How to Optimize Your Online Marketing Plan: A 4-Step Process

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Want to be sure your next marketing plan is optimized for the future? Looking for a framework to follow?

In this article, you’ll discover a four-step process to audit and adjust your next marketing plan.

#1: Evaluate Your Branding and Online Footprint to Ensure Consistency

First, you need to address brand health. Does your brand need some dusting off? Now’s the time to evaluate the past year. Because your product offerings are like your children, I recommend having a third party (like a digital marketing agency) help in the overall brand assessment. Sometimes we get carried away with our invention and it’s hard to be objective.

Examine your brand direction and messaging. Look over all of your brand properties, logo, packaging, website, online stores, marketing materials, and digital marketing channels. What needs to be modified? How much money do you have to achieve these goals? Start planning for the changes.

I’m a big believer in having marketing materials ready for all initiatives. Do you have those product and lifestyle photos ready for the media? Do an audit of all of your existing materials and modify those that need updating. I like to create materials that focus on the usability of and need for a product. Human wants and products’ usefulness are what make your products relatable.

Are you launching your product in a new store or opening a new eCommerce shop? Packaging may look different online than offline so plan for this. If your budget doesn’t allow for full-fledged repackaging, work with what you have and perhaps change the lifestyle pictures. Consider using short videos to showcase your brand in the social media space.


#2: Define Your Marketing Goals for the Year

Take a look at your marketing efforts from past years and analyze your performance. You might find that your company has grown or may need a change of direction. Review your products and services to determine any modifications you need to make for effective results.

Put a solid program together with clear goals and objectives. This is important! We all get caught up in what we’re working on and overwhelmed with everyday tasks. It’s imperative to get your ideas on paper in front of you so you can map out a marketing scenario. Take a little time to jot down your priorities.

This step requires some investigation and organization. A quick review of your present business plan might help you get that perspective. Then you can move forward with some context from what happened in the past year.

graphic showing four steps to setting yearly marketing goals

Define Your Goals

What do you want to achieve in 2020? Define your purpose based on the answer to this question. Compare these goals to last year’s and see if anything has changed. It’s a good idea to review these objectives every quarter to see if you need to make any changes to benefit your company.

Once you revisit your business plan, see what necessary adjustments you need to make for a prosperous year. Make sure you have an accountability plan for every initiative so all actions are measurable.

Identify Your Target Audience

The marketplace changes daily. Keep a close focus on your target markets and their behavior patterns. Think about how to interest customers and prospects in your products and services.

Analyze Your Competition

See what your competition is doing so you can hopefully woo some of their customers to your camp. What makes your competitors successful? What strengths help them stand out among the competition?

Understand Your Product

You know your product—after all, you created it! But you may have to take this a step further and see how users react to it. Are you getting the desired engagement? Are people buying and recommending it?

This might seem obvious, but getting stuck in the wonderment of your creation can make you lose sight of the consumer’s perspective. Seek out objective opinions from consumers who have used your products—unbiased influencers and shoppers who will give you an honest idea of why they like or don’t like your product. Then you can make the necessary modifications.

example of customer survey delivered via email

Pro Tip: Find out what the sales team needs and provide them with the necessary information and support. It’s imperative to your company’s success to ally with the sales team. Finding out what makes buyers buy and users use is a constant educational process. Everyone wants to make the effort to get repeat customers so working together is essential.

#3: Organize and Prioritize Your Marketing Initiatives

Now that you’ve defined your goals, you’re ready for the more creative part of your yearly planning.

Set a date to achieve all of your goals and objectives so you can start your course of action. Break the year into quarters. Don’t let these tasks intimidate you; you’re not wasting your time. On the contrary, if you run a business, you’re forever thinking about it so it’s a matter of going through your due diligence.

Think about how you’re going to execute all of the above. How are you going to put all of your marketing ideas and creative thoughts into one place so you can examine what makes sense? Here are some suggestions.

Create a Vision Board

Design a vision board for all of your quarterly and yearly initiatives. Pin or add images that represent ideas past and present. This will help you get some clarity on what needs to be done to maximize your efforts for the coming year. I personally like doodling on a napkin or writing down ideas in a Moleskine notebook.

example of vision board of marketing initiatives

Set Priorities

What tasks require your immediate attention? Do you have a product that has potential but isn’t selling? Perhaps part of the budget could be dedicated to reviving this item. What about a product that’s already successful? Maybe you want to spend more time and money on it.

