In the crush of the holiday season, marketing execs and business owners are in the throes of planning for 2010. What can you do to keep your sanity while building your marketing plan? Here are a few tips to stop you from going postal.
- Remember your Goals: I know, I know. We all fall down on this one. But think about your realistic goals for the year and your stretch goals. Revenue, number of customers, types of products sold. Your stretch goals can be big and bold. Once you have them, then you can back into what you need to do to make them a reality. And you can see if what you are going to spend on marketing will realistically get your there. Never do a marketing activity without a goal or objective in mind. Is it 2 new customers? Is it being featured in Daily Candy? Is it increasing newsletter signups or Facebook followers? Have a firm goal.
- Think Depth, Not Breadth: Part 1: Focus on your main 2-3 customer segments only. If you have the luxury of a huge marketing budget, then you can build a separate marketing plan for each segment. If not, focus on the most profitable one and plan to get in front of them in multiple ways, at different stages of the buying cycle (see #2). Mix awareness ads and social media tactics with email offers and events. Don’t try to do one activity with each segment just for broad coverage. That will get you nowhere. Instead, think about trying to do different activities to that same segment each quarter. Better to have 3 or 4 solid activities targeted to one segment than 1 ineffective standalone activity for each of them.
- Map to the Buying Cycle: You need a mix of activities in your marketing plan to cover the buying cycle phases: Awareness, Consideration, Evaluation and Purchase. A prospect’s info needs when they don’t even know you exist vs. when they are choosing between you and a competitor are very different. You need the constant air cover of awareness (ads, PR, etc.) to make your direct marketing activities (email offers, events) in the other phases more effective. Even just 3 or 4 tactics a quarter among all the phases, combined with ongoing awareness channels like blogs and newsletters can help.
- Partner with a Few to Create More Value: Don’t just buy one ad here or do one webcast there. Partner deeply with 2 or 3 media properties or associations where you can have an integrated, multi-touch campaign to a consistent audience throughout the quarter or year. For example, I used to partner with an online tech portal when I worked B2B because my investment got me ad banners, dedicated emails, a few sponsored webcasts and event presence for one packaged price. I went deep with this audience to get in front of the same group multiple times. This helps you leverage your investment, do more effective marketing and get a real presence among the same group of prospects over and over again. Most associations or online entities have multiple platforms and are open to negotiate a unique package to fit your needs and budget, so talk to the ad sales rep and get creative.
- Never Pay the Rate Card: Feeding off #2, never pay the listed price for ad/sponsorship space. You can always negotiate. If you can’t get the price down, then ask what else they can throw in. A dedicated email to their list? A regular column or contributed article? An extra lunch you can sponsor at the conference? Bag stuffers? Being able to introduce all the speakers at a luncheon? Your postcard/CD on attendee seats? Sponsor a weekly email with your logo and a special offer?
- Maintain Constancy: Spending all your cash on one bang-up event or campaign can be fun, but the hangover can last the rest of the year. If you have the money to do a big splash each quarter, great, but don’t forget smaller outreach through the rest of the year. Social media can be a great friend to you here to stay constantly top of mind.
- Customers vs. Prospects: Mine your existing customers more effectively. Plan different activities to upsell/resell existing customers than you do for new prospects. They have different needs and one group is more familiar with you and what you have to offer than another. Some activities may be able to do double-duty, but remember to offer some special programs/incentives for existing customers.
- Create an Editorial Calendar: Speaking of social media, try to plan your themes and content for at least 6 months out so you are not scrambling for what to say or what to promote. You can always do other topics as they come up. But this will keep you sane and also enable you to farm out some of the work if you can, i.e. hiring an intern to write/research blog posts, etc.
- Be Flexible: Be willing to try new things and measure them. If they don’t work, tweak them or move on. The dirty little secret about marketing is that oftentimes some tactics just don’t work. But you learn from it, and you move on. As long as you have a good strategic basis for doing something, your efforts will never be wasted.