2011 is over – history. You know without a doubt exactly what you accomplished and where your business came up short. Now is the time to examine every aspect of your 2011 marketing plan and see how you can revise it for a more profitable 2012. Please tell me you do indeed have a marketing plan. Without a plan you are relegated to shooting from the hip as your year progresses. Always reacting to circumstances instead of acting to create a response. The winning business is the one that has a plan.
Look back at 2011. What products or services offered were a hit? Which were not received well? Did you reach your target market? What media did you employ to reach your market? Were you able to measure your success? Did your particular field encounter a major change during 2011? Is the field of competitors filled with the same players or are there some new ones on the field? Were you able to achieve your goals working within your budget? Does it look like your business is stagnant? Once you’ve answered these questions you can move forward with a 2012 marketing plan.
I will agree that the process of putting together a marketing plan may seem daunting. It does take a lot of work. It forces you to be honest with yourself about your past success. It makes you face and confront areas that need improvement, a complete overhaul, or require new ideas using new media options. That’s why it can be beneficial to utilize the talents of a professional. Work with someone who knows the process and can guide you through each and every consideration as you formulate your plan. Some of you may only require a few meetings of consultation to refresh your approach and let you know what’s trending in business communication outlets. Think social media. Think mobile advertising. Others may need more in-depth assistance as you formulate target markets, demographics, media usage, budget constraints, and your particular timeline. Some of you already have marketing departments that keep your business focused toward a specific goal. That’s a wonderful advantage. Even in this circumstance it may be necessary to consult with a design professional to be sure you understand the best way to use new media and to create that media. A partnership between marketing and design should produce the most effective advertising placed in the best venue for your product or service.
Welcoming 2012 is fresh in our minds. Now is the time to work toward a profitable new year. If you’re a veteran to this marketing task then let this serve as a reminder that there’s work to be done. If you’re new to this or feel that you could use some expert advice, now is the time to pick up the phone or send out that email to a professional. The time and expense you put into this task now should prove profitable as your year progresses. Establish goals now and work to realize success. BoyDog Design can assist you with your marketing plan and the media you need produced to reach your goals.
I wish everyone a year filled with opportunity and success!
Good news for those of you who have struggled with the decision to add social media to your marketing mix. According to the Small Business Success Index small business adopted the use of social media at twice the rate of 2008 in 2009. These businesses are finding that social media offers them access to their market – enabling them to build their brand, engage their current customers, and attract new customers as well.
Here’s a link to useful information summarizing these finding: http://www.bit.ly/ceSbFP
It’s never too late to add social media to your marketing plan. BoyDog Design can assist you in sorting through the various social media sites, blogging options, directories, and more. Is it time to hone the social media persona of your business?
The best way to insure a successful outcome to any advertising endeavor is to prepare ahead. Collect all the data you will need and set the goals you hope to achieve. Whether you are doing this yourself or plan to work with a professional, I can assure you that the following questions will need to be answered.
1) What are your brand’s core values? What is unique about your product or service? How do you set yourself apart from your competition?
2) What is the consumer market you are competing in? What brands do you compete against? What benefit do you offer in that market?
3) Who is the advertising talking to? What is your demographic? What media do they relate to/use the most for information? Besides statistical information, like age and geographic location, ask yourself:
- How does your market approach life?
- What do they place value on?
- Is there a common affiliation, attitude, experience, etc.?
4) Why are you advertising? What’s your goal? You can’t measure success without a goal.
Are you trying to:
- create new buyers
- entice return buyers
- establish or reinforce brand loyalty
- impart a sense of community involvement
- reduce inventory for a specific item
- increase usage
5) What does the consumer think/feel about your brand? How is your product or service viewed by your market at the present time?
6) What single benefit will you promise in the advertising? Value? Quality? Prestige? Accessibility? Customer Service? Etc.
7) Why should your market believe you? Demonstrate how your brand’s benefit is indisputable.
One thing we can all count on is change. It is inevitable. It is vital. Many of you have already experienced a significant change in your business practices due to the current economic conditions in your area. Some of you were already feeling the pinch of a falling bottomline before any of the latest conditions developed.
I have lived through two corporate financial calamities. Things got very tense and survival seemed tenuous at times. Through it all we fought to promote sales and to protect our brand’s stature. I’d like to offer a marketing approach that we used when it became obvious that we needed to redo the marketing plan mid-year. The numbers were not good. We weren’t hitting the monthly projections. I’d grown accustomed to the first cut which always seemed to come down on advertising. Like clockwork my budget decreased to a painful sum.
So how do you continue on for the rest of the fiscal year? In my case, it wasn’t a matter of going bigger – we went smaller. I’ll explain. The major venue for advertising for one company was newspapers. Like most retail stores we had weekly ads and a circular. When times were right we placed ads for the total circulation of the paper. That’s a lot of papers. I’d guess the majority of readers were not qualified leads, only hopefuls. At the time it was just “something we do”. I came into the department where the advertising history told me what was expected. That’s when I initiated this rule – Never let history dictate what you will do in the present. It’s not written in stone. I reviewed the demographics for the newspaper. I consulted with the buyers and managers and we came to an agreement on a minimal territory to cover. It was a time consuming process but well worth the effort. By zoning our ad placement we could cover our immediate geographic customer base. A customer more inclined to actually come to the store. We saved a substantial amount of money in the process. This change didn’t get us out of our predicament. It did leave money in the bank which we used to make some necessary changes to other areas of operation. It was a part of a total review of our business practices.
