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What You Should Be Including In Your 2018 Marketing Plan Right Now

Though it may feel like you still have plenty of time, 2018 is less than 100 days away!

That means it’s time to be thinking about your marketing strategy and budget for the new year.

Many of us are searching for 2018 marketing trends, lists and strategies, and those articles abound. This article is to help you understand from a high level what you need to be assessing and what you need to do as you actually write your overall marketing plan, both online or off.

2018 Marketing Plan, Strategy Tips

Creating a marketing strategy begins with evaluating your business objectives. Any campaigns you develop in the coming year must tie back to the objectives you decide upon now. Without specific goals in mind, your 2018 marketing attempts will be unfocused and scattered. This is a crucial step that many businesses either glaze over or don’t take the time to sit down and focus their team.

You may feel you’re too busy to dedicate an entire day to planning for 2018, but not doing so will cause you continual setbacks throughout the year as you scramble to create new campaigns and you realize your marketing efforts are floundering. And remember, in most cases, you have employees and their families to think about.

As you prepare your 2018 marketing strategy keep these things in mind:

Never be complacent, even if your sales numbers are high. If sales are strong, think about how you can create entry barriers, exit barriers, improve existing customer/client sales, lower customer acquisition costs, and invest to increase market share. Think about how you can pull away further from the pack. If sales are weak, evaluate where your customers are coming from, examine the profitability of each marketing channel, and the cost effective ways to immediately improve your plan. This may also be a time to get customer feedback, evaluate pricing, and look for areas of the market that are more profitable, for example. Regardless, it’s time for reflection.

During this planning time, we recommend taking the time to consider doing something new. Is it time to redo your website and make it more responsive? Are you happy with your SEO standing? Are you considering advertising on a new platform, or breaking into using AdWords? Should you retool your print campaigns? Do you have a firm social media plan? Have you held off on email marketing?

Going into 2018 with a plan in place for social, digital advertising and outreach strategies will position you ahead of the competition.

Here are some process tips on how to put that plan together:

First, you want to set clear goals, so you can track and measure the success of your outreach campaigns. Create objectives based on those goals. The goals should be based on what is attainable, meaningful, financially feasible, operationally possible and accomplishable in the time frame allotted. Some people likes to call these type of goals SMART goals.

One way of thinking about goal setting is asking yourself, “How much new business do I want to have, and how many new customers do I need?” If you can quantity how many new leads you need, your conversion rates, your cost per acquisition and profitability per customer, you can quantify how much investment is needed to reach your goals, for example. In other words, knowing the numbers can help you calculate what it costs to get one more customer. Digital marketing is great because measurement is very robust compared to traditional media.

Determine which metrics you will use to measure each of those successes on each marketing channel.  Each marketing channel will have unique metrics. For example, in SEO, you may be looking at a combination of organic traffic growth, conversions, rankings and cost per organic visitor. In Pay Per Click, you may be looking at Cost Per Action, conversions, conversion rate and time on site. You may also be looking at costs per click, average position, and leads by device type or CPA by device type. In social media, you will be looking at a combination between numbers that evaluate your reach and metrics that tell you how well you are engaging with reached users. You should set these goals for each digital marketing channel.

Next, determine your strategy and your action plan for reaching each of those goals. That means “how” you are actually going to get the results you need and “why” that plan is going to work. Your action plan is part of your strategy. That’s where individuals come into play; the staff you are going to assign tasks to in order to support your strategy. It’s the nuts and bolts of the everyday tactics your team will take to align your work schedule to meeting your company objectives. It’s the resources and budget attached to each program you will use. It’s the nitty gritty of marketing!

Remember to look at the marketing and the industry.  Things have probably changed over the past year, hopefully to your benefit! New industry players may have come in. Your rankings may have changed online opening you up to a more saturated search engine environment. A new product may have taken off, drawing more competitors into the niche. Or, even laws may have changed, or there are other macro factors affecting your business. Take a 10K foot view and evaluate if your overall business model, your positioning and your offering are still “relevant” and competitive. Then, identity what has to change.

It’s important to also look at how service may be changing in your industry and what customer expectations will be this coming year in 2018. Are you ready? What do you need to change? What are your strengths worth reinforcing? What weaknesses need correction? Where are the opportunities and growth areas in your industry? Who on your team will take point to follow up on initiatives?

Look at your marketing message and your promotional strategy. Many companies offer similar or the same products and services, but why do some excel and others fail? Sometimes, it’s a matter of what connects to your customers the best, and what you have to offer in the moment where they have a need. Is your marketing message clear? Is it clear for each product line or service you may have? Do you have a promotional strategy? Are you susceptible to price competition? If you are, how are you differentiating through messaging? Even with an excellent product and an amazing customer experience, it’s sometimes the sales process that needs the most help. Make sure you are laser focused and crystal clear when it comes to customer communications.

Map it all out on paper and ask for feedback. Actually write it all out. Map out your goals and tactics (by month), with a budget allocated by marketing channel, and assign a point person who is accountable. Schedule meetings to follow progress and determine the Key Success Factors needed to make it all happen. Executing your plan and then measuring, monitoring and adjusting your plan can be the difference between success and failure. So get feedback from your team and your Digital Agency or Marketing Consultant. Place calls to vendors or business partners you work who and who serve a similar audience and get more ideas. Don’t stop until you have something concrete that you can actually execute.

In summary, if you want you want to see results from your marketing strategy in the coming year, don’t sit back. Get up and make some moves….now! And if you need some help, you know you can get in touch with us at any time. Best of luck in turning 2018 into your most profitable year yet!

