There is that great old adage, ‘if you fail to plan then you plan to fail’. If you currently do your marketing on an adhoc basis, then you are probably not getting the most from your marketing budget.
By failing to plan, each part of your marketing is probably working independently rather than as a collective force.
It is probably only going out when you are quiet rather than capitalising when you are busy.
And it is probably making you a soft target for sales people looking to entice you into inappropriate advertising at ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ prices.
Luckily there is a simple solution to the ad-hoc approach – a marketing plan. This is an overall guide to the marketing you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and importantly how you are going to measure its success.
Search for marketing plans online and you will get a lot of detailed templates to help you strategise every single element of your marketing. These types of plans keep everything tight, but are time-consuming to write and eliminate flexibility.
We favour a simpler approach to marketing which keeps everything on the rails, but doesn’t eliminate the possibility of dropping something which isn’t working or capitalising quickly on something that does.
So if you are looking for an easy way to plan your marketing, here is what we think should be in a simple outline marketing plan.
1. Your Objectives
Firstly define exactly what you are trying to achieve with your marketing using a few bullet pointed objectives. This will give your marketing focus.
Examples of viable objectives might be.
> Increase new enquiry numbers by 20% by this time next year.
> Achieve an average 50% reorder rate from all new customers by June 2013.
> Get our website on the front page of Google for 5 key searches by the end of 2013.
To be useful, your objectives must be specific, measurable (so you can measure whether you achieved your target) and time-bound (so you have a time-frame for achieving them). To make sure you keep your motivation they also need to be realistic.
2. Promotional Plan
Now you have your objectives, what do you need to do to achieve them? This is where you define the promotional activity you will be doing.
To start, it can be useful just to brainstorm some ideas around each of your objectives. Perhaps a flyer campaign? Perhaps some magazine advertising? Perhaps starting a blog? You can then start to refine the best options down and add some details. Its really important that you clearly define exactly what you are going to do – if it is vague or theoretical then it is unlikely to actually happen.
The ultimate result should be a simple list of your planned marketing activity.
Once this is complete, stop and consider. Do you think this will achieve your objectives above? If yes, then you are ready to move on. If not, then it is time to change your objectives to something more realistic, or get back to brainstorming some more promotional ideas.
Now you know what you want to do, it is time to work out how much it is going to cost.
Contacting suppliers and researching online should allow you to set a realistic marketing budget. If your budget comes to more than you can afford or will cost you more than achieving your marketing objectives is worth then you will need to revisit your promotional plan.
It can also pay to add at least a 10% margin on your budget estimate – just to cover anything unexpected.
The schedule should plan out exactly when everything is going to happen. It shouldn’t just cover when your material will go out, but also when it will be created.
There are many different ways to lay out a schedule, but something as simple as listing all the months with a to-do list for each should be sufficient. Alternatively, if your promotional activity will be cyclical you can create a cycle of activity which you will repeat throughout the year.
If you know that you have a quiet time of year, try to schedule the creation of your marketing material into the gap. However, unless you have planned otherwise, it is important that you send out your marketing material consistently – even when you are at your busiest.
This is the part of the marketing plan which most people forget about. Its enough effort just to get the material out, never alone actually measure how effective it is.
However, monitoring the results of your marketing is essential to make sure you achieve your objectives and are not wasting money on marketing activity which is simply not working. It will also provide vital information for your next marketing plan.
Go back to your promotional plan and think how you can monitor each element of your planned activity. It may mean keeping a count of new customers, using a different telephone number, quoting a discount code, or adding Google Analytics to your website to monitor visitor numbers. Just as long as it allows you to keep a good eye on how successful each element of your plan is being.
And that’s it. Print it off and put it somewhere where it will continue to act as a reminder. It’s also useful to put key dates on a calender.
Marketing is the one thing that always gets left to when you are quiet. However, get your marketing plan and schedule right and with any luck you may never be quiet again.