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The Planning Plan

Taylor Brazell – Account Executive

Everyone’s favorite time of year at an agency isn’t summer or the holidays – it’s planning season! This is the time when account executives will sit down with each client to review the previous year’s goals and set new ones for the coming year along with budgeting for the strategies and tactics used to accomplish them.

Each client will have a slightly different planning process, but it generally follows this basic timeline.

Step 1: The Agency Gathers Information

Planning for the next year begins at the end of a client’s fiscal calendar. For companies that follow the calendar year, this means that between October and November account executives and clients will each do a review of the previous year to see how the budget was followed and what goals were achieved. This will help indicate any necessary adjustments going forward to accomplish ongoing and new goals or maintain the current level of success.

Most B2B clients also rely heavily on relationships with trade publications and websites for advertising and public relations. In the late fall, these publications and sites will release a media kit outlining opportunities and pricing for the upcoming year, which agencies and clients can use to make decisions about how and when to work with each opportunity.

Step 2: The Client and Agency Meet

Once the agency has some baseline information to discuss, both teams sit down to review the current year and talk about the next. When this meeting takes place will usually depend on the client. Most need to submit a marketing plan and budget between November and December, so a meeting should be set with enough time for the agency to review the information and develop a plan, as well as any review within the client’s organization before that deadline.

Clients coming to this meeting should have a handle on major upcoming needs, such as sales goals, product launches, branded events or business expansions that will need marketing support. They should also bring up any shifts in the company’s priorities like improved lead management, performance data from online marketing efforts – like an increased emphasis on social media – or decrease in tradeshow presence.

When the discussion is over, the agency and client should be on the same page with a list of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals for the coming year.

Step 3: The Agency Builds a Budget

After the meeting, the agency team will take all the input from the past year, available market research, data analyses, media partners and the client to develop a budget breakdown.

Some clients prefer to allow the agency to come up with a plan without first revealing their target budget. Using the input from the planning meeting, account executives can create tiered options, with the first including the most barebones tactics to reach the essential goals, the second adding in some additional tactics to elevate those campaigns and the third incorporating those additional goals. The client can then select an option to develop a marketing plan that best balances budget and ambition. This method offers clients more options, but it is highly time consuming and requires a lot of back and forth to cut or add tactics that make the plan fit into the budget.

Instead, starting with the budget number gives both account executives and clients more freedom and clarity. With this method, the agency has all the pieces of the puzzle from the beginning. Account executives won’t have to guess how much money there is available or try to cover the possible by taking the time to build multiple budget options. The process will be faster, and the final plan will be the best fit for accomplishing goals without going over budget.


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