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The Obvious, But Absolutely Necessary, First Step to a Marketing Plan

The Obvious, But Absolutely Necessary, First Step to a Marketing Plan
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This is going to be the most obvious article you read all year. I can already hear a collective sigh coming from everyone who reaches the end.

That’s OK. Call me “Captain Obvious.” I don’t care so long as you actually do it.

What’s “it,” you’re asking?

“It” is the first step of your annual marketing plan: outlining your goals for the year.

Call them what you want -- goals, objectives, accomplishments -- so long as you write them out.

Related: 6 Secrets to Writing a Better Brand Positioning Statement

You can’t write a marketing plan unless you know what you are trying to accomplish, obviously.

Every marketing plan starts with what you want to accomplish for the year. It outlines what you want to complete by year’s end. Without goals you can’t possibly write a marketing plan or measure your success for the year.

But it’s not as easy or as obvious as it first sounds, which is why many entrepreneurs don’t take this necessary step every year. They simply launch into the year, doing busy work, without first determining what they want to get done.

There are two basic kinds of goals that every small business owner should outline: business and marketing.

Even though this is a marketing plan, you should still identify your business goals first. What do you want to do with your business this year? Expand with new products? Open into new markets? Consolidate and become more efficient? Spin off a new division to fuel growth? Slow down and then phase out into something new?

Make some basic decisions about the direction you want to take your business this year.

Take a look at the hotel industry. Many of the hotel corporations (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, etc.) are launching boutique brands to build their business and appeal to different kinds of travelers. They’ve probably realized that growth is limited if they just stick to their current lineup of choices, so they are seeking to offer different kinds of hotel experiences to different kinds of travelers.

That’s a business objective. Well, actually it’s probably a business objective and a business strategy, but I don’t want to get caught up in that debate. Either way, these companies have identified a business goal for the year.

Now these same companies need a marketing plan for how they will actually launch those boutique brands this year -- as do you for your business goals.

Their marketing plans will outline how the brands will build awareness for the new hotel options, how to get travelers to try a hotel room for the first time, and perhaps how to get those who stay for the first time to share their experiences with others.

Related: The 5 Key Metrics You Need to Be Tracking in 2015

If you notice, built into that marketing plan are the goals for the year:

  • Generate awareness for the new hotel brands.
  • Drive hotel bookings.
  • Motivate sharing from first time hotel stays.

Those are marketing goals. They outline what you want to accomplish for the year in order to attain your business goals.

Well, almost. We forgot one thing: the goals should be measurable.

Every goal you outline should have a quantifiable component to it so that you can measure your own success. Even the business goals should be measurable.

Instead of just saying that the brand wants to a launch a new boutique hotel to appeal to different kinds of travelers to grow the business, it should also say how many locations and when they should open. Then they can measure their success against that goal.

The marketing goals should also be measurable and specific:

  • The exact level of awareness by year’s end. Perhaps 50 percent awareness among people who have traveled within the past six months.
  • The exact number of rooms booked, with key milestone dates. Perhaps 5,000 rooms booked within three months and 15,000 rooms booked within six months of a hotel location opening.
  • The exact number of experiences shared, specifically on comment boards or social-media sites. Perhaps 1,000 pins on Pinterest and 10,000 likes on Facebook with 25 percent engagement by year’s end with trackable milestones each month.

With these goals in place, you can now map out your marketing plan because you know exactly what you have to get done.

Now get to it! What are your business and marketing goals for the year ahead?

Related: 4 Goals Every Small-Business Owner Should Set in 2015