Marketing planning made simple

By: Richard Michie

Marketing planning is crucial to the success of any campaign, its the crucial element that will help you put together and measure the success, or otherwise, of your marketing strategy. In this marketing planning webinar we talked to Martin Johnson of Your Big Pic through an approach to a simple event. The process used can be simply duplicated for every element of your businesses marketing plan across any timescale.

Here’s the video of the call and a full transcript. The marketing planning file we used can be downloaded here – Marketing Planning Spreadsheet.

Marketing Planning Webinar

Richard: Hi, Martin, you all right?

Martin: I’m really good. Thanks. It’s good to be here.

Richard: So today, we’re going to talk about marketing planning. So planning can sometimes be seen as a really boring part. Because it’s putting bits in place, but without a structured plan, you can’t tell whether whatever marketing campaign you’ve come up with, is going to come off.

Without the plan, you can’t spot where weaknesses were when things went right, when things went wrong. And you can’t measure it afterwards either, because you don’t really know what you did. You just got up that morning with a blank bit of paper and did something random. If you end up doing a lot random acts, they don’t really all come together and it’s really difficult to repeat that and get some positive learning from that.

So today, I’m going to go through marketing planning and we’re going to use a hypothetical event, which is actually quite pertinent to you, Martin. It’s just a broad outline of an event and what you should do, what potential routes can be gone down at each stage, to ensure that it comes off and to ensure that you get correct planning.

So if you’ve got any questions at any point, Martin, just ask and we can take it from there.

Martin: Cool.

Getting all your marketing assets together

Richard: So what I’m going to do is I’m just going to share screen and I’m going to nip to a pre-prepared Excel sheet that we have for this event. Martin, can you see the spreadsheet?

This is just a very straightforward one and we’ve not put any dates in there. We’ve just kept it to weeks. So the top line, just numbers, weeks up until the event, whatever that is going to be, which is in red, the event is going to be in week eight.

I’ve split the sheet down to different sections, so assets, things for pre-event and things for post-event. Now this event could be anything and the time-frame will grow or change, depending on what the event is and what needs to go into it. Obviously, if you’re just doing something like a webinar, like today, that needs slightly less preparation than a huge exhibition you might be doing.

The example that I’m using here could potentially be something like a real world event. So, a workshop, a master class or some get-together that’s useful for your business or organisation. So we put that in at week eight and the reason for putting it at least two months out is the fact that, as you can see, there’s quite a lot of things to prepare, in terms of assets and pre-event before we do that.

And also in an event situation, you’re relying on other people making time in their diaries, so they’re going to need an amount of time to ensure that they can fit in, to come to your event. Just because we’re doing an event on this one, this could also be a product launch, it could be something new that’s happening in the business. It could be a whole range of things. But I’m going to use an event as a typical example because it’s quite easy to get your head around what’s going to happen.

So looking at the assets that need creating for an event, obviously there is copy. I’ll actually change that, update that to copy/idea because if you don’t have an idea, then the rest of it is all going to fall flat. Key to the idea is knowing who you want to come to this event. So who is your ideal customer? Who’s your ideal partner? Who are you trying to attract?

So there’s a whole planning element around that in seeing, okay, so let’s identify who these people are. Let’s identify their pain points and how does whatever we’re going to do, so our event in this case, help them solve their pain points? And in an ideal world, if this is an event, get them to come to your event. And then the ideal thing would be to get them to hire you for your services after the event.

It’s really key to come up with a really good idea, and also identify who the market is, because you come up with an idea but if it’s not stratified around a set of people and what problems you can solve for them, then it’s going to fall flat on its face.

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Martin: So in terms of those sections, is there a bit of a pattern then to the ordering and sequencing and how many slots you would allocate to each of them?

Richard: Potentially, yeah, the copy/idea is the key thing because by getting a good idea and a copy is the best way to articulate what it is you want to achieve. And from coming up with a copy and the idea, then the rest of these elements can start to fall out. So from coming up with a good idea that’s going to give you lift-off for photographs and graphics and videos and for the hashtags as well.

All these elements start to fuel the rest of the experience. Without coming up with a strong copy/idea, which we’re also going to call that a brief, a bit more structured. So, the brief will have all the other elements in it, for this event it’s going to have the date and time, the venue, what’s to be achieved and maybe other things that are needed throughout it as well.

