Welcome to Simantel’s Mailbag, where agency owner and Director of Client Services, Tim Leesman, addresses questions we hear from our clients. Starting up a new year with a new annual plan can bring along many challenges – and opportunities alike. This edition, Tim takes on questions from our clients that can help start the year off right.

Have a question you’d like covered? Tweet it to us at @simantel and use #mailbag.

Q: I need to move some of my marketing activities in-house, which means my agency’s role will be altered from years past (but still really important).  How can I make this work for both sides?

TL: Admittedly, this can be challenging for both parties, but it can work. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities is a critical first step. There may be some duplicity in what you want your internal team to take on and what your agency can do (or has done in the past), and if you don’t transparently discuss this and set expectations there will be frustrations and inefficiencies.

It’s also critical to accurately assess what your internal team can realistically and successfully manage in-house; and if your agency truly has your best interest in mind, they can help you with that assessment. Best case scenario, you find new ways for the teams to complement each other and deliver greater results through collaboration. The key is determining what success looks like at the end of the project, and make sure the way the work is divided gives the best chance to achieve your goals.

I also recommend staying engaged and seeking out feedback from both sides on where they see challenges and opportunities, then optimizing the approach to maximize both team’s strengths for your benefit. Telling your internal team and your agency that you expect them to “figure it out” themselves is a recipe for disaster.

Q: The market for content seems to be getting more and more crowded each year. Is it still necessary for me to invest as much in my content strategy?

TL: The short answer is yes, continue investing in your content marketing. Content is still king. Yes, your market is experiencing content overload, but this is why it is more important than ever to invest in a strategy.

Spending the time and the money to just get content up, means nothing if your target audience isn’t seeing or engaging with it. In fact, consumers were 5x as likely to rate the brand ‘very favorable’ when adjacent to quality content, according to the 2017 Digital Summit Dallas. Make 2018 the year of delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.

In order to start thinking more strategically, here are a few steps we recommend to Simantel clients:

  1. Build Personas – Begin with researching your consumers, then build personas around your ideal target audience.
  2. Conduct Audit – Next, conduct a content audit. Make a list of the top performers and identify any common trends. Also, look at the low performers and investigate why they didn’t perform. If you track conversions, also look at which content not only drove engagement, but led to a conversion. This will help you focus your content investments.
  3. Align Personas – Now’s the time to work on aligning your personas from step one with the user behavior trends you found in step two. Take a look at upcoming trends in both content marketing and your industry, and start brainstorming from there.
  4. Review Performance – Lastly, make it an agenda item to review performance on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting until the end of the year. And remember, allocate some budget to allow you to optimize your content plan based on what your data is telling you.

Q: What are some key considerations to take into account when heading into annual planning with my team?

TL: Regardless of your budget, campaigns, goals or size of team, there are three main things I highly recommend incorporating into your annual marketing plan.

  1. Set Goals – It is crucial up front to set aggressive, yet attainable goals for the year and, more importantly, receive agreement from all parties before implementation begins. I prefer to have a mix of short term goals (which could be milestone-based or calendar-based) allowing for victories along the way, as well as broader annual goals (which could be a mix of anecdotal and measurable). Alignment with the overall business plan and amongst stakeholders is so important to keep the plan on track and ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction. So, review your goals often and adjust as needed.
  2. Talk Measurement – What does success look like for your marketing programs? Setting a measurement strategy at the beginning of the year will help you establish benchmarks early on, so you know what you are measuring against. Also, be sure to plan for regular measurement (whether that’s weekly, monthly or quarterly) rather than only reviewing results only at the end. A measurement strategy will help keep teams focused and identify when you need to pivot.
  3. Allocate Budget – One step that is most often missed during annual planning is allocating budget for optimizations. Measuring results can only get you so far, it’s analyzing and implementing data-based recommendations that can make the difference in achieving your goals. It’s important to learn from both successes and failures along the way. The opportunity to optimize strategies and tactics throughout the course of a campaign is one of the biggest benefits of the digital marketing age. Let’s take advantage!

Our top recommendation though, especially for large teams or complex programs, is to make sure you are getting together with your agency during the planning stages, prior to final approval. Your agency team may bring a different perspective and able to identify challenges or opportunities that will impact the annual plan. Our most successfully clients allow for annual planning to be a collaborative activity, setting up all teams for streamlined success.

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Stayed tuned for future editions of The Mailbag where we will explore more common questions we hear from clients. But in the meantime, if you have a question we haven’t addressed, tweet us @simantel or contact us.