We’re already a few weeks into the New Year, so it’s time to buckle down and create your marketing plan for 2024 if you haven’t already.  If you have writer’s block, then this 4-step process will help you kick-start your planning.

Before we dive in, I need to clear up an all too common misconception about marketing…

Are You Trying To Answer The Wrong Questions?

I bet you and your team are smart, maybe even smarter than me. ;)  But here’s the deal… It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you’re focused on answering the wrong questions!

Let me explain that point with an example. Several years ago we surveyed 155 business owners and asked them this question:

What is your #1 question about digital marketing?

As you would expect there were a lot of different responses, but the vast majority were essentially asking the exact same thing.  Most people want to know “What is the one tactic that will get the best ROI?

I’m sure if we conducted this survey again we would get similar responses because I still hear this question over and over again when talking to business owners.  Chances are you’re looking for an answer to that question as well!

If you are, then do yourself a favor and read this article, which explains why one tactic alone will never give you the best ROI.  The goal of your marketing plan is not to find the single, “Holy Grail” tactic.  Instead, the goal is to set up multiple marketing channels that combined give the best ROI.

OK, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the 4 steps to create your marketing plan…

4 Steps to Create Your Digital Marketing Plan

1. Define Your Goals

The most critical step in the planning process is to define your goals.  Not just any goals though… we need SMART goals.  SMART is a mnemonic that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  Every goal must meet those 5 criteria so let’s walk through each one.


Too often I hear business owners set goals like “more leads” and “more sales.”  That’s not a real goal! How many more leads?  Exactly how much growth would you be happy with this year? How many more phone calls would you like to receive each month?  If you already set your goals, then review them to make sure they are specific.


Your goals must be measurable so you know if you’re moving closer or further away from achieving them.  With digital marketing, you can use Google Analytics to measure many of your goals.


It’s fun to set lofty goals and dream big, but make sure they are achievable within the year.  Goals should excite and motivate you and your team year after year, not demoralize you.


Does your goal even matter?  If you achieve it, then how does that goal impact your bottom line?  Ranking on the first page of Google search results for “new york city pediatric dentist” is specific, measurable, and probably achievable, but it’s not relevant for a dentist that doesn’t work with children.


Since we’re working on the year’s goals, the absolute deadline is the 31st of December.  Some goals can and should be completed sooner so set the most appropriate date.  It’s amazing how something as simple as setting a deadline can make all the difference in the world when it comes to accomplishing your goals.

2. Work Backward to Define KPIs & Monthly Goals

OK, at this point you have your goals set.  Let’s say your goal is to generate $1,000,000 in sales by the 31st of December.  That could be a SMART goal for a business that did less than a million last year.

The next step is to work backward from that day in the future when you will hit your goal.  This step will highlight the key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to track in your business each month to hit your ultimate goal.

Start by thinking about what December will look like. I know this sounds strange, but trust me, this simple mind game is critical for planning.  Try to picture yourself in the future when you’ve already accomplished your goals.

How many sales did you do in December in order to hit your total goal?  For example, to generate $1MM in sales, you need $83,333 per month over the entire year.  Of course, this is a simplified example, and to be more accurate you’ll want to assume a growth rate month over month so that you’re generating more sales in December versus January.

To generate $83,333/month, then how many sales did you make?  If your average customer value is $500, then that’s 167 sales per month.  How many leads do you need in order to make 167 sales?  If your sales conversion rate is 10%, then that’s 1,670 leads.  How many website visitors do you need to generate 1,670 leads?  You’ll need to look at your historical website analytics to figure this one out.  If your visitor-to-lead conversion rate is also 10%, then you need 16,700 visitors per month.

See how we just worked backward to determine the important online marketing KPIs?  Now we know our monthly website visitor goal is about 16,700 in order to hit our sales goal of $1MM.

3. Get Real

The third step is to reality-check your goals based on the KPIs you found in step 2.  Is it realistic for you to generate over 16,000 website visitors using your traffic tactics?  Are your conversion rates attainable based on historical data or similar businesses?

To answer the questions at this point, you’ll need to do some research and probably talk to an expert. The most important question to answer is whether or not there is enough online traffic to hit your goals.  For example, if you find using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool there are 100,000 searches for your product or service in Google, then could you get 16,000 visitors from SEO and Google Ads advertising?

16% of all searches may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that a 2% click-through rate is pretty good in Google Ads.  Unless you’re an expert in search engine marketing (SEM), I recommend talking to someone who is to see if your goals are realistic. The same goes for other traffic sources like display advertising, email, partnerships, and social media.

If you find out your goals are actually unrealistic, then go back to step #1 above and revise them.  Better to find this out now before you invest an entire year chasing an unattainable dream!

4. Assign Responsibilities

The final step should be fairly quick and easy.  Determine who on your team is going to be responsible for implementing and measuring progress each month.  If you have big growth plans, then keep in mind it’s possible you’ll need to hire in-house, or outsource, to hit your goals.

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