When planning out your business's marketing strategies, remember that a lot can change in a few years, so start with a one-year marketing plan. Create a plan either on paper or in a spreadsheet that includes the following elements:
You already set a goal for what you want to accomplish during the next year, created strategies to succeed in achieving that goal, and identified the top three to five tactics you’ll employ to implement the strategies. Now, it’s time to detail the actions you’ll take.
- The goal: what you want to accomplish during the next year
- The strategies: how you're going to achieve the goal
- The tactics: the three to five things you need to do to implement each strategy
- The to-dos: the steps to take to implement each tactic
- The timeline: an outline of how long it will take to complete the series of steps
- The resources: who's responsible for carrying out the actions
Next, you'll need to set your annual marketing budget. This is often determined as a percentage of your total annual sales revenues, ranging anywhere from 0.01 percent to almost 10 percent. If your business is a startup, which usually means you have limited current revenues and desperately need to make sales and add customers, you may need to allocate more funds initially to bring in more business.
Once you have a marketing budget, you have to allocate it by month or by season and by marketing medium. The marketing mediums you may be considering include:
- Consumer magazines
- Trade publications
- AM/FM radio
- Satellite radio
- Direct mail
- Content marketing
- Social media
It's important to plot your major campaigns first. Major campaigns require more resources and time to get things done than the typical marketing actions you’ll take, so plan for those first. Use a major campaigns calendar that includes headings for the month, the campaign, the expected cost, the actual cost, the resources you'll need, the expected results and the actual results to help you think through the resources you’ll need to complete your actions. That way, you won’t be delayed because you failed to anticipate something you need until the last minute.
Once you've created your plan, it might at first glance look like a lot to take on. The best way to tackle your plan is to break it down into manageable segments. This is why you began by plotting the big stuff, the major campaigns, first. It gives you time to think about what each campaign will require: the actions to complete it, the resources needed, when it has to begin to be ready on time, and a tracking system to evaluate whether it did what it was supposed to do.
Here’s an easy way to approach this challenge:
- Remember, you set a one-year goal and created strategies to achieve that goal. It makes sense to ask yourself what you need to accomplish by the halfway mark to stay on track to complete the annual goal. So begin with your six-month goals.
- The halfway mark between six months and one year is nine months. Ask yourself what you’ll need to complete by nine months to meet the one-year goal.
- Now, the halfway mark between your starting date and six months is three months. Ask yourself what you’ll need to complete during the first three months of your plan to stay on track to meet your six-month goal. Three months will come and go quickly without progress unless you’re taking regular action toward meeting your goals. It’s easy to wrap your mind around needing to have specific actions completed within the next month. So ask yourself what you must accomplish during the next month to stay on track to meet your three-month goals. Near the end of that month, do the same for the following month—knowing that you now have only two months left to hit your three-month markers.
One word of warning: Marketing activity and expenditures are usually not constant throughout the year. Your business may have busy seasons and slow seasons, and you'll need to plan your marketing activities accordingly. Accounting and tax preparation firms, for example, are enormously busy from January 1 through April 15, might want to do more marketing during the downtimes to help bring in business. But some businesses have constant work all year, such as electrical contractors. These businesses might use a more steady pattern and spread their marketing efforts equally over all 12 months.
Whatever plan you create, just be sure to follow through and stay on track and continue to measure your results so you can plan ahead year after year.