Again, this is an atypical example. So these might evolve, right? We need to get some audio visual equipment. We might need to ensure we’re catering, we might need to ensure we’ve got a videographer, we might need to ensure we’ve got guest speakers.

So this is quite a vanilla list but obviously, feel free to expand it as you need to and also change the scale. So this is weeks, of course we’ve got eight weeks, each week is seven days of it. And so it can get longer depending on how nitty gritty you want it to be.

Martin: And may I ask, if I were to be a client in this scenario, if I was looking at this list, where as a client could I add the most value and where would I be best initially looking to be able to add into this marketing plan around an event?

Richard: I think at the initial phase, we’re looking at the copy idea and brief, because obviously as a client that’s what we want. We want to be able to deliver value for what you require and obviously working in tandem, it’s the ideation stage that really starts to add a lot of value.

So in the initial phase, the asset element of it is really coming up with a brief from your point of view, and then we can step into the other elements. That’s then our job to interpret your brief and go, Martin, for your brief, we think we’re going to require these elements of photography, these elements of graphics, videos. By looking at your client list, we can work out who we should speak to and how we should speak to them at what times and in what way. Okay?

So as you can see, we’ve got eight weeks to our event, our event is looming. So obviously in week one at least, at least two weeks, you really want to be cracking on with the brief and the idea and have that nailed. That has to be done early doors because you want to make sure that that’s as good as you can get it, because all the other elements are going to hang off that brief. So it’s really, really key to do that.

And as you can see, there’s already not many weeks to our actual event. So we’ve got one, two, three, four, five weeks to our event. Even if we take two weeks to do the ideation/brief. So it might be ideal to maybe even extend this further, but this is, the beauty of planning comes in. The beauty of planning, which sounds like a really scary thing to say because planning and beauty don’t always go together.

Martin: They do in my world.

Richard: They do, Martin. The beauty of planning is that in an ideal world, you wouldn’t just give yourself eight weeks to do an event. You wouldn’t just go we need to do an event in eight weeks time. You would have these planned maybe six, nine, maybe even 12 months upfront, so you’ve got your year plan. So that you’re never really caught, we need to do an event in eight weeks time, because that is still quite a short time period to get everything in place.

So if you can have your yearly plan where you know when these events are going to come, you can then work backwards and that gives you more time. And you need to be careful. This is also something to be aware of is that giving yourself a load of time can backfire too. Because if you give yourself too much time, you can lose that sense of urgency and things don’t always get pushed through, because they can left…

I don’t know, for me, too much planning loses a little bit a magic. There’s always a little bit of magic involved in any event and planning and too much and too long a time period tends to slow it all down and kill it a little bit for me. But if you can just say, right, I’m going to do say four events a year and then they’re going to be here, here, here, and here, then you know you can get the structure in place. Because as you know, Martin, putting a structure in place can take a lot of effort and a lot of time.

Just to keep running down the assets elements, so once you’ve got the copy idea/brief, that’s when you need to fill in all these other elements really. Because those will all tip out and some of these may start to tip into a few weeks further forward, because obviously you’re getting photographers and things, it might take a little bit more time. Some of the early elements, I think you can get these pushed forward quite quickly.

Once you’ve nailed the idea and brief, it’s really easy to set up an Eventbrite. So, in this case, we’re talking about an event. So setting up Eventbrite is` quite simple. You’ve got a copy document, you’ve worked out what you’re going to charge, when it is, where the event is and who it’s for. It’s quite a simple process to get an Eventbrite page. You can use a stock image to get that up and running and you can start to get that pushed out, while the rest of the campaign builds itself in this case.

So far so good, Martin?

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Martin: What I’m thinking as you’re working through it is, as somebody who would be interested in gauging people’s own interest in the event, overlaying at the top, what we might be expecting to see happening in terms of some feedback. Otherwise, you are doing this in a bit of a vacuum.

So for my own personal experience, with three to four weeks to go, there may be some indications as to what that event might actually manifest itself as. I’m going through that personally at the moment, which is what would I expect, when are the typical times people sign up for these things? What am I doing today, next week, in what is for me, week four or five, I think. To use my time most productively.

It’s almost putting a goal on each week of what’s best to the individual and that’s where I’m thinking it doesn’t need to be part of the plan, because I can see why you would put the plan together to do the bottom, up operational activity. What I’m connecting it to is, what would I expect to be happening in response feedback, that you’re doing.

And obviously the entrepreneur in me wants to do things and hopefully other people will respond in the way that I want. But that’s not always the case.

