I’m still not sure how it happened so fast, but it’s already mid-November and before we know it 2018 will be a wrap. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until after January 1st to start planning your marketing for 2019! Now is the perfect time to plan out your strategy, set your goals and budget, and be ready to start acting on your plan when the new year rolls around.
7 Steps to Developing a Successful Marketing Plan
Step 1: Who is Your Target Audience? Has it Changed?
It may seem obvious, but when was the last time you sat down and documented exactly who your target audience really is? The more you know about your audience, the better you can target your marketing to them. Consider creating buyer personas for each audience. A buyer persona is like a detailed description about a particular audience that outlines everything from age range, to socio-economic status, to their specific needs and challenges. Having this information helps drive your marketing efforts and messaging. After all, it’s much easier to decide what to say to “Jill, who is a mom, works full time, wants to save time, and volunteers in her community,” versus “every woman in Minneapolis”.
Step 2: What are Your Goals?
Having well-defined goals is good not only for benchmarking, but also for helping define your marketing strategy. Once you’ve determined your top-level goals, work backwards to determine what things you’ll need to do in order to reach it. For example, let’s say one goal is to increase overall revenue by 15%. To grow revenue, you’ll need to sell more. To sell more, you’ll need to increase sales to existing customers, and find new customers to sell to. Now you’ve got two tracks to plan for: one for existing customers to grow sales, and one for prospecting to identify new potential customers. You’ll want to ensure your marketing plan includes objectives aimed at each of these, such as regular emails to your current customer base, and Facebook ads to people who meet your target audience(s) you identified earlier.
Once you’ve set your goals you can ensure every marketing activity you do going forward is something that will contribute to one or more of your goals.
Step 3: What is Your Overall Budget? (What Should Your Budget Be?)
This is a difficult question to answer, as it varies greatly for every business or organization. Old rules of thumb said you should devote anywhere from 5% up to 20% of your estimated revenue to marketing. This can be a good starting point if you’ve never set a marketing budget before. A safer alternative though is to create your proposed plan first, outlining estimated costs for each activity, and then building in some wiggle room for unplanned opportunities. Be sure you’re using realistic estimates as well, or you’ll find yourself in a squeeze later. It’s easier to make your budget fit your planned marketing activities than it is to try and fit things into a tight budget after the fact.
Step 4: Do You Have What You Need to be Successful?
Budget and planning time is also a great opportunity to evaluate whether the tools you have at your disposal are sufficient to help you execute your strategy. Marketing can be more effective and much simpler with the right tools!
- Website: Does your website provide a good customer experience? Does it perform well in search? Does it help you get found and convert leads? If not, it may need some work. Your website can act as a central point for many different marketing efforts!
- Email Platform: There are lots of great email marketing platforms out there, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. Most are very affordable (or even free in some cases), and fairly easy to use. Email can be a great low-cost marketing vehicle. But did you know you can also automate many activities or various steps in the sales cycle using email marketing? If your email platform doesn’t offer marketing automation tools, it might be time to upgrade.
- CRM System: A good CRM (customer relationship management) system can allow you to properly track and manage leads, as well as keep good information on your customers for optimum targeting and more personalized messaging.
- Marketing Collateral: Has your brand gone stale? Does your 1987 logo look like it was designed in 1987? Have your business cards and letterhead started to look too much like the competition? Whether it’s a full-scale brand refresh or just some updated business collateral, having great looking materials that represent you in the best way is always important.
- Staffing & Support: Do you have sufficient manpower to accomplish everything that is needed to achieve your goals? Likewise, does your manpower have the necessary skills to be able to execute all facets of your plan? If the answer is no to either of these, now is the time to start thinking about hiring some extra help, either internally or through an agency like Vivid Image. If you don’t know how much help you’ll need, it might be better to work with an agency that you can hire as-needed.
Step 5: What Channels or Efforts are Working Well? (Likewise, what is Dead Weight?)
Results are important! After all, why do the work if it doesn’t contribute to your goal? Start with a thorough review of your current and past marketing activities to identify what produced your best results and ROI. Plan to repeat the best activities, or even double down if it makes sense to do so. Likewise, take a critical look at anything that’s spending your budget but not creating the results you need. Repeat after me: “We don’t need to keep doing something just because we’ve always done it.” Your time and your marketing dollars are valuable! If something isn’t working well, use them to test something new.
Step 6: What New Channels to Implement?
Speaking of new… what are some new areas that you could try next year? You’ll never know for sure if something works until you try it. Maybe you’ve been thinking about trying more with social media, or advertising on YouTube, or hosting a big event. Testing the waters is how we identify the tactics that will keep our businesses successful in the future. If possible, allocate some budget and resources into trying a new channel and create a plan.
Step 7: Are There Big Events or Dates Coming Up?
Keep in mind that if there’s something big or promotion-worthy happening in the coming year you’ll need to include provisions in your plan for these as well. Events and happenings can create a lot of buzz for your organization and give you more reasons to talk to your current and prospective customers throughout the year. Examples could be things like “years in business” anniversary dates, new product releases, new service launches, location openings or facility expansions, or even social happenings you’re connected to.
If You Haven’t Started, Now is the Time
January 1st will be here before you know it. Be ready to start your year off strong and achieve your goals! If you need help with planning your marketing or need to talk numbers for your budget, give us a call or contact us today. We want to help you be successful!