We’ve all been there. After hours of research, lots of energizing conversations, and several brainstorm sessions, you’ve conceptualized a killer marketing idea, and you’re excited to get to work.
The only problem? You’re not sure exactly how to get to work – you need to create an action plan to bring your strategic vision to life.
It’s not easy to translate complex, multidimensional goals into an executable marketing plan with clear projects and deadlines. The key is being thoughtful, intentional, and taking it one step at a time.
Not sure where to start? Ahead, you’ll find a five-step process for translating your big marketing idea – or any other big idea – into a concrete, actionable plan.
1. Set aside time to think & do a brain dump
When you’re feeling daunted by a big project and don’t know where to start, it may feel like thinking is the only thing you have done.
But resist the temptation to gloss over this step. By actively setting aside time to collect your thoughts, you’ll be able to take inventory of the jumbled mess of ideas in your head – and until you have a clear sense of the big picture, you’ll always have that feeling that you have no idea where to start.
Brain dump all your thoughts in one place, and don’t get too hung up on regulating your ideas. Put yourself in a position where you’re most able to focus and be creative, then let the ideas flow – you’ll have plenty of opportunity to edit later on.
If you’re feeling paralyzed, do your best to avoid getting hung up on the details or trying to envision the end result, and instead focus your mental energy on clarifying the basics. Who is your target audience? What is the message you need to get across? Which marketing channels will you focus on?
2. Organize your thoughts & identify core themes
This step is about taking the lump of clay that is your brain dump and beginning to form it into the shape of your larger vision. Everyone is different, and the most effective way for you to get your thoughts organized will likely be different than someone else’s. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few suggestions:
Write it down
Mapping out your ideas on paper makes it easier to visualize connections between concepts and identify common themes. Conversely, you may prefer to compile your ideas in a word document so you can easily rearrange sentences and group concepts together.
Talk it out
Explaining an idea out loud can often help clarify it, and also presents a great opportunity to get feedback from a third party.
Try articulating your thoughts to a friend or colleague, even if it feels a bit rambly at first. Throughout your conversation, what were the main points you found yourself trying to get across?
Find a way to visualize it
Charts, diagrams, and other visualization tools can be helpful when trying to organize your ideas and get clear on the bigger picture.
Try creating a mind map to help you visualize how various concepts fit together, or use an affinity diagram to sort your ideas into buckets. When it comes to defining and communicating the visual aspects of your brand identity, we love this guide to making the most of Pinterest boards from our friends at SCP Marketing.
Whichever method you use to get there, organizing your ideas is key to any effective strategy. Avoid the temptation to start planning the details before you’ve taken the time to clarify your overarching themes and goals – doing so is like trying to pick the fastest route before you know your destination.
3. Translate themes into key projects
Now that you’ve pulled key themes from the ideas you laid out in your brain dump and clarified your larger goals, it’s time to decide on concrete actions to bring those themes to life.
It’s important to take your time here and be realistic about your priorities – trying to execute everything at once is setting yourself up for failure. Which strategies will be the most effective toward reaching your overall goals?
The more clear you can get on your priorities, the easier it will be to remain confident in your strategy and stick to the plan when setbacks (inevitably) occur.
4. Add structure by breaking projects into steps
After you’ve identified key projects you’ll be focusing on to move your strategy forward, it’s time to break those larger tasks into bite-sized, actionable steps.
Try to include “easy wins” in your plan to create momentum as you cross things off the list.
For example, let’s say part of your strategy is to partner with an outside digital marketing agency to support with SEO. You have no idea which agency you’ll want to work with, but you do have a connection who may have a recommendation. Rather than making the first step on your list “Find a digital marketing agency,” start with, “Send email asking for agency recommendations.”
By breaking down big tasks into approachable, bite-sized steps, you’ll be able to stay motivated
If you find there are certain projects that you’re having a hard time breaking down into smaller steps, consider that a sign that you need to do more research on the topic or get outside support.
When you recognize these knowledge gaps, get the ball rolling to address them sooner than later – by being proactive and admitting you’ll need extra help, you’ll prevent these more challenging tasks from setting back your overall goal.
5. Align with key players on accountability & timeline
Last but not least, it’s crucial to ensure everyone involved in executing your plan is on the same page. Share your plan with your marketing team and any third party vendors who will be involved in your plan, and make sure everyone is aligned when it comes to who’s accountable for what, specific processes for each step, and timeline for completion.
When it comes to timeline, talk to your team about what will be manageable so everyone is on board, and leave a buffer when setting deadlines to account for minor setbacks.
Being unrealistic or unclear here is a recipe for disaster – when team members feel unclear about expectations or their role in the bigger picture, you’ll quickly lose momentum and credibility, and may permanently damage the trust your team has in you.
Phew! If you’ve made it through all five of these steps, give yourself a pat on the back. By taking the time to create a thoughtful plan for execution, you’ve built the strong foundation you need to move your marketing strategy forward.