Pre-Event Planning

Richard: This first element is more to almost get all your kit together. To get the idea, the operational elements, as you said, Eventbrite, photography, graphics, start to get things all pulled together. So this is, if you don’t have the nuts and bolts, you can’t start to do the promotion properly, which is where the next element comes in.

We’ve got the pre-event, which is in the next one down. Some of these things start to work as asynchronous. That’s not the right term, but they come at the same time. So you can already start on some of these elements once you’ve been starting to think about the copy/brief idea. Once you’ve got an inkling of an idea or enough of a rounded idea that you’re happy to start putting feelers out to speak to people, even though it might not be fully concrete.

And this is where you can start to put in the elements like the email, and the outbound social. Blogs are probably going to come a little bit later, because you’re going to have to have it a little bit more formulated. And obviously, with your blog you can start to embed things like the Eventbrite code in there. So in this case, so you can sell the tickets.

Again, the social media outreach can start at the early stages, even while all this is still coming together. PR, it’s a little bit longer. Because that does need to be solid and you will need your graphics, videos, photography, whatever, to support your digital PR as well. Any paid ads, of course you’ll need to have things a little bit formatted before you want to start spending cash on your series of paid ads.

A lot of this other stuff can start at the ideation stages, because you’re maybe putting feelers out. So for example, Martin, if you’re doing an event, you might start to speak to some of your inner circle about, I’m doing an event, what do you think about this initial idea? Is it a go? Would you be interested? How much would you pay for that?

By doing that, you’re already starting to sow that seed of, Martin is going to be doing an event. So you start to own that doing the event, even before you’ve necessarily got the solid nuts and bolts in there. And that’s where, on this, where we’re saying outbound social, the outbound social can be different elements.

So they can be dark social and over the top social as well. So, by over the top social I mean straightforward tweets and Instagram posts and LinkedIn and Facebook and all those overt social elements. But by the dark social, I mean direct messaging, so speaking to your inner circle via direct messaging on LinkedIn or Twitter or Instagram or wherever your inner circle hang out.

You can start to put feelers out about things, you might want guest speakers, you might be looking for a venue and all these things start to highlight the fact that you’re looking to do some form of… you can talk to people about and say, okay, so I’m doing this event. Is this something you’re interested in? Could you help me out with something? Do you know anyone in your own circle who could help me out with that?

The outbound social doesn’t just cover off what people see as standard social, which is a broadcast message, if you like. It’s that one to one, peer to peer messaging as well. And that can actually be stronger, especially when it’s the early days of an event where you almost need to, person by person, go and pick the people you want to attract.

And that does come back to, is all fed from this initial copy/idea/brief element where you’ve worked out who this is aimed at. And from that you can then go and find these people. So there is that broadcast element and there’s the underground element of speaking to people on a one to one basis, using direct messaging or meeting down the pub or meeting in a workspace or whatever.

Martin: Yeah, just on that point, Richard. The little doodle I’ve made in my book is that when I used to go to conferences and exhibitions, I used to meet people face to face and have that chat. And what I found was, although there was a big commitment of time and money, actually, then moving them from that chat to a paid for event was relatively more easy. That’s the right use of grammar. Than connecting with them on social, which is sometimes a lighter connection.

Therefore, what I’m finding is it allows me to get more coverage and more lighter connections, but unpicking that light connection to a paid for event is a more difficult hop. Because they didn’t ever meet potentially, they’ve not physically talked to you about it.

I think the answer to that is to not underestimate the difference between a light connection on social that a lot of these activities would create. And their willingness to commit to an event, if indeed it is paid for. That’s what I’m learning. I would want this plan to, in any way, recognise that difficulty in that level of commitment that is required to physically turn up in a place and part with money.

Richard: Yeah, absolutely. When you think about it, especially if it is a paid event, it’s a commitment. It’s not just, I might just turn up and have a chat. I’ve got to get my credit card out, or I’ve got to get my cash out or whatever I’ve got to do. It is a commitment.

The good thing, reflecting back now on this sheet that I’ve created, where I’ve put outbound social, that can also mean face to face social. There’s no reason why this is not, just because we’re a digital agency, this is what we do, doesn’t mean that all these elements are just all digital. The outbound social is, like you said, being in a place, going out and networking and talking to people about the event as well. Because you are building up that connection.

