The turn of the year should be a period of pragmatism for your business. Markets evolve year over year and the technologies and channels that companies can utilize to reach their audience change as well. The end of the year is a great time to assess what has worked well, what hasn’t and how to reach goals in the year to come. Businesses that develop a marketing plan that highlights their unique selling proposition will stand out among their competition in the coming year.
“Marketing should be the first cost a business takes on, everything else is secondary,” explains Tom Kemp, owner of Peninsula Glass Company, a window fabrication company in Clark County.
Start with your current situation and goals
For those who aren’t sure where to start, reviewing the current year’s revenue and marketing efforts will provide enough information to guide the creation of a new marketing plan. Setting goals for the upcoming year is equally as important. They should be as broad as increasing revenue by a chosen percentage, and as granular as wanting your website to work harder for you. At the core of all of this should be learning to communicate your unique selling point best. Odds are your business isn’t the only local supplier of your product or service, so you’ll need to express to your audience why the experience of purchasing from you is the best. Businesses that have a strong understanding of their audience, and how best to communicate with them are already ahead of the game. These thoughts and questions are what should inspire your plans.
Set a budget that gets things done
Developing even an outline of activities to execute each month is a significant first step. However, what often decides if a marketing plan sinks or swims is creating the budget with which you’ll get this work done.
“Depending on the industry, small businesses should budget 5 to 10 percent of their revenues for marketing and advertising expenses,” said Jennifer Loftin, CEO and owner of RJL Business Services. “In some situations, such as start-ups and/or companies that are selling a product, businesses may need to spend up to 20 percent on marketing and advertising,” she continued.”
Marketing is a prime example of the classic adage: “You have to spend money to make money.” This isn’t a saying without merit. According to the Design Management Institute, companies that invest in design and marketing regularly outperform those that don’t – and with a wide margin. Their DVI compares the stock performance of design-minded companies to others on the S&P 500, and those with a design focus (such as Apple and Amazon) offer a 211 percent return over others. The reason is simple – it’s because they invested in the time and effort necessary to connect with their audience. As any business leader knows, marketing often provides exciting insights into how a business is perceived and how well it’s doing in the marketplace.
Learn how to reach your audience
Everything these days is subject to disruption. How you reached your audience in 2015 may not be the best way to reach them in 2018. Part of the work of developing a marketing plan should be an analysis of the tools and channels available to you. Typical questions you might ask are: “Is social media the best place to reach potential customers? If so, what channels?” Take into account what forms of local media you might advertise with, and if there are industry- or audience-specific publications you might take advantage of. Your marketing behavior should adapt to the behavior of your audience, and the only way to assure it’s able to do so is to connect with and understand your audience.
Every business needs a marketing plan
No company should ever feel they have reached a position of success that renders the work of marketing as frivolous. There’s a reason we see generational companies such as Coca-Cola continue to market, even as their brand is universally recognized and synonymous with a multitude of daily activities.
“Even if your business is in a mature phase, you have to spend on marketing,” Kemp said. “Natural turnover of clients means that you have to do something to replenish those sales.”
Because marketing is an ongoing effort, taking time each year to create a new plan is essential. Because situations do shift, we recommend including a level of flexibility in your marketing plan. One way to ensure flexibility is to create a plan that can be executed incrementally, either month by month or a quarter at a time. This prevents businesses from locking themselves into 12-month advertising contracts, or other such inflexible commitments.
Loftin, from RJL Business Services, offers this advice: “The ROI (return on investment) should be evaluated annually to determine the value of the marketing and advertising, and the budget should be adjusted accordingly.”
Marketing plans are living documents that require care, review and routine updating. Businesses that commit to the time and energy it takes to create and execute one will be rewarded with growth in revenue and their customer base in the year to come.