Tis the Season for Marketing Planning

by Dana Blozis

For many businesses, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year. For others, the holidays are a bit slower. Regardless of which category your business fits into, you should be looking ahead to 2008.

Why now? Year end is ideal for reflecting on what you’ve accomplished during the year. What new products, services or programs did you implement? What customer service strategies did you employ that increased business? Which marketing strategies successfully put your business in front of your target customer, and what didn’t work and why?

Armed with this information, take a look at your goals for next year. What do you want your business to accomplish next year? Do you want to increase revenue? Grow your client base? Venture into a new niche market? Now think about how you’re going to get there. This is where your marketing planning for 2008 comes in. Spend some time thinking about what marketing tools you can implement next year that will help you to reach your goals.

Although some marketing planning techniques are complex and require weeks to fine-tune, I’ve found that a simpler method works for my clients. To develop a marketing plan that will work for your business, try the following.

First, identify the types of marketing you want to do next year such as advertising (print and online), events, promotions, referral programs, newsletters, press releases, coupons, online marketing, direct mail, e-mail marketing, etc. Choose methods that have worked well for you in the past as well as ideas you’d like to try.

Next, decide how often you will do each type of marketing. Some methods like advertising, newsletters, and online marketing will require consistent use and implementation to be successful. Others (press releases, events and promotions) can be done less frequently or can be implemented when you’re expecting a cyclical slowdown in activity.

Third, pull out your calendar and start penciling in marketing ideas. As you tentatively post items to your calendar, consider what marketing methods are going to yield the best results. Most of my business, for example, comes from my website and client referrals, so I want to focus my efforts on posting new content to my website, networking with potential business partners and clients, and regularly communicating with my existing client base (newsletters, postcards, referral program, etc.)

Here’s a sample to get you started:

January: Send cards to clients thanking them for 2007 business and wishing them well in the New Year (2nd) Advertise in Sunday real estate section of local newspaper (weekly) Advertise in local Homes & Land publication (15th) Send out e-newsletter to existing clients and prospects (20th) Networking lunch (22nd) Post new content to website (25th)

February: Hold customer appreciation open house (5th) Advertise in Sunday real estate section of local newspaper (weekly) Advertise in local Homes & Land publication (15th) Send out e-newsletter to existing clients and prospects (20th) Networking lunch (22nd) Post new content to website (25th)

March: Distribute press release about latest award won or new product/service launched Advertise in Sunday real estate section of local newspaper (weekly) Advertise in local Homes & Land publication (15th) Send out e-newsletter to existing clients and prospects (20th) Networking lunch (22nd) Post new content to website (25th)

Now compare your ideas and your initial marketing schedule to your budget and staff. Can you afford to do all of the marketing you’d like to do? If not, scale back the list. Retain items that will most often put you in front of your target customer and that offer the best return on your investment. If you have a wildly successful year, it is much easier to add a marketing tool than to take one away, especially if your customers have gotten used to it.

Based on what’s left on your list, do you have the staff to implement your ideas? For example, who will write your monthly newsletter? Who will make sure postcards get mailed to prospects, and how will you get website content updated regularly? If you don’t have the staff or you are a one-man show, can you hire an intern to help out, exchange services with a colleague or hire an independent contractor to fill in the gaps?

Finally, review your 2008 marketing plan on a quarterly basis to see what’s working and what may need tweaking. The document can be adjusted as needed, depending on your changing needs. As you evaluate your plan, be sure to note which marketing methods worked well for your business and which ideas didn’t yield the expected results. Keep this in a folder marked “2008 Marketing Results.” Also, note the items that you would like to try and save them in a folder marked “Marketing Ideas.” This information will help you to plan for subsequent years.

For small businesses, this simple marketing planning formula is an easy way for you to look ahead to 2008 without distracting you from the holiday business at hand.

Here’s to an incredibly successful 2008!

Copyright © 2007 by Dana E. Blozis

Dana Blozis of Virtually Yourz is a freelance writer, editor and marketing professional based in the Seattle area. In addition to writing for publication, she offers writing, editing and marketing services to small businesses and nonprofits. For more marketing ideas, subscribe to Dana’s monthly marketing newsletter.