The stronger connection you can build up, the more likely they are to trust you and come through all these elements. You’re absolutely right. The element of face to face connection is really, really key. And the more people can do that, the better. And I know not everyone’s necessarily suited to that, but I think that people buy from people and if they know you, and they’re more connected, then it could work a lot better.

The elements in the pre-event, I only put one email in here, but equally you could add that in, make more emails for this particular event. And when I say emails in here, I don’t necessarily again mean that they’re all mass emails, using MailChimp or Campaign Monitor or whatever. These could be personal emails. So one to one emails, again.

So it’s that mix of broadcast where you need volume and that direct touch. It needs a lot of commitment, but that’s the reason for the planning is that you need all that commitment. Again, with a blog element of that, it may be that one blog is not enough for it. And again, when I say blog, we’re also looking at blog/page on a website as well.

It can be either, but there’s definitely a commitment for what’s required and even upfront here, we’ve put videos, these could be several videos. So it could be that you’re needing to talk about things as they are going through. So you might do more off the cuff videos or more prepared videos as well. So it’s that mix of elements that you’re going to need.

You can see already, we’ve got lots of squares in there, there’s lots of moving parts all over. I’m just going to fill in the social media because that is going to be a continuous thing. You need to be really hitting that all the time.

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Martin: I think whilst you’re doing that, what strikes me, and it’s very topical for me at the moment, which is there’ll be value in the content that’s been used for this. And as we know, to leave for the best out of whatever you’ve got in any respect, there are other benefits.

So for instance, if I were to be putting on an e-learning platform alongside or if anyone else was, then the content that you would cover at the physical event could not be too far from content that you would use to stand up an e-learning. And irrespective of the attendance and success of that event physically, by trying to extract out other value, that might be a useful way of looking at it to just make sense of all of those.

You’ve got however many cells coloured in there, let’s say 20 and one event box, so you’re putting in a lot of effort, which will have value in itself for not just that one red box. Even if it’s just clarity of thinking.

Richard: No, absolutely. And the other key element for planning as well is once you decide to do this event, you look at the event and you work out, well, is all this effort going to be worth… So is the event, sorry. Put it the other way around, is the event worth all the effort we put it? Because it’s easy to go, yeah, we’ll do an event and then suddenly go, to make it really fly, we’re going to have to put all this effort in.

If the perceived outcome of the event isn’t worth the effort, then you need to look at why are you doing the event? Or maybe change the event. Again, a key part of planning is this going to be worth, are we expecting to make the return from doing this event that we require? By return, I don’t necessarily mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean monetary value. It could be reputational, it could be to further something else. So you might not be actually making money out of this specific event, but it’s key to understanding, is the effort put in worth the means, is the end worth the means?

Once we’ve got the event, what’s missing off this chart? I’ll actually add it in, is what’s going to happen while the event is happening. Excel for some reason bleeds these colours down, so I’ll clean that up a little bit. I’m going to put another line in here, which is live. By live, I’m going to mean what’s happening actually on the day of the event. So I’ll put that in as a nice purple colour.

Live elements, the bits you can’t plan too much

On the event, it’s also around other things that need to be involved. So are you going to be doing all of these other elements in and around, on the day, as things are going live? So are you going to be doing social? Today, we’re at the event. Are you going to ensure that you’re taking photography and video and that social and other elements are going out as the event is happening?

Again, this can be through your planning. So if you had a range of speakers, you could be having automated social stuff going out on that day. So if you’ve got a range of speakers, you’ve got a speaker at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00 and two o’clock you could have time, social going out and saying, it’s 10 o’clock, so Bob’s about to speak on whatever Bob is going to speak on.

All these elements then start to help your post-event marketing of the event. So we’ve got to the event, we’ve done the live elements of that, because that’s happened. And then the post element events are, you’re going to want to do some sort of roundup blog, what colour? In red, because that’s the event colour. I’ll just do that on there.

So you’ve got a post-event blog, you want some post-event PR off the back of that. So did this event, it’s great. Your social stuff needs to keep ruining about what you did, including in the people who attended the event and what value they’ve gotten out of that.

A key element of this, and this is probably something that should go out if not in the weekend, just after the event, is some feedback form. So you always want feedback on how was the presentation or whatever it was on this event, how did the event go? Was it of value, would you tell people about it? Can you give us any testimonials from that as well? Would you rank it? Would you come again? All those cool questions that are really, really useful.

