28 Jul Plan Your Marketing Year NOW
If you live or work in Fairfield County, Connecticut or Long Island, New York, you know that August is “vacation mode”. Not just the last week of the month, like it is for the rest of the nation, but the whole month of August. Even if businesses are up and running, they are taking it easy. From a resident’s point of view, it is a lovely time of walking among relaxed, happy people. From a business owner’s point of view, it can be distracting. After all, if Mr. Smith is in vacation mode, why shouldn’t I be? Personally, August is my favorite month in business! The atmosphere is relaxed and people are away, making it the perfect weather for marketing planning. As a marketing business, we do all of our clients’ marketing planning for the year in August. Besides the atmosphere being calm, the timing is perfect at 5 months away from January, which is when everyone kicks into high gear. I follow this advice for my own businesses as well.
1. Find your message. Before you starting coming up with creative ideas on how to get your business in front of your ideal audience, you must know three things: – Who is my audience? – What pain am I resolving for them? – What is my message to them? Once you have those three main questions answered, it will make your planning and execution that much more cohesive.
2. Plan 12 months ahead, one quarter at a time. If you are planning your marketing a month ahead, you are not alone. Even some large corporations do so. For a small business, there are two major reasons why extended planning does not happen: 1) They do not make it a priority. 2) They are unsure of where their business will be in two months, forget 12 months. Marketing your business should be a priority as that’s how you grow. Whether your marketing is purely word of mouth or includes a mix of online advertising, content marketing and direct mail, you need a plan. Planning 12 months ahead for small businesses can be frightening, mainly because many do not know where they will be that far ahead or what their budget will be. A good thing about a plan is that it’s a fluid document, meaning that you can change it as necessary. Start by making a laundry list of your marketing ideas, starting with the ones have worked in the past. Then, divide your plan into quarters. If you do not have any plan for October through end of the year, that will be your Q1, then Jan through end of March, April to end of June and July through end of September. For each month, write down which parts of your plan will you execute. The rule of thumb in marketing is to give marketing a bare minimum of 3 months before changing strategies. When it comes to online marketing, we recommend a minimum of 6 months with evaluation of results at 3 months.
3. Decide your budget confidently. A small business should dedicate a minimum 10% of its net revenue for marketing. Since you are doing this in August, you already have a good projection of your earnings for 2016. By saying that 10% of your revenue is going towards marketing, you will consider that investment allocated and not spend it otherwise. Next to each of your marketing efforts write down the amount you are going to spend. Start with items of which you have a set cost, just as networking group membership fees. Then, make it a priority to find out how much of an investment you will need to make in your new marketing efforts.
4. Three efforts at a time. We often get asked if its best to focus on just one effort. 99.9% of the time, the answer is, “Absolutely not.” Think of how much advertising is being thrown at your potential clients by your competitors. You need to make sure that you are utilizing various channels to get your message across. Keep in mind that a consumer must see your advertisement 7 times before they take an action! Running several channels at the same time will also help you better understand which channel works best.
5. Get help. As you look at your plan, think of items that you would need to outsource. Can you send out a monthly newsletter? Sure. But chances are that someone else can do it better, giving you a better chance of high return on investment and freeing up your time for efforts that only you can do, such as building referral relationships. The most dangerous mindset to have is that you will save on man power by doing everything yourself. As a business owner, you have to ensure you are working ON your business, not in it, so that you can increase your revenue. Be diligent with who you hire and how much you invest in them, but do not make the mistake of trying to do it yourself. You will waste precious time and quite likely, not carry out the plan at all.
6. Stick to the plan. Unless an expert recommended otherwise upon reviewing your plan, stick to your plan. If you don’t see enough results from a campaign, it can be tempting to quit after a week and move your budget somewhere else. However, marketing – like going to the gym – works best with a compound effect. Good luck!
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