You have likely been in meetings where people create elaborate strategy and marketing plans. The excitement is palpable. The goals are inspiring. Everyone is ready to become the most amazing company in the world. Then a few weeks go by. The energy fades, and day-to-day operations take center stage again. If this sounds familiar, mastering the 90-day marketing rhythm can help your business build and maintain the momentum you need to achieve your goals and gain traction toward sustained growth.
Why Marketing Plans Fail
The majority of businesses set goals annually. Once a year, well-intentioned professionals like you and I create a plan of where our business will be the following year. It’s exciting to plan for growth. But 95% of us will fail to meet our goals a year later. Understanding why our plans fail can help us stop repeating the patterns.
Common reasons marketing plans don’t succeed:
- Separate From Strategy. Marketing is seen as tasks companies should do — like posting to social media, writing blog posts, or buying ads. But the connection between these tasks and business goals is unclear. Then, marketing tends to be the first cut companies make when they get busy, or money is tight. The correlation isn’t clear, so it seems easy to eliminate.
- Unclear Objectives. We need to know what success looks like for the goals we set. Lack of clarity can often lead to different outcomes than we intend.
- Missing Measurables. Metrics can feel intimidating, but if we aren’t tracking our progress with real data, it’s difficult to know if we hit the target.
- Lack of Execution. A lack of execution isn’t about being lazy. Execution issues typically come from a misinterpretation of priorities.
- Ignores the Market. The pace of change consistently increases. Annual plans fail to respond to market shifts.
- Fails to Engage Customers. We often think about our brand, company, or amazing products rather than how we can connect with our ideal clients.
- Doesn’t Add Real Value. Sometimes we’re so busy keeping all the plates spinning that we fail to see what we’re serving is not offering value to our audience.
- Unrealistic Expectations. The excitement of creating plans can lead us to set ourselves up to fail. We’re so thrilled with the possibilities that we may set targets outside of our capabilities.
Reflecting on these common pitfalls can shift from ineffective planning to a new rhythm of success.
What’s So Magical About 90-Days?
You are likely reading this because, like Leonard Bernstein, you’re interested in achieving great things. There is something about creating a plan with enough urgency to make things happen. When we create marketing plans that give us one year to hit the target, the data tells us we are unlikely to achieve these goals.
Like Goldilocks looking for the perfect fit, 90-days is the sweet spot. One year is too long. One month is too short. But 90 days is just right.
90-day enthusiasts discover that it:
- Creates Focus. Moving from so much to accomplish to specific initiatives for the next 90-days brings focus to your marketing efforts.
- Sustains Enthusiasm. The 90-day time frame is short enough to prevent excitement from waning.
- Reduces Stress. Massive goals are overwhelming. Not recognizing progress feels stressful. Shorter time frames with realistic goals are much more peaceful.
- Strengthens Flexibility. Knowing you can shift every quarter enables you to adapt to the market, team, and customer dynamics.
- Prevents Procrastination. The consistency of a 90-day rhythm ensures we’re making regular movement toward our goals.
- Highlights Progress. We need to see that our action is moving us forward. Recognizing our progress offers motivation to carry on.
- Builds Collaboration. Often company marketing goals require more than just our efforts. The 90-day rhythm offers adequate time to utilize the strengths of multiple team members to do better work.
- Increases Impact. It’s the snowball effect of achieving your marketing goals. Your first 90 days lead to the next 90 days, and so on until you’re amazed at all you’ve done!
Hopefully, by now, you’re convinced enough to try the 90-day marketing rhythm. But you may be wondering how you even get started. First things first, you need to build your plan.
Creating Your 90-Day Marketing Plan
The various components of marketing plans can feel overwhelming. The consistent creation of new materials for social media, blog posts, ads, websites, etc., takes considerable time and resources. If your marketing plan is a jumbled pile of Post-it notes, don’t worry. This process will help you streamline your goals, so you have the clarity you need to achieve them.
Start with the Big Picture
Before I begin a hike, I like to know where I’m going. I prefer to end up at a waterfall, lake, or epic view. I need the big picture to be compelling, so as I move along the trail, I’m inspired to continue.
The same is true for your marketing plan. You need to know where you want to end up one year, three years, or five years.
When articulating your big-picture vision, consider:
- People. How will your team be different? What customers do you hope to gain?
- Problems. What challenges are you facing internally? What issues do your clients face that you can solve?
- Purpose. Why does your company exist? What impact do you intend to make?
Identify Your Initiatives
Begin thinking about the next right step. What needs to happen in the next 90 days for you to be where you intend to be one year from now?
If one of your big-picture goals is to increase revenue by 10%, it could mean you need to gain 20 new customers this year. In the next 90 days, your initiative would be to add five new customers.
Breaking your vision into tangible next steps will empower you and your team to make real progress.