That then you can use to do your post-event marketing. So one thing I always tell clients is if they’re going to do an event, tell people well before you do an event, tell people while you’re doing the event and after it’s happened, tell people what you did at the event. And this all starts to tie back up again. So again, using all the actuals you’ve pre-created for your assets and your pre-event stuff. Then you do the event and then you exercise all those for the post-event elements as well.

The feedback loop

From there, from the feedback form, you’ll probably start to get your quotes and your stats on how people ranked the event and what they had to say. Again, part of this live element will be on the day, getting people to do video testimonials on the day. It’ll give you that feedback straight away, so you can start to use that going forward ideally for your next event.

The events aren’t just seen in a vacuum, they start to build on top of each other. If this is the first event you’ve ever done, you effectively have no history. So by ensuring that you’ve done enough to collect that history, and then use that for your events going forward, the idea is that your events keep building on top of each other. Because you get more feedback, you get more exposure by people telling other people that they went on your event and it worked out really, really well.

And then this, from here, this is the part where again, we’ve got this last line on this particular example, which is again more of that outbound social. So telling people what you did, what happened, thanking people for coming, highlighting the fact that we learned X, Y and Z or that somebody came on the course, and then subsequently learned something that subsequently helped them to adapt and meet other demands or to get a promotion or to invest in something, or whatever they were supposed to come out for as well.

All this feedback comes back to helping you plan your next event. So working out what went right, what went wrong and how that helps you prepare for your next one. Once you’ve started to get into a rhythm, that’s exactly what it becomes, you start once with this planning and then you lift this planning and adapt and change it for the next one. But you’re always learning and feeding that back.

Martin: Yeah, it’s interesting, back to the scale at the top then, so my natural feel for that if I would be somebody running a free event on a two week basis, then it’s interesting you’ve chosen, is that eight weeks? So basically you could realistically run a two month cycle on the physical event, which fails probably about right. And it will differ for every business.

Richard: Absolutely. And you’re right. So the thing is once you get into, if we just put in at the top here, let’s say you’ve got a two week event and we put in here that this is the first one and we’re going to put in this two week event and we do that, so effectively all these predefined elements, which are basic… I’m just going to change the colour of week eight, just so we can identify it. Just make it black.

Everything that we planned in here is for this one in week eight, but effectively, if you were doing some kind of event every fortnight, then these elements start to apply to each one, and they happen concurrently. And also doing that continuous element and having that regularity, your marketing output starts to build.

So that actually your event on week six actually feeds week eight and feeds week 10 and week 12 and you get a roll, and it takes a while to get that roll going. But if you don’t plan, then you can’t commit to continuing this process and it’s a bit of a pain barrier because you need to work your way through that.

Martin: Yeah, sounds good. So that cross benefit is like the second wave level of thinking about it. So there’s the first level is the practical, what are you doing each week? The maturity of that thinking is that what are the cycles and how is one cycle positively feeding another cycle? And that’s actually what people might expect, particularly if your messaging is clear, because it’s the same way of, it’s the same messages in different vessels, different devices.

Richard: Absolutely. So that wave of elements that you’ve built up start to build that cumulative effect. So just in a really simple example, once you’ve written your blog/page about the event, if you’re going to then repeat that page from a search engine optimisation point of view, the page of our blog that you created will start to gain more traction in the search engine, because it’s being found, it’s been there longer. You’ve got a nice amount of content on that.

If you’re running this type of event for a year, that event page starts to be quite strong, because it’s had a year’s worth of content, a year’s worth of people maybe sending links back to it, a year’s worth of promotion. It’s been sat there a long time. You’ve made it stronger by continually adding back your videos and content and other things. You’ve built that up a lot, so actually the longevity can really, really help.

That’s where the planning comes in, because if you just walk up and sporadically do events without doing any planning, you’re not going to get those long term benefits.

Martin: Yeah. With you.

Richard: Okay, have you got any questions on that, Martin?

Martin: No more. I’ve managed to weave them in to your session. So that’s good. Will that template plan be available in any form to browse upon?

Richard: It will. So once I’ve uploaded this video and added it to the blog, I will be attaching that template. So it’ll be freely downloadable. It’s just an Excel sheet, so feel free to download it, pinch it, do whatever you want. It’s not highly complicated. There are no special doodahs in it. It’s just a really simple planning sheet.

Martin: Sounds good. Very well. Thank you.

Richard: Excellent. Love it. Thanks a lot, Martin.

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