Retail Marketing Planning: How to Get Started With Marketing Planning

Marketers struggle with marketing campaign planning for different reasons: incomplete or inaccessible historical data, new marketing channels with no obvious comparables, lack of expertise or understanding of what really matters. We’ll explore how to address more of these issues in upcoming blog posts.

Understand Your Channels – Differentiate between Marketing and Order Channels

Even the most sophisticated marketers create confusion by using the word “channel” interchangeably between Marketing and Order Channels.

Marketing Channels are those that you spend your marketing efforts in: direct mail, email, display/retargeting, natural and paid search, affiliate, social media, etc. Order Channels are ones in which a customer places an order: call center, ecommerce/internet, and retail. Mobile is unique in that it can be categorized either way – for example, if a company has a mobile app which serves as a marketing tool, and a customer can also order through, the channel can be classified as either a Marketing or Order Channel. Keep in mind that the categorization should be consistent.

Plan Marketing Channels, then Forecast by Order Channel

Since you have much more control over marketing campaigns than where a customer will choose to place an order, start by planning your marketing campaigns. Each company has its own set of terminology, but there are typically three levels of marketing planning, depending on the complexity and depth of each channel. I’ll define my definitions for clarity:

Campaign – Overall theme that the marketing supports. This can be a season (Winter, Summer, Holiday), event (webinar, concert), membership drive (wine club, subscription-based purchase), promotion (semi-annual sale, clearance). Crosses between Marketing Channel and Communication since both are instrumental in supporting the campaign.

Marketing Channel – direct mail, email, search, display, affiliate, social media (same as above)

Communication – individual marketing treatments such as an email, postcard, Facebook ad, mobile ad, SEM ad.

For some marketing channels, such as direct mail, marketers typically plan at the Communication level. Direct mail requires more advance planning since print orders need to be placed, customer lists modeled and hygiened, list rentals ordered, and postage costs calculated.

Other marketing channels need less rigor and can be planned at the channel level. For example, if your affiliate program is fairly even and predictable, it probably makes sense to plan at the channel level rather than have individual plans for each publisher.

Depending on your business, you may also plan by Campaign. An example of this is a large semi-annual sale promotion – you would plan communications in each of your channels to support the promotion. You may send a catalog or direct mail piece, a series of emails, a social media contest, and targeted display ads to reinforce your message.

Increases in Circulation: Need to Account for Growth and Lower Performance

The next step is to take historic data as the plan starting point. Response rates, average order, click through rates, and other relevant metrics are helpful for planning for communications targeted at similar audiences.

Two common mistakes that marketers make are:

  1. Not adjusting for audience growth/shrinkage (if the same quality audience has grown, you can assume a similar response rate even though your circulation size has changed).
  2. Increasing/decreasing the audience of a different quality without accounting for a difference in performance. This is important – by increasing circulation, the quality of the audience will decrease and the expected revenue per person for the incremental circulation will be lower.

One way to determine the revenue increase/decrease per person for different quality circulation is based on a loose rule of thumb (divide the % increase by three so that the larger the increase in circulation, the greater the drop-off in revenue per person).

Using historical data and trend, you can then forecast your sales curves by order channel. Most large companies that have multiple order channels typically forecast by fiscal week for both call center staffing and managing the revenue/inventory predictions. Smaller and more internet-based companies may choose to forecast on a monthly basis.