In-House Agency leaders, as we approach the annual planning season, don’t wait for a fully-baked marketing plan to be delivered to you on a silver platter. Get in there and influence, input and even co-create!
Your In-House Agency (IHA) is pivotal in delivering successful campaigns that support the strategies laid out by your marketing partners, so proactive planning and collaboration are essential. Let’s explore steps you can take to ensure that marketing plans are developed in partnership, shared early and often, and thoroughly understood. Following these steps can result in campaigns that deliver real results for the business.
Building the Plan
Collaborate Early, Often and Be Chill
Foster a culture of open communication by initiating regular meetings with your marketing partners. These conversations should begin early in the planning cycle. How about now? Start with high level objectives and priorities. Make peace with a work-in-progress plan. As the planning cycle continues, the aperture will naturally reach the campaign level, but don’t rush and push for details that aren’t necessary yet. Demonstrating your comfort with ambiguity will build trust with your partners, openness to input and flexibility that will be needed when changes to the original plan come along. All of this will ultimately lead to stronger relationships and better work.
Deepen Your Understanding of Marketing Goals
It is critical to have a thorough grasp of your marketing department's goals. Take the time to delve into their strategic plans. Understand the target audiences, customer journeys, key messages and desired outcomes. Deep knowledge here will enable your creative team to become true partners in the creation of campaigns and move beyond taking orders and filling prescriptions.
Communicate Your Capabilities
Create opportunities to ensure that your marketing partners know about your team’s capabilities early in the planning process -- don’t wait until there’s a campaign ready to be executed. Build your partners' confidence in your team's ability to deliver on innovative strategies by negotiating and discussing key elements of the marketing plan, bolstering it with proof points that bring clarity to your offer.
Leverage Project Management and Planning Tools
Consider investing in purpose-built marketing planning tools and software, or leverage your existing work management system to organize the planning effort. These tools will help streamline the planning and forecasting processes, making it easier to track progress, allocate resources, and manage timelines and dependencies efficiently.
Get Ahead of Training and Skill Development Needs
As the marketing plan starts to become more granular, be on the lookout for new strategies, channels and tactics that might require training and development or new specialists for your team. This will ensure you have enough time to ramp up before the skills are needed to execute on your priorities. Regular, ongoing training opportunities throughout the year will keep your team up-to-date with industry trends and technologies, making them more effective and strategic collaborators.
Executing the Plan
The proactive collaboration with marketing shouldn’t stop once the plan has been finalized, and the plan should not be a precious artifact preserved in amber. Keep them both alive and keep the teams aligned through visibility, flexibility and a continuous feedback loop.
Establish Clear and Defined Communication Channels
Establish clear and defined communication channels between your IHA and the marketing department. Clarity in communication minimizes misunderstandings and enhances efficiency. Consider leveraging your work management system as the single source of truth and project communication. Whatever approach you choose, hold people accountable for communicating in the agreed upon ways.
Develop and Share a Comprehensive Content Calendar
Create and maintain a content calendar that outlines content needs, deadlines and resource requirements for each project. This calendar should be accessible to both your creative team and the marketing department. By sharing this roadmap, you'll help your marketing partners visualize the creative process and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding priorities and timelines.
Balance Planning with Flexibility
While planning is crucial, remember to build some “give” into your processes. Staying nimble in execution means that marketers can meet customers where they will be tomorrow, not where they were yesterday. Your teams will need to adapt. Encourage them to expect disruption and build flexibility into their plans.
Incorporate Regular Reviews and Feedback Loops
Set up a system for regular reviews and feedback sessions with your marketing partners. These meetings should be opportunities to assess progress, identify bottlenecks, and solicit feedback on creative work and work processes. Do this frequently so that issues are addressed in real time, not only at the completion of a project, quarter or year. A continuous feedback loop will ensure that you and your marketing partners always remain aligned on needs, processes and output.
Remember, proactive collaboration on marketing plans is not a nice-to-have – it is the cornerstone of effective marketing campaigns, and it sets the stage for achieving shared goals and delivering outstanding results for the business. Your leadership is pivotal in making this happen, and the good news is that you can start now! By initiating collaborative conversations, deepening your understanding of marketing objectives, communicating your capabilities, leveraging tech, getting ahead of training needs, establishing clear communication channels, developing and sharing a content calendar, balancing planning with flexibility, and incorporating regular feedback loops, you'll not only meet your marketing partners' needs but also elevate the quality and impact of your creative output and your value to the business.