Business owners tend to get overwhelmed with the thought of creating a marketing plan, often never getting to it at all. The result in inconsistent marketing without a clear direction,  which doesn’t get them much return for their money. Here is a simplified way of putting an action plan together, that’s easy to follow and implement. However, it does require you to set aside a couple of hours in order to get it done, but it will be well worth your time.

1. Before you start
Get everyone on your team involved, set a time to have an uninterrupted meeting, even if it’s outside business hours.  Have your team help with the following tasks, to be completed before the meeting:
• Go over your website with a fine tooth comb, looking for outdated and/or missing information, broken links, dead ends and inconsistencies.
• Gather all the communication pieces the business is handing out, such as everyone’s business cards, postcards, brochures, information sheets, banners, you get the idea.
• Review your profile on social media, including cover images, company information, posts frequency and quality of content, etc.
• Gather customer feedback, good AND not so good.

2. Identify Your Marketing Goals
You not only want to be clear on the direction you want to take your business in, but you also want to be specific and determine what does your marketing need to achieve for your business to grow. Specific marketing goals may be:
• Introduce new products/services
• Discontinue products/services
• Increase sales of X product/service
• Increase calls or foot traffic
• Get more qualified sales appointments

3. Your Target Audience
If you have already described in detail your ideal customer you are way ahead of the game. It is still a good idea to re-visit the profile since your products and services might have changed, and you want to be very clear who you are marketing to. Keep in mind you might have more than one type of audience, for example, if you are an orthodontist, you’ll want to market not only to parents of children ages 7 to 17 who are professionals, but also referral sources, such as, other dentists, pediatricians, and schools. Your marketing approach will be very different for each.

4. Review Your Marketing Message
Does your marketing message clearly describes the value you provide and how you are different? If not, it’s time to work on it. If your message is rather generic for your industry your business will not be perceived as better or worse that the rest, and your marketing will be weak regardless of the methods you use.

5. Review  your marketing for the previous year, to see what worked and what didn’t
This might seem obvious, but you want to take a close look at each marketing effort you have implemented one by one, and see how they worked. You don’t only want too look at the medium, but also the timing, frequency, message used, call to action, etc. This includes any print media and online ads, pay-per-click, direct mail, events, etc.  For example, let’s say you participated in a community event, you would look at how much, how early, and where did you promote it, did you do any follow up afterwards, if you didn’t think of ordering giveaways until it was too late, did you have a way to measure results built in, etc.

6. Brainstorm activities you want to use
Now is time to make a list of the methods you want to keep the same, make changes to, discard, and also the new ones. Don’t be too concerned with how complicated they are or cost at this point, you want to consider all the possibilities to market your business.

7. Narrow down your major activities
Now that you have a list of tactics, methods, and vehicles, determine  3 or 4 main marketing initiatives you will focus on, as well as components that support each one of them. As a general rule of thumb, you want to do those you feel comfortable with and are relatively simple, and you certainly don’t want to do too many. For example, you may decide to do the following:
1. Paid advertising  (such as direct mail, pay-per-click, print media, online ads)
2. Events –  (participation in community events, your own open house, cause walks, trade shows, for example)
3. Ongoing communications with customers and prospects – (such as email blasts, social media, mail outs, greeting cards, thank you gifts)
4. Marketing materials improvement (website updates, branding improvements, for example)
At this point you can determine what’s needed to accomplish each of the main initiatives, and discard those on the list that are either too expensive, too cumbersome, or don’t seem to support any of them.

8. Set a budget
Now that you have determined the main marketing initiatives, is time to estimate the cost of each method to come up with a marketing budget. You can base it on the previous year expenditure, and get estimates from providers for new things you want to do. It is important to set an amount aside for marketing your business, keeping in mind that every dollar spent is expected to bring returns in the form of sales.

9. Put it on the calendar
You will need a large calendar, one of those that shows each month in one page with boxes for each day, a bright color sticky note pad and a writing pad.
• Identify and list important dates relevant to your business, such as your business anniversary, celebratory dates for your industry, for charities you support, your town, etc. Mark them on the calendar. You can find a national holiday calendars online that will help you find those dates that might be relevant to your business.
• Mark seasons that affect your business on the calendar, including slower and busier months.
• Based on the dates identified above, as well as seasonality, create themes for each quarter, month or season, to drive your marketing initiatives. You can create special offers around these, and use as topics in your social media efforts, for example:

Mark each of the major marketing activities (determined on the previous step) on a sticky note and place on the month you would like to carry it out. If you decide you want to do a monthly email, then you would place one sticky on each month.  You also think it would be good to do online display ads on the slower months, so you place your paid advertisement sticky there. Same goes for events and so on.  Once you are done placing stickies, you might have too many things going on, so it’s time to edit, and it will be very easy to move the stickies around or just remove, to adjust dates as you define priorities, and fine tune your marketing activities.

10. What needs to be done and who’s responsible
Now comes time to break down the smaller initiatives into smaller chunks, and assign the tasks.
For example, if you decide to update the company website in January you might assign the task to your web master. If you are going to do an event in March, and you  will handle this in-house, you will not only mark the event date, but also, counting backwards, mark  the “absolute deadline to have everything at hand” 4 days before the event,  “have everything ordered” 4 weeks before,  and “start working on event” 2 months before. This way there is less of a chance it will fall through the cracks.

And there you have it! You will want to look at this once a month, to keep it in check. Things may change as the year progresses, and you can make changes as it becomes necessary. Having a roadmap will make it very easy to decide if the new advertising opportunity you are being offered at any given time, supports your original goals or not so much.
Having a plan will help you focus on what works, and avoid the “follow the new shining object syndrome”. Staying away from unnecessary methods will save you time and money. If you would like help in creating your plan, or with implementation, we can help. If you are considering rebranding, or want an expert outsider’s perspective, give us a call at 954-636-1685  or email welcome@actionmarketigfl.com.

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