2011 Marketing Plan Strategies: How To Write A Marketing Plan

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

“Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s is easy to beat most folks.”
– Paul “Bear” Bryant, football coach, University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

You’ve got to know where you’re going and how you are going to get there.  With the New Year weeks away, it is the right time to write your 2011 marketing plan and commit to the specific actions you are going to take in 2011 to grow and improve your businesses.  Writing a marketing plan will arm you with the confidence that you are allocating marketing dollars to the most productive marketing strategies.

While writing a marketing plan can seem like a daunting task, it does not have to be complicated or lengthy to be effective.  Often the most effective marketing plans are those that have been well thought out and then documented in a simple, brief and concise format.

2011 Marketing Plan, strategic marketing plan, Writing A Marketing Plan, Company Marketing Plan
Have your written your 2011 marketing plan?

A streamlined 2011 marketing plan could outline in five pages or less:
1. A summary of  industry /market trends that could impact how you market your business as well as an internal analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your company, your products/services and your marketing operations.
2/3. Customer profiles and key messages (who your different target customer groups are and what message you will use to communicate value to each of them).
4. Key marketing/communications objectives (what you are going to achieve and when).
5/6. Marketing strategies and marketing tactics (how you are going to achieve those goals and through what specific marketing and advertising activities you are going to reach them). With each tactic that you decide to pursue, be sure to outline the 1) rationale for pursuing that marketing tactic 2) person accountable 3) an allocated budget 4) a timeline.

7. Timeline (What is going to be achieved and which actions are going to be taken in a defined period of time). Using a one page Gantt chart can be very effective. Here is video Tutorial of how to make a Gantt chart in Excel.

8. Budget (How much money will be allocated to specific line item marketing activities).
9. How you will evaluate and measure your success at key milestones throughout the year i.e. performance measures

How do I start writing my 2011 marketing plan?

In its essence, the key to writing a great marketing plan is asking the right marketing questions. These are questions that provoke thought and reveal opportunities and gaps in your marketing plan.  From this phase, you will engineer an action plan that pursues each of those opportunities in a logical, cohesive way that fits your marketing budget.

Remember, things have changed a lot even in one year

It’s especially important to keep an open mind about how to integrate new media and new technologies into your marketing plan. The fact is although it has been one year, a lot has evolved in marketing.

The social marketing space has grown exponentially as well as the age and demographics of web 2.0 users. The way people search for products/services is increasingly mobile.  Key search engines have become more “real time” and “instant” in how they process searches. It has become increasingly difficult to have your website show up on page one of Google due to the millions of new websites coming online which has made search engine optimization an essential part of every businesses internet marketing plan.

And consumers are much less influenced by interruptive, traditional advertising vehicles than in the past.  Where and how you communicate with customers may need to be reevaluated.

So, what are some of the key questions I should ask myself to write a 2011 marketing plan?

Our hope is that by asking yourself some of the questions below you will be inspired to take time out of your busy workday and start reflecting, strategizing and planning for how you will market your company in 2011.  Add to or edit the list. Make it your own.

•    Did I reach my 2010 marketing goals? If not, do I know why? Am I investing in marketing / advertising activities that can be measured in terms of performance?
•    What industry and consumer trends might shape my 2011 small business marketing plan? Here is an interesting article about 2011 consumer / marketing trends.
•    Is my product or service still in demand?
•    What are my marketing goals for 2011? Are they Clear, Quantified, Achievable, Realistic, Timely, and Agreed Upon) goals?
•    What is my budget for marketing in 2011? How can I shift my marketing dollars to higher return, more measurable marketing tools to grow my business?  On a monthly basis, where will my marketing dollars come from to fund marketing activities e.g. by decreasing inventory, ST loan, projected cash flow etc.
•    Who are my competitors in 2011? What are their weaknesses? Who has entered the market in 2010? Who has left in 2010?
•    What needs are not being filled in the market right now by my competitors that I can fill in 2011? Is there an opportunity to introduce a new product or service?
•    Do customers know what is unique about my business? Where am I positioned in the market e.g. price leader, specialist/generalist, service leader etc.?  Why should a customer buy from me instead of my competitors?
•    Am I pricing and packaging my products/services in the most profitable way?
•    Can I accurately describe each of my customer segments? Who is my most profitable customer segment? Can I really create a clear customer profile with what I know today?
•    What am I doing to maintain and deepen relationships with existing customers/clients?
•    What feedback do I have from customers that can shape my 2011 marketing plan?
•    What insights are revealed? What specific actions can I take to better serve my customers in 2011?
•    How have behaviors of my target audience changed? Am I using the right media to communicate to my audience?
•    Have I taken advantage of the many “free” marketing tools available online such as Social Media Marketing with Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube Video Marketing, Social Bookmarking, Forums etc. to build my marketing program?
•    What am I going to do to “wow” customers and stay memorable? What are some low-cost, high impact strategies I can use?
•    Who is going to be accountable for which marketing activities?
•    Can I reach my marketing goals with in-house resources or do I need to consider getting expert help from a marketing consultant?

What questions would you add to this list?

Going through the Discovery process and looking at your company marketing plan with a fresh set of eyes before allocating precious marketing dollars to the same activities you did last year can be the difference between being in the red or the black next at the end of 2011. Spending the time now to plan and make strategic decisions can save you a lot of money and missed opportunities this year as well improve your results significantly.

Once you have written a streamlined marketing plan for 2011, just remember that it’s acting on what you have learned and executing those ideas flawlessly that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.  If you’re not sure what to focus on, put resources toward marketing to the 20% of your customer base / target audience that will generate 80 % of your revenue. If you have questions that you cannot answer, it can make sense to engage a marketing consultant to work with you as you plan for the coming year.

Best of luck marketing in 2011! Feel free to share comments here or with our marketing consultants. Thanks.

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