Company number two had a global presence. Once again I inherited an advertising history. While I benefited by having an advertising past to review, it wasn’t long before I had to mark a trail of my own. Changing economic conditions, changing management, now that I think of it, just about everything was changing and it made it critical to review our entire marketing plan. I started from scratch. Everything was open for discussion. Nothing was sacred. Once again the budget became an issue and the dollars that were once available were no longer there. Time for a change.
This time I focused on specific markets that had proven results in the past. Now was not the time to throw money at an unknown customer base. The sales department narrowed down the most profitable markets. From that information we proceeded to target our advertising to specific markets based on projected need to purchase our products. This evolved into a more focused plan to develop a dialogue with a more qualified potential market. Ads were placed in trade magazines for specific markets that reached specific geographic areas. The trade shows that were attended were chosen with more defined requirements as far as their potential to generate leads and sales.
I can’t say this change in strategy sat well with everyone. Some long running relationships came to an end as far as where we placed our ads. Trade shows that once were routine were no longer necessary. In the end we saved money by capitalizing on more refined advertising placement and by cutting out expenses that upon inspection weren’t giving us a good return on investment. We chose to market to a smaller audience in order to increase the potential for a sale. We developed a deeper relationship with this market. They in turn came to understand the value in purchasing our products. We increased interest and opened a dialogue that lead to sales.
I wouldn’t presume that this approach is for everyone. Businesses function with different needs and demands. Your initial inclination might be to zoom out on your target market. The logic being that the broader the coverage the better the odds to initiate a sale. I’m advocating the opposite. Zoom in on a smaller, more qualified market. Expand your relationship with this group to help them fully develop an understanding of your brand’s capabilities. Encourage an interaction between your company and this base in order to gleen every aspect of need and then become what your market demands. During this process you may be surprised to find new markets that you didn’t know existed. Now that they are in your radar you can start thinking into the future.
Don’t fear change. Embrace it. Learn ways that allow your company to be fluid in its marketing plan. As long as you keep focused on current conditions and your intended outcome you can always tweak your plan to meet your needs. Being open to flexibility is a mindset that improves your chances of meeting your year end goals.
Judging from the popularity of GPS technology, I’d say we are a world that wants to know exactly where we’re going. So why is it that when your marketing plan is involved you haven’t set a destination? Without a map to a specific destination you can’t blame anyone but yourself if you don’t arrive where you want to be.
It’s always surprising for me to find out that a client hasn’t taken the time to prepare a marketing plan. Whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly, you need to know what you plan to do and what you hope the outcome will be.
Let’s run through some scenarios:
1 – A company is noticing a drop in sales and only then decides that they need to make some changes. They have no marketing plan and only advertise as they can afford it and in the same media. Their first inclination is to blame their advertisng for not resulting in more sales. Of course, they haven’t set any goals and they haven’t paid particular attention to the quality of the ads they’ve put out. I’d say they brought their current fiscal condition on themselves. Without a planned approach to marketing your product or service you will never know if your goals are being met, you will not have the flexibility to make adjustments during the year to fit a specific need, and you will not be able to rest the blame solely on your advertising.
2 – A company sets out with a marketing plan for the year and never sets goals. They have no focus on the return required of each aspect of their plan or the plan as a whole. Just because you took the time to write out a marketing plan and made sure the numbers were right for your budget does not ensure success. To truly measure your return on investment (yes, the perpetual ROI) you need to qualify what success will entail. Is it a dollar amount in sales? Is it building your brand? Is it focusing on local markets? Is it clearing out stock that’s been sitting around for too long? The qualifying event that represents success needs to be clear.
3 – A company sets out at the beginning of the year booking ads and registering for trade shows. They also decide to rework some literature and participate is a direct mail campaign. Sounds great. Sounds like they’ve got it all together. Oh, did I mention that they neglected to formalize their intentions in a marketing plan and, into the second quarter, they realize that company economics have shifted and they don’t have enough money to continue on their path. The most important part of their year is the third quarter when the majority of the trade shows they attend are scheduled. Now, they don’t know if they should attend or, if they do, if they’ll have the budget to do it the right way. They might have to forego revised literature and perhaps skip the pre-trade show direct mail campaign. Sounds like they’re in for some rough sailing.
It all could have been avoided if they had written out their marketing plan. Something tangible to review and adjust. If you have your plan in front of you with the costs clearly stated you allow yourself the luxury of adjustment. Your plan allows you to see what’s coming down the road. It allows you to make your way through rough spots during the year and still accomplish your goal. I’ve had to do it myself numerous times. Most often it’s due to a shrinking budget. It’s not an easy task, but it is doable. Your marketing plan will allow you to make educated adjustments instead of “shoot from the hip” decisions.
4 – Sometimes the hardest thing to do is try something different, something that has no proven results. There will be times when you need to think out of the box and make adjustments to your marketing plan. If a company doesn’t take the time to develop its plan it will make measuring the effectiveness of new choices a harder process. If you know that you want to add new media to the mix this year, you owe it to yourself to put it in a deliberate marketing plan in order to know if you’re reaching your goal. With a full-fledged plan you will be able to judge if the new media is working or not. If it needs a little tweaking. If it needs to be reinforced with even more coverage. You can document the effectiveness of your campaign and make the necessary changes if you know the who, what, where, when, why, and cost of everything in your marketing program.
It’s not too late to put your plan together. If you don’t have one yet, do it now. With the economic environment we’re all facing at the present time, it’s paramount that every business use every possible tool to ensure success. Dropping the ball by neglecting to develop a marketing plan is a foolish risk that noone can afford. All it takes is focus, time, and planning.