By Peggy Bekavac Olson
With the new year close at hand, have you started developing an annual marketing plan for your business? If not, today is the time to begin. First, identify what you want your business to achieve in the coming year. This entails defining specific business goals and objectives. At a minimum, set basic financial goals for revenue and profitability achievement.
You may also want to set additional goals and objectives for your organization, such as introducing a new product or service, increasing brand awareness and recognition, securing investment capital, adding staff, or even moving into a larger facility. The possibilities are endless; it's up to you to set the stage for your business in 2013.
Once business goals are in place, the first step in planning for the coming year's marketing efforts is to examine the past. Critically review all the marketing activities your business has undertaken during the past year and evaluate their results. Ask and answer these questions:
Understanding the prior year's performance plays an important role in building a strong, viable annual marketing plan for the coming year.
The next step is to develop high-level marketing strategies that support your business goals, and then select from a variety of tactics and campaigns that can be used to achieve them. These can include advertising, events, publicity, direct marketing, Internet marketing, social media and more.
Use insights from the past year to help with this year's plan. Incorporate what worked well and nix what doesn't. Make adjustments and tweak tactics to make them even better than before. Be adventurous; don't be afraid to try new strategies and tactics to help achieve your goals.
Following are three sample strategies and a host of marketing tactics to support their achievement. These strategies and tactics are just examples; they may or may not be adequate to support successful achievement for any given company. They are provided to give you a framework to work from.
Supporting tactics: issue press releases regularly throughout the year; exhibit at tradeshows in target market(s); advertise in journals or online publications in target market(s); develop social media profiles to attract and engage friends/followers; develop and promote white papers on topics of value to target market(s); conduct thought-leadership webinars on topics of value to target market(s); and secure speaking engagements at high-profile events in target market(s).
Example 2: Strategy - increase merchant leads
Supporting tactics: develop lead list(s) for target market(s) of decision makers and influencers; develop referral relationships with pertinent organizations and individuals in target market(s); conduct monthly email blast campaigns; conduct monthly direct mail campaigns; conduct quarterly executive door opener campaigns; utilize search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising; and develop lead nurturing program.
Example 3: Strategy - launch new value-added service
Supporting tactics: construct buyer persona, service positioning and messaging, and value proposition statement; develop marketing collateral and sales aids, and update website; issue press release for service launch; conduct email cross-sell campaign for existing portfolio merchants; promote via direct mail; run sales incentive contest; and create initial sales testimonials for further promotion.
For each strategy you undertake, estimate the financial outlay for each supporting tactic. Then calculate the total spend for each strategy, as well as for all strategies combined. Budgets for each strategy and for the complete marketing plan should be reviewed during the approval process to ensure moving forward as defined makes sense.
Also identify ways to track and measure marketing tactics to gauge effectiveness. Using unique 800 telephone numbers, URL click-throughs, website landing pages and website interaction statistics are all good examples of tracking and measurement mechanisms.
Once your strategies, tactics and budget are in place, execute your plan. Execution is ongoing and takes place throughout the year.
At times, execution can be slow and steady, and at other times, frenetic and fast-paced. The value of your plan is to keep your business on track while ensuring marketing opportunities and budgets are maximized.
Your plan should provide a disciplined approach to reaching your business objectives, yet be flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions and business opportunities throughout the year.
By continually tracking and measuring effectiveness, you'll be certain of what is and isn't working. So make adjustments as you go; don't wait until the end and wish you'd made changes to improve effectiveness in process.
Ringing in the new year with a solid marketing plan in place is a great way to start the year off right and help ensure you achieve your business goals. Here's wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous 2013.
Peggy Bekavac Olson is founder and principal of Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payments. She serves on the Board of the Women's Network in Electronic Payments and on the Program Planning Committee for the Electronic Transactions Association. She can be reached at 480.706.0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.
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