…or maybe just a tweaking of the old plan would be a good start.
It’s definitely that time of year when we review our lives, loves and business, although to some people they are all one and the same thing. However, that aside, January is a good time to review your plans for the year and your marketing plan for the business deserves a review along with the rest of it. In an ideal world we should be looking at it in December so that, come January 1st, we are ready to go…
Admittedly in tough economic times it is more difficult to be strategic, and think beyond the next year, but that’s no excuse for not keeping the short term tactical planning on track. This is true for some sectors more than others. Even companies that were renowned and revered for their sales and marketing savvy came unstuck at the end of last year. Supermarket giant, Tesco, recently had to admit that they misjudged their markets and got the planning wrong for December.
So how can we help to ensure we don’t do a Tesco? Regular planning and review. Develop a marketing plan so that you, and anyone else in the business, know what you are doing, why you are doing it and what you expect to get in return over the year.
Set some objectives
Ask yourself where you want the business to be by the end of the year and try to be as specific as possible in terms of things like units sold/new customers won/increased turnover/raised profile in your sector.
Whether you are dealing in cupcakes, engineering projects, or hair dos, you will need to have a good idea of how many you need to make, or complete, each month, quarter or by year-end, to keep the business running and growing. So before you do anything else, set yourself some realistic objectives for the business so that you know what you are working towards.
The review is usually done at the end of the planning period but there’s no harm in also doing it now. Consider where the business is now in relation to where it needs to be over the next 12 months. How big is the gap? Are you on target with regards to last year’s plan? If not, why not? What did you do last year that worked well that you might want to repeat? What did you do that you really shouldn’t do again?
If something didn’t work make sure you are clear which elements went awry – for example was it:
- the target market (were you talking to the right people – the buyers, decision-makers, end-users?),
- the promotional messages (were you saying the right things in a way that the target market appreciated and understood?),
- the product (was it the right product or service offered at the right price for your customers?),
- and how easy was it for customers to get hold of your product, or service, and could you improve the customer experience?
There are many reasons why promotional activity might not have quite the effect that you were expecting so it is always worth reviewing what you did previously so that you can learn from experience and use it to inform your planning for the year.
Plan of action
Once you have a clearer picture of where you want to be, deciding what you will need to do to get the business there should be relatively straightforward – especially if you already have a year or more of trading under your belt that you can learn from.
Consider every potential opportunity to get the business out there. Keep the ideas that work for your business and discard the rest – or park them for another time.
The next step is to put together a campaign, or a plan of action, which outlines the marketing activities month-by-month that will help you achieve your objectives.
If your products are seasonal then plan your marketing activities around that. For example, set up your email broadcasts and/or postal mailings, and sales calls, so that they hit the market during the decision-making process. Arrange your activities so that they work together over a sustained period of time – in a drip-drip effect over months rather than one big splash – for maximum impact.
Planning ahead will make it easier to ensure that you don’t miss out on opportunities simply because you didn’t have time to consider them properly further down the road. Get in early on activities like speaking at key events, or getting editorial into key media. If you are buying advertising space make sure that you do so far enough in advance so that it hits the market at the right time.
Whatever you plan to do with your marketing, write it all down. Get a big wall chart and emblazon your plan across it. If it’s on the plan you can see when it needs action, who will be responsible for making it happen, and how much it will cost. If you haven’t even thought about it that could result in an opportunity lost or things done in a rush at the last minute. Planning keeps you in control of your time, your money and your business.
As the months go by, review and revise your plan where necessary and don’t forget to celebrate the successes.
About the author: Deborah Rowe, Consultant, Sheba Marketing
Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing. Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things. www.shebamarketing.co.uk