How to Build a Marketing Plan for 2021 That Drives Results
What are your agency’s goals for 2021? Attract new clients? Sell more to existing clients? Encourage more referrals? Increase percentage of commercial policies sold?
Whatever your goals, marketing will play a role in getting you there. Too often, agencies implement reactive marketing strategies, where they identify an issue or decide they need to do more of something and implement tactics without planning or a broader strategy. This rarely leads to long-term growth.
The most effective marketing strategies are planned in advance and are created with the agency goals in mind. That sounds great, you may say, but how do I do it?
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a successful marketing plan for your agency.
Step 1: Gather Information
It may sound counterintuitive, but gathering information is the first step in the process — before setting your goals. This will inform your goals and ensure that they are attainable.
Here are the key pieces of information you’ll want to collect for your marketing plan:
- Talk to your team
Depending on the size of your agency and your role in the organization, the people on the team that you talk to will vary. But the questions you want to ask are similar for agencies of any size:
- What are the top three things we want to achieve this year?
- What has worked well for us in the past?
- What mistakes have we made in the past that we don’t want to repeat?
- Are there any tactics we haven’t tried that we want to test this year to help achieve our goals?
While it may not be feasible to talk to everyone in the organization, you’ll want to talk to at least three to four teammates and be sure to get input from the head of the agency to ensure that you are working toward the same goals. If you do not interact directly with clients regularly, be sure to talk to team members who do.
- Competitive review
Make a list of the agencies that you compete against and do some research.
- Look at their websites and see how they talk about themselves and what they promote to clients and prospects.
- Look at what types of coverage they sell and note where there are differences in what they offer and what you offer.
- Check out their business listing on Google and see what their customers are saying about them.
- Look at their Facebook and LinkedIn pages and note what they share and how they interact with their network.
You can use Excel or Google Sheets for the competitive review so that you can easily compare your attributes with those of your competitors. Have a column for notes at the end of the sheet so that you can record ideas or significant information that you find that doesn’t fit into one of the categories you have columns for.
- Agency review
Review your core strategic documents and ensure that they are up to date. This includes:
- Your agency mission, vision, and messaging
- Ideal customer personas
- SWOT analysis
Once you have the strategic documents up to date, look at the performance from the previous year. Did you hit your goals? What tactics worked and what need to be changed or removed from this year’s strategy?
- Industry trends
Now that you’ve looked at the competition and at your agency, take some time and look at what is going on in the industry. How are some of the impacts of COVID going to play out in 2021? Are there implications from the state of the economy, government regulations, etc. that you should consider this year?
- Talk to your clients
Your clients are arguably the most valuable source of information for you in selling more policies to new and existing clients. Ideally you will have conversations with existing and potential clients on a regular basis, even if your role is not a client facing one. Ask them about their experience with your agency:
- What do they like about working with you?
- What would they like to see more of?
- What would they like you to do differently?
- Are there areas where you aren’t meeting their expectations?
- Audit your current marketing resources
Look at your agency’s website, social media, and the content you produce (newsletters, articles, brochures):
- Do they reflect the messages you want to convey?
- How do they compare to what your competitors are doing?
- Are they generating the anticipated response?
Come up with a list of things you can do to improve and prioritize them based on potential impact and the cost (in terms of both time and money) to make the changes.
Step 2: Set your goals
Now that you have gathered information and reviewed it, you should have a good idea of how your agency performed in 2020 and what you want to focus on in 2021. Start with a brainstorm of everything you would like to accomplish this year and then prioritize the list so that you have just three to five key goals for the year. Here are some examples:
- Grow total client base by 10% (new client growth)
- Increase average policies per client from 1.5 to 1.7 (growth in revenue per client)
- Increase website traffic by 20% (pipeline growth)
It can be tempting to create a laundry list of goals to achieve during the year, but your likelihood of achieving any of your goals is much lower the more goals you have.
Step 3: Create the plan
Your marketing plan is the culmination of all of your prep work. It takes the information you gathered and your goals for the year and turns them into a roadmap of how you are going to get from where you are today to where you want to be at the end of the year.
There are many different ways to organize a marketing plan and you can find plenty of templates to use by doing a Google search for “marketing plan template.” Structure the plan by goal. Start with the top goal for the year, provide a brief (2-3 sentence) description, and then list the tactics that will lead to your goal. Here is an example of what this might look like:
Goal 1- grow total client base by 10%
We currently have 1500 active clients and are seeking to acquire 150 in 2021. 75% of new clients are referred from current clients and another 15% find us online. Therefore, in 2021, we will focus on client communication and appreciation and on improving our search rankings on Google to achieve our client acquisition goals.
Tactic 1 – client communication/appreciation:
- Send handwritten cards to clients on their birthdays and during the holidays
- Using the net promoter score feedback, call all promoters at least once a year outside of renewal to check in and thank them for their business
- Publish testimonials on the agency website
Tactic 2 – improve search rankings:
- Publish one blog post a month about a topic related to insurance
- Request Google reviews from clients who provide testimonials
- Review your Google My Business listing to ensure all information is accurate (quarterly)
- Ensure that all referral partners have accurate links to our website on their websites (and vice versa)
- Contribute an article to a local newspaper with link in byline
Step 4: Track and adjust
Your marketing plan is a living document. It is not something to create in January and then review in December. Instead, it is something to review regularly to see if you are progressing toward your goals or need to make adjustments. At the end of each quarter, review the plan and note whether you are completing the activities and what results you are seeing. You may determine that certain tactics are not delivering the desired results and either replace or adjust them accordingly. You may also add new tactics.
By gathering information, setting goals, creating a marketing plan and tracking your progress, you’ll set your agency up to achieve your key goals for 2021.
Stacy Blumberg is the marketing director at Rocket Referrals, a marketing automation software company for the insurance industry that optimizes communication so customers stay longer, buy more and refer their friends. In this role, Stacy leads the marketing team and is responsible for lead generation, customer retention and brand building activities.
Prior to working at Rocket Referrals, Stacy was the co-owner/CEO of Portland Pedal Power, a bicycle-based corporate food delivery company that she led to a successful exit by acquisition. Stacy has over 15 years of marketing and leadership experience in the automotive, energy efficiency, and healthcare industries. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Stacy spends her free time hiking, biking, and exploring new places.
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