I am big on planning. It works. If you are going to be successful, you need to start with clear goals and a well-developed plan.
Planning Makes a Big Difference
· Helps you focus your marketing efforts and spend your marketing dollars more effectively.
· Forces you to really think about what you are doing and why.
· Gives your staff/agency/marketing partners the direction they need.
· Enables you to easily share information with other key players within your bank.
· Builds credibility for your marketing department and helps demonstrate your value to the bank.
· It makes you a better marketer.
In this post, I will outline my approach to marketing planning, which I have fine tuned over many years of managing bank marketing departments. I don’t know if it’s the right approach for you, so I suggest that you take a look, choose the parts you like, and combine them with your own ideas to build a planning process that will work the best for you and your bank.
- Meet with Your Exec(s): Meet with bank execs to get a sense of the overall direction and bank priorities for the coming year. At this early stage, you probably won’t have a draft of the business plan to refer to, so, you will need to find out about any major new initiatives (new products, new technology, branch openings, etc.). This information will help you start thinking about major campaigns and projects you will need to work on. Clarify their priorities for marketing. Discuss major campaigns and projects you are considering and get their initial feedback.
This is also a good time to review the ongoing elements of your marketing plan and recommend any changes: your Market Position Statement, your Role of Marketing document and your Marketing Functions chart.
- Host Key User Meetings: Don’t try to create your plan in a vacuum. Set up planning meetings with all of the key users of your marketing services: usually department heads for areas such as commercial/RE loans, business services, personal loans, retail banking, your phone center, online/mobile services, merchant services, wealth management, etc. You’ll also want to meet with the leaders of the markets outside of your main office community to assess their special needs and competitive challenges.
Use these meetings to learn about your key users’ business challenges as well as their priorities and any major new projects they are planning for the coming year. Get their feedback about your current marketing efforts on their behalf and what they feel is and isn’t working. Ask them how marketing can help them meet their business goals. It’s also a good time to share info on bank-wide campaigns and plans you are considering as well as specific projects for their areas/products that you may propose.
- Involve Your Marketing Staff: If you have staff, conduct a staff planning session and present the info/ideas/feedback you have gathered so far. (Some staff may have been involved in your key marketing user meetings, too.) Encourage them to present their own proposals, new ideas, suggestions for improvements, particularly those that pertain to their responsibilities. Brainstorm solutions to your department’s critical marketing challenges. Review ideas you’ve been gathering in your ongoing “future ideas” file and notes that were placed in project files for ways to improve the next time around.
By involving your marketing staff in idea creation, budget research and plan writing, you can provide them with new challenges and opportunities to be creative and develop their skills. Assign each staff member some planning and responsibilities; they’ll end up feeling a greater sense of ownership in the success of their projects and a stronger commitment to meeting department goals.
- Evaluate Options and Dig In: Using the bank’s business plan as a foundation, you will need to address the priorities of your bank execs and your key marketing users. One way to start is to place all of the proposed projects on your Major Marketing Projects Calendar and see what works and what needs to be discarded/postponed for another year. You won’t be able to do everything that is on your wish list or the wish list of your key marketing users. This is where your knowledge of marketing and your understanding of your management’s priorities come into play. Once you complete a good working draft of the Major Marketing Projects Calendar, you should have most of the information you need to draft your Overall Marketing Plan for the year.
- Develop and Present Your Budget: Now it’s time to work on the first draft of the budget. If you have marketing staff, have them research costs that pertain to their projects/areas of expertise. Start with ballpark numbers from last year’s budget (incorporating any variances and expected cost increases) and get estimates and bids on new projects/materials. Looks for ways to reduce costs as you gather information. Once you have a well-researched budget and have finalized your Major Marketing Projects Calendar and your Overall Marketing Plan, it is time to present them to your execs. Your budget/plan presentation meeting will go much better if you’ve developed a realistic budget, because then your management can choose to keep/cut projects based on the value to the bank vs. the actual anticipated cost.
During the review process, your management will ask hard questions, evaluate your proposals for new programs and question the true value of ongoing programs. You need to be well prepared. Remember, it’s their job to balance your recommendations, the needs of key department heads and the business goals of the bank. It’s likely that they will cut some of the campaigns and projects you’ve proposed in order to control expenses. Once initial cuts have been made, you may still be asked to go back and review your budget and make recommendations for further cuts in order to meet a target budget. If further cuts are needed, you may have another meeting with management to review your recommendations and get final decisions.
- Finalize Your Budget, Calendar(s) and Plan: Now you have the information you need to make all the changes to your budget, adjust your project and event calendars and finalize your overall plan. Once your management has finally signed off, you may still have to wait for final board approval, depending on how the budget process works at your bank. If bank budgets are not approved until the January board meeting, you may need to get special approval to move forward with projects slated for January since the work will need to be done in December.
- Communicate: Once your budget and plan are approved, it’s time to communicate your plans for the coming year with key employees. Good communication is key to developing support for your marketing programs, but not everyone needs everything.
Here’s a list by type of employee that should give you a good place to start.
- Marketing: First, your marketing staff will need copies of everything as soon as possible so they can start working on Project Implementation Plans and preparing for the new year.
- Bank Execs: They should receive a copy of the Overall Marketing Plan, all four quarters of your Major Marketing Projects Calendar, the summary page of your final budget, the Market Position Statement, The Role of Marketing and Marketing Functions.
- Key Users (Dept Heads): You will want to share the Overall Marketing Plan, the Market Position Statement, the Role of Marketing and Marketing Functions, as well any applicable plans/budgets with your key marketing users so they know what marketing support they can expect from you and the general time frames. If any experienced significant cuts during the budget review process, it’s a good idea to meet with them personally to explain the reasons behind the decisions. They should also receive Project Implementation Plans that relate to their areas.
- Other Managers, Supervisors and Officers: Each should receive a copy of the Market Position Statement and each quarter’s Major Marketing Projects Calendar as the year progresses. By sending it quarterly, you can provide the most updated version (changes are inevitable). You may want to send the Overall Marketing Plan to some managers.
- All Employees: as you launch major campaigns and promotions, all employees should receive copies of bank-wide Project Implementation Plans so they understand the programs and the bank’s goals for them.
While many of these steps can vary, depending on how you approach marketing planning at your bank, I strongly recommend that you meet with all of the key users of your marketing services and get their input, and if you have marketing staff, I think it’s important to involve them in the development of your plan and budget.
Additional information on marketing planning can be found in two other posts on my blog, ” Elements of a Bank Marketing Plan” and “Defining Your Marketing Functions.” Let me know if you have any questions!