We’re on the home stretch now. Before long, we’ll be ringing in 2014 with champagne, confetti, and, of course, a new marketing plan. If you haven’t created your 2014 plan just yet, don’t worry. There’s still time. In this post, we’re going to reveal six things every small business marketing plan should include.
1. Theme. If you have a theme for the year, you’ll be able to easily design the rest of your marketing plan since you’ll be using this theme as inspiration for everything you do.
Tip: Think of it like the Chinese zodiac, where it might be the year of the pig or the rooster or the ox, and the different influences this will have on the year. For you, 2014 might be all about “Sales 2.0,” or maybe it’s about “Operation Awesome Product,” or maybe you call it “3Fold” because you want revenue to grow by that amount. When you have your theme, you can make sure all the tasks outlined month-to-month support the theme. Having a theme provides a nice little checks and balances. It also gives you an easy way to communicate your company’s goals with your employees.
2. Realistic goals. Your marketing plan shouldn’t rival War and Peace in length. While it’s easy to dream big right now, it’s important to be realistic as well. Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure and frustration every month when you review that month’s tasks and see how many items were left undone.
Tip: If you had a marketing plan in 2013, that’s the place to begin. Was your plan realistic, too aggressive, or not aggressive enough? If you have many items in the “not done” column, then your plan was likely too aggressive (or you didn’t delegate well enough). If every item/goal on your plan was met, you might want to consider stretching yourself a bit more in 2014. If you completed most of the items on your plan and had only a handful of “not done,” then you planned well. Use the same strategy when creating your 2014 marketing plan.
If you didn’t have a plan this year, then you’ll be starting from scratch and flying without any navigation. That’s OK. You need to start somewhere. How many items you have on your plan from month-to-month will depend on how much help you have with execution. If you have a marketing person, you can create a more robust plan. If it’s just you, your monthly tasks list will be shorter.
Think about your plan in terms of hours. A 20-hour-a-month plan could cover an email newsletter, writing and layout of another marketing piece (like a white paper), several blog posts, website monitoring, social media maintenance, and work on a longer-term marketing program. A 5-hour-a-month plan would probably cover an email newsletter and perhaps some light website work and monitoring of one social media account. Of course, hours are just one part of the puzzle. You need to think about dollars as well, which brings us to our next point.
3. Budget. Even if you do all the marketing yourself, your time is still worth something. If you outsource it, you’ll need to consider budgets. And you’ll need to consider the costs for all the items that support your marketing.
Tip: Think about all the items you pay for that help you market your business, like website hosting, email newsletter vendor, content writers, graphic designers, and so forth. Of course, not all of these items are regular monthly expenses. Let’s say you can put $1000 a month towards marketing. Figure out the monthly expenses you know you have. See what that leaves you with. For the purpose of this experiment, let’s say you spend $200 every month on regular expenses. That leaves you with $800 for other marketing tasks. If you outsource to a marketing firm, you could be paying anywhere from $50 to $150 an hour (or more), depending on where your business is located and the marketing consultant’s experience. You can see how that dramatically affects how many monthly marketing “hours” you have. If you do the marketing yourself, assign a dollar value to your time. If your time is worth $100/hour, then you’d have 8 hours for monthly marketing items (using the example above). There’s no right or wrong answer here—only what’s right or wrong for your business. Use this number to guide in you making realistic decisions for your marketing plan.
4. Built-in sanity checks. You shouldn’t create your marketing plan and then forget about it. This plan is a living, breathing document, one that will—and should—change as the year unfolds. This is why it’s important to build in regular reviews of the plan.
Tip: Once a quarter is ideal. When you’re conducting other end-of-quarter rituals, add “review marketing plan” to your to-do list (and yes, these meetings should be noted on the plan itself). Be proactive and schedule the dates now in your calendar.
5. Regular customer communications. Depending on your business, you might communicate more than once a month with your customer base, but at the very least, you should be doing one monthly “touch.” It could be an email newsletter, a print newsletter, or a monthly sales advert—just make sure it’s something.
Tip: When you’re creating your marketing plan, delegate who owns this task from month to month (this especially important if you have multiple people working on your marketing). If you need to come up with content ideas for this monthly communication (like an article for a newsletter, for example), write topics into the marketing plan. You can always adjust them as you go through the year.
6. Measurements/benchmarks. If you’ve typically approached marketing as something where you throw a bunch of things “out there” and you see what sticks, well, this a good time to revise that strategy. While your marketing plan should outline the different programs you’re running month-to-month, you should also include how and when you’re going to measure results. We put the word “when” in italics, because that’s the piece that tends to stymy small business owners. You need to work time into your marketing plan, even if it’s just an hour a month, to review results and analytics. You don’t need to have a degree in statistics either. Use common sense where you can.
For example, let’s say you sent out 1000 postcards with a coupon code and 300 people used it (which is a 30% conversion rate). That’s excellent for a direct mail campaign (in general). Over time, if you repeat the promotion, you’ll develop benchmarks for your business. You might discover that a more typical result for your company is actually higher or lower than the thirty percent. But you won’t know this until you start regularly measuring (and keeping track of) results.
Tip: Set aside a time in your calendar each month—even if it’s just two hours—where you review the month’s activities and all the analytics (e.g. website traffic and conversions, newsletter click-throughs, PPC performance, and so forth).
Can you think of other must-haves that you’d recommend small business owners include in their 2014 marketing plans? Share in the comments.