not being so long that people start drift away from the one-year plan. Many businesses use quarterly plans for this reason. The Smart Insights 90-day planning template acts as a bridge between the annual plan and the tactical execution. It also encourages regular reviews of performance against target, corrective action and agility.

Remember the point about focus and Steve Jobs. Focus is about saying no. Resist all new initiatives and shiny things until the end of the quarter. Never add new Rocks during the quarter.

To be blunt, if someone comes up with a significant new priority during the quarter, a bad job was made of rock setting. A good team can predict 90-days. It may take practice.

Get Traction

The process works. It’s based on methods from a book called Traction. Traction covers more than strategic planning. It’s a complete set of tools and methods to run an entrepreneurial business. Ultimately with the whole business running on a quarterly cycle with rocks for leadership and every team in the business.

If you’re part of an entrepreneurial business I recommend Traction, as an approach I have applied in many businesses combining practical and tested tools that solve many of the common business issues. Get Chapter 1 of Traction from this free download.


Author's avatar

By Tim Watson

Tim is founder of email marketing consultancy Zettasphere and EOS Implementer at Traction Six. Experience includes Operations Director at Email Reaction and Marketing Director (fractional) in the US delivering a 310% revenue increase to $5m. Tim has 15 years of email marketing expertise with a heavily analytical approach to strategic choices. Connect with Tim via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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