The final days of 2011 are fast approaching and planning for the New Year can get lost amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. But the best way to get 2012 off to a great start is to put some thought into where you want 2012 to take you and how you plan to get there. Yes, it’s time to create your 2012 marketing plan.
For small business owners, marketing can be your success differentiator. As you get ready to leap into the New Year, taking the time to develop a marketing plan will help keep you on track, ensure you are spending your marketing dollars effectively, and give you the focus you need to succeed.
I asked other small businesses for their thoughts and ideas on how to build an effective marketing plan for 2012 and received many insightful responses. Many small businesses are taking a hard look at what worked and what did not work in 2011 so that they can focus their marketing dollars in the most profitable places. Others are looking for creative and innovative ways to expand their reach without expanding their marketing budget. To help you build the best marketing plan for your business, I pulled together the most consistent themes, sprinkled them with a bit of my own experience, and let the small businesses speak for themselves.
1. Start at the End
In order to ensure you pick the best tactics and strategies to meet your marketing goals for 2012, you need to be clear about your goals. What do you need marketing to do for you in 2012? Are you looking to expand your market presence, bring in more customers, generate more leads, or break into a new market?
Beth Walsh from Clearpoint Agency, Inc. explained how they develop their marketing plan for the coming year.
We have several methods that we use to plan our marketing tactics, including a news release schedule and blog schedule, both of which are set-up as Excel spreadsheets. However, first, we are having a planning meeting with our staff of five where we will do a workshop on our key messages for the upcoming year. We plan our key messages based on what is true about our company culture and the services we deliver for clients and then we look for ways to differentiate from the competitors. We review competitors, look at their websites, marketing activities and press-pickup, and then we review our own in comparison.
Beth Walsh, PR and Marketing Communications, Clearpoint Agency, Inc., http://www.clearpointagency.com
2. Learn From The Past
Look at your marketing plans for 2011 and compare them to actual results. Where were your marketing dollars most effective? Where were you unsuccessful in achieving the results you expected? What lessons can you learn from last year that will help increase the effectiveness of your marketing spend next year?
Catherine B. Ahles from Premier Aircraft Sales explained how experience dictates their marketing strategy.
Today, most aircraft purchasers do the bulk of their “hunting” online, rather than at their local airports. In 2012, we will be doing even more online advertising as well as creating more landing pages and other web-based tools. Incentives have become more important too. We will be offering things like free fuel for a year with purchase of a new aircraft. Also, we are still figuring out how to use Facebook to aid our customers in keeping up with new developments of interest. Our print advertising will go to bare minimum, and we will cease doing open houses and any trade show except the very largest.
Catherine B. Ahles, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, Premier Aircraft Sales, www.flypas.com
3. Stop Doing What Isn’t Working
Understanding what worked and what didn’t is the first step, but in order to use that information effectively, you must also stop doing those things that aren’t working. For some small businesses, this can be difficult, especially when what isn’t working is one of those “marketing things” that every business is supposed to do.
Chris Tobias from School Skills shared this with me.
In 2012, we will no longer pay for advertising that does not directly drive sales. We will only pay for results. This means affiliate programs and partnering with publications to pay them based on the sales an ad produces rather than just paying for ad space. It means no more pay per click or pay for space. After spending a year and a half attempting to optimize click through conversion rates, design high quality marketing communications and locate appropriate advertising vehicles we have discovered that we are not advertising experts. We have also discovered that the risk for advertising success lies entirely with us. If we buy media space in a publication that does not produce results we lose both time and money.
Chris Tobias, the Director of Educational Excitement, www.schoolskills.net
4. Be Specific
It is always easier to hit the bull’s-eye on a target if you can see what the bull’s-eye looks like. Imagine you are shooting an arrow at a target that only has the giant red circle around the outside. It would be pretty hard to hit the center of the bull’s-eye without any other point of reference. Now think of that target as your 2012 marketing plan. If your marketing goal is to expand your social media presence, you only have a giant red circle to aim at. By planning out specific activities and actions as part of your marketing plan, you are effectively adding the other circles to the target that enable you to zero in on the bull’s-eye.
Leanne Hoagland-Smith from Increase Sales Coach talked me through the specific actions she included in her marketing plan for 2012.
Since 2005, I have been engaged in education based marketing with a primary component of article marketing. I plan to continue those efforts through at least 1 new article per week. Currently, I secure two new clients from inbound marketing activities each month and want that to double that in 2012. Continually updating the website is also critical as trends change keywords. Each morning I invest 1.5 hrs into marketing, the goal is to increase marketing activities by 20% as I have a new solution that will be offered in the summer of 2012. Blog posting must remain at an average of 5 per week. As I have expanded into Facebook through business pages, daily postings must be maintained on these pages as well.
Leanne Hoagland-Smith, Author and Coach, www.increase-sales-coach.com
- Marketers Plan to Invest More in Social Media and Email
- Developing an Annual Marketing Plan for the New Year (Small business marketing tools).