By Michelle Markey
It’s the dog days of winter… AND 2014 marketing planning. Yes, it sure is that time – hoping that it is time to wind down the year but oh, those darn marketing plans. You typically start thinking about them in the fall and end up still working on them well into the next year. That is just how the cycle goes for us marketers.
The one thing that you definitely do not want to happen is to be called into the boss’s office or to that sales team meeting and get caught with your tail between your legs (ie: your marketing plan is still under development). Has that ever happened to you? Well, don’t feel bad, I’m guessing that it has happened to more of us than not. Why is that? Well, it is because our marketing plans are so crucial to the sales process and bottom line that we find ourselves researching and researching (what worked, what didn’t for the past year, what can we do better, what are some of the new marketing trends, etc) that time gets the best of us (not to mention the management and budget approval processes – you know what I am saying, don’t you?). It is a grueling yet mission critical part of the company’s overall strategy. Without marketing, your potential customers may not be aware of the products and services your company is selling and without awareness, well, we all know what happens…your pipeline gets dried up – and fast.
Here are some key items to include in your marketing plans so that you are fully prepared when the boss asks you to step into that next meeting:
- Target market/market analysis. First you must determine your target audience. Who is most likely going to buy your products and services? Does your target audience need to change (or is it being changed from previous years? Is there more than one market you should be targeting? What key trends are going on in the market? Different markets may require different targeted marketing so make sure these are identified right up front. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on this section (research anyone?).
- Competitive analysis. Here you want to identify your key competitors and create a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). This SWOT will allow you to compare your company to the competition. Be sure to research not only their latest products and services but what marketing they are doing, who are some of their key clients, etc. Most importantly, identify the key differentiators that your company has – and then MARKET these!
- Marketing programs. Now that you have exhausted your research into your target markets and competitors, what marketing programs and activities will you approach to reach your audience and combat your competitors? Things to consider are industry events, company hosted events, public relations and advertising, inbound marketing such as personalized emails, blogs, enewsletters, social media, SEO, etc. The key here is to be innovative – make your company stand out from the competition (CommuniTech rocks at this by the way) and to be strategic – don’t just throw out a ton of marketing. Here is where quality not quantity really counts!
- Budget. Oh, here it comes – how much money is this all going to cost? This is where you need to put together a comprehensive budget to present to management for approval. Remember the above note where it is about quality versus quantity? Marketing is always the first budget to be slashed so I cannot stress enough to be strategic (and creative) with your marketing programs.
- Marketing Schedule. You have identified the marketing programs that you want to do. Now you need to create a schedule – and stick to it (easier said than done, I know). Your schedule should be a clear snapshot of the weekly and monthly marketing activities that have proposed in your plan.
- Executive summary. Yay! – you have built your marketing plan. Now all that is left is to create a summary of it (and place at the beginning of your plan). Think of it as wrapping all of your work up into one section that management can read and have a clear understanding of your plan and what you are proposing. Let’s face it, management is super busy. They are going to read this section and then skip right to how much money you are asking for. So keep it a summary but make sure to include the key points of your marketing plan.
The importance of a marketing plan cannot be overstated. Create one, follow it and you will start reaping the benefits (awareness, leads, closed sales – woo hoo!).
Is your company struggling with its marketing planning? The days of getting caught with your tail between your legs are over. Check out how we have helped our many clients rock their marketing at http://www.ctechrocks.com/who-we-do-it-for/.
Give us a call or email to start rockin’ your marketing today!