Revisit your product’s unique selling proposition (USP). Has anything changed? After reviewing users’ reports and experiences, you might find that your consumers are looking for something else.

#4: Plan Your Social Media Marketing Campaigns for the Coming Year

Planning your budget is the most important piece of the marketing mix. Don’t let this intimidate you. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that you spend about 8% of your gross revenue on marketing and advertising. So let’s review expenses.

Look at your pricing structure compared to your competition. Don’t be intimidated if your competition spends more than you do. Creative marketing can be an equalizer. In all my years of working in this field, sometimes the big campaigns also fall short of expectations. Focus on a comfortable budget that’s efficient and effective (analytics will help give you answers).

Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising is an important aspect of your marketing and deserves its own category. While organic reach is optimum, let’s be honest; it’s almost impossible for a company to get any traction without a proper advertising budget. Our company uses Facebook and Instagram for B2C and LinkedIn for B2B advertising. Find platforms that work for your company. If the bulk of your business comes from search, consider adding search engines to your budget.

Review your prior efforts and determine what makes sense. Be sure to include video in your advertising budget. Spots in the 10- to 15-second range for vertical markets work well on several mobile social media platforms.

One of the benefits of programmatic advertising is the testability factor and the analytics. You can create campaigns and monitor success very easily.

example of Facebook ad results

Pro Tip: Have a plan B ready in case your detailed plan A doesn’t go as expected. Map out alternative scenarios and what-ifs.

As you plan, here are some things other than ads to consider when you’re deciding what’s worked in the past for your company and where you might want to change things up in the coming year.

Collaborative Brand Partnerships

Look for partnerships with symbiotic products that can enhance your brand. These collaborations can change brand perception. You can find examples of this marketing technique with something as simple as McDonald’s selling Coca-Cola with a bundled meal. It’s a win-win for both companies.

Influencers Partnerships

Still relevant, influential spokespeople can help build your brand. Select them carefully. Monitor engagement and influence. There are many analytics tools that can measure influencer activity.

We tend to pick influencers who are passionate about a product and are willing to represent it. Sometimes smaller influencers are more effective than the biggies that tweet once. Select your paid influencers based on their performance, reach, and passion.

example of campaign post from microinfluencer

PR Outreach Appearances

Send your CEO or a top executive to be interviewed on podcasts or other media. This positions your company as approachable, human, and newsworthy.

Take Stock of New Trends

Explore new trends and opportunities. A new environment or outreach platform that might be a good fit can be worth looking into. I typically choose platforms that have less noise and great choices of vertical audiences. What are the new trendy tools of the trade?

Ask yourself what’s new in your marketing arsenal. A hot new social media platform like TikTok, perhaps? This new social media tool has advanced video composition tools that enable marketers to showcase their products in use. It’s a powerful way to market your products to a whole new audience of young adults.

screenshot of TikTok post from business

Also look for new promotional opportunities that can bring more awareness to your products and services. Try unexplored territories. Sometimes you can stand out in a less-crowded community like utilizing Flipboard, a digital magazine app. In my business, we experienced lots of brand success with podcasts and interviews for our clients.

Perhaps it’s time to put a real person in front of a camera for a different take on your brand’s philosophy and products. Having the face of your company promote a product will get more consumer attention.

example of social media business post with CEO interview

If you’re working with a digital agency, ask them to create a program that integrates new initiatives. I always recommend looking for innovative solutions to keep your brand at the forefront of the marketplace.

It’s important to have an accountability program ready to track all of your marketing efforts. I like simple metrics that keep track of a few goals. The case is different for advertising and paid reach but for marketing goals, I typically measure impressions, sentiment, and brand reach to get a general idea of the marketplace.


The new year brings change and soul-searching for improvement, especially when it comes to marketing your company. Now’s the time to preview the year ahead and make the necessary adjustments for the best performance of your marketing initiatives.

Your business is constantly evolving so it needs to be constantly monitored and updated. A new decade is a good excuse to re-energize your marketing efforts with a fresh new start.

What do you think? Do you create a new online marketing plan every year or just tweak an existing one? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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