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How will you market in 2010?

Here’s a quick guide to preparing a marketing plan    

By Maxine McBride    

January is the start of a new fiscal year for most businesses—and that means a newAnalyzing financial data annual budget that forecasts revenues and expenses.

Take a look at yours: Did you include a detailed marketing plan and budget? Unfortunately, many companies don’t. Instead, they fly by the seat of their pants, succumbing to the whim of ad reps and placing ads or TV spots without an inkling of a long-term plan or goal.

It’s not too late: With thoughtful consideration and