How Was Business in 2011?
You’ve probably done your year-end numbers by now and understand how your business fared in 2011. Some businesses did well, others not so well – it was that kind of year. But if you’ve got a goal of making 2012 your best year yet, you’re going to need a marketing plan. And yes – you’re going to have to implement it.
Most small business owners will wait until long after the effects of the New Year’s Eve champagne have worn off before even beginning to think about next year’s marketing efforts. That’s right – the whole glittery-ball-dropping-at-midnight has most of your competitors with their eyes on the ball…the wrong one!
One thing successful businesses have in common is a marketing plan – one with clear goals and tasks. But marketing planning is about more than just formulating next year’s marketing strategy; it’s also about understanding what elements worked last year – and reallocating your resources accordingly to maximize your success.
2012 Marketing Planning
Take a deep breath. Putting together your plan for 2012 isn’t as hard – or stressful -as you may imagine. You already have the tools you need; you probably just don’t realize it.
Here are some of the key questions you should ask and answer when creating your marketing plan:
1. Where is your business today? What did you achieve over the last year?
To understand where your business has been and how you got where you are, you need to know your success metrics. So think about how you measure success. How many prospective customers turned into sales? Which marketing efforts generated what sales? Did your revenue grow or contract? By how much? Which market niches did you dominate?
2. How effective was your marketing in 2011, and what did you do?
What factors led to the increase (or decrease) in your company’s sales? Did you attend trade shows or networking events? Send out marketing pieces – online and via direct mail, or give away branded promotional items? Did you tweet or use Facebook to drive awareness of your brand? Did you keep your website relevant – with fresh content – and actively link-build to draw in more web traffic? Did you use the web to generate leads? Did you advertise? Did you try something new this past year? How did you differentiate your products or services, and help your customers understand the benefits of doing business with you? If you set aside a specific marketing budget last year, was it sufficient to achieve your goals?
Be sure you figure out which of your marketing campaigns were successful (and why), and understand which ones were ineffective. This information is critical to creating a successful plan.
3. What are your goals for 2012?
Set your marketing and business revenue goals for 2012, and then set your scary stretch goal (yup – you’ve got to write that one down, too). Is your goal to double revenues, or move into a new market? Understanding what you want to achieve is the key. Remember that throughout the year, your goals may shift, and you’ll need to modify your plans accordingly.
4. Where do you really want your business to go long-term?
You’re building a plan for 2012…but what’s your long-term dream? If you’re a dog-sitting company, do you dream of becoming a home-concierge business, as well? Does your 2012 marketing budget account for growth into areas closer to your dream business? Will you need new brochures – or a new page on your website – to tackle that new opportunity? Do you want to embrace social media and start list-building? If possible, set aside a portion of your budget to help you achieve goals towards your larger dream, and look for ways to draw it together with some of your shorter-term 2012 marketing efforts.
5. What do you need to do to reach your goals?
Once you’ve figured out where you want the business to go, it’s time to build your plan. The best-laid plans are meticulously constructed of specific, detailed and quantifiable tasks. Don’t just say ‘market the new widget.’ Be sure you break each goal into specific tasks: ‘identify target customer demographics,’ ‘purchase list of leads in X locale,’ ‘develop new brochure,’ ‘begin mailer campaign in coordination with daily Facebook posts,’ ‘grow list 15% monthly.’
Marketing planning itself isn’t difficult, but sometimes it can be a challenge to think through the short- and long-term goals of your business, list your marketing needs and implement each of the tasks that will take your business to new heights. As a business owner, it’s a valuable annual routine that allows you to spend your marketing dollars wisely.
Do you plan your marketing annually, or have you been using scattershot marketing?