Define the Deliverables
You can lose so much in translation. This step is critical to get the outcomes you need. For each initiative, you should outline what success looks like. Consider the marketing channels required to accomplish each objective. Identify the metrics that will measure your progress.
Going back to adding five new customers, you need to think through what is needed to connect with and convert prospects into customers. Will you need to shift your social media message, craft a new email campaign, or write new blog content? Next, consider what metrics will show that you’re moving in the right direction. It could be the number of proposals you send, new subscribers to your newsletters, or calls scheduled from website visitors.
Time and money are necessary to get things done. You need to determine where each initiative fits into your budget and calendar. Setting aside resources ensures the desired outcomes are possible.
Accomplishing initiatives may require more than one team member to contribute. But only one team member should have ownership of each project. Ownership means they’re accountable for the progress and outcome. If challenges arise, the owner advocates finding solutions or getting the necessary resources to move things forward.
Team members should own one or two marketing initiatives in 90 days. Adding too many projects to one team member or taking on too many initiatives often leads to failure rather than progress.
Use the F.A.S.T. Filter
S.M.A.R.T. goals are common when crafting personal or strategic plans. F.A.S.T. is a similar framework growing in popularity. This goal-setting filter increases the likelihood of execution. It is such a helpful tool for reviewing each marketing initiative.
Move each initiative through the F.A.S.T. filter:
- Frequently Discussed. It may not be important to your organization if you aren’t talking about it often. It should become a regular part of your conversations if it’s essential.
- Ambitious. Your 90-day marketing initiatives shouldn’t be tasks you can finish in a week. Stretch yourself a bit.
- Specific. Laying out all the details helps ensure your success. Move through the creation process by identifying initiatives, defining the details, allocating resources, and assigning ownership.
- Transparent. Creating a culture of transparency means you and your team can ask for help when needed and celebrate meeting milestones.
Mastering the 90-Day Marketing Rhythm
Now that you have your plan in place, here are some best practices to help you master the 90-day marketing rhythm.
1. Start with the Data
The reality is sometimes our great ideas are not so great. When we make data-based decisions, we reduce the risk of moving in the wrong direction, wasting resources, and losing time.
Data enables us to see patterns highlighting both success and failure. It helps us make smarter decisions about how to move forward. It also leads to gains in revenue and cost reduction.
2. Establish Targets
My husband and I recently got off track on a hike because we missed the cairns. Cairns are rock piles often found on hiking trails to let you know you’re going in the right direction. It took a lot of extra work to get us back on the trail.
Setting targets for your initiatives increases your chances of accomplishing your goals by three times. Take time to lay out your milestones and identify the metrics that will ensure you stay on track.
3. Take Action
We have to actually do the things we plan to do. The magic is not in the planning but in the doing. Consistent action over time creates the future we want to be a part of. As Gandhi says, “The future depends on what you do today.”
4. Build In Accountability
Checking in once every 90-days is not the rhythm of success. We all need accountability along the way to ensure we’re moving forward and to provide support and solutions to challenges we face.
Use a weekly check-in to report updates and solve issues. Monthly milestones keep us progressing at the right pace to accomplish our initiatives. Reporting, reflecting, and resetting every 90 days will set you up to gain real traction.
5. Work Collaboratively
Tight deadlines usually prohibit us from working together. The 90-day rhythm enables companies to accomplish things with teamwork. Not only does it reduce meetings, emails, and conflict, but it also leads to increased job satisfaction, more balanced decision-making, and higher revenue.
6. Embrace Agility
Yes, “agile” is quite the buzzword. But buzzwords are often popular for a reason. The rate of change in our world continues to increase rapidly, requiring the systems we set up for success to empower us to shift so we can align with markets, customer desires, competition, new business goals, and growth.
If you feel offbeat, taking on too much, or need to speed up or slow down, remember that you get to set your rhythm. And every 90 days, you have permission to change things up.
7. Celebrate the Wins
Our team loves a checklist. Crossing things off brings so much joy, but that’s not the same as taking time to recognize your accomplishments.
Taking time to appreciate and bring attention to team member contributions matters. 78% of employees said being recognized motivates them at their job. There is no need to wait 90 days, but at least every quarter, you should pause and celebrate the excellent work you and your team are doing.
8. Put It On Repeat
This approach isn’t a magic wand or a set-it-and-forget-it recipe for success. It’s an ongoing rhythm to help you build the momentum needed to achieve your goals.
Set aside time each quarter to look at where you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go next. Embrace the rhythm of learning, creating, launching, and repeating this to reach new heights of success.
Helping You Find Your Rhythm
Content Journey loves partnering with clients to deliver consistent strategic content. We recognize the challenge you face in setting up a marketing plan and producing each element needed to achieve your goals. We would love to help you establish a recognizable marketing rhythm to serve your audience and grow your business. Contact us to learn how we can partner with you in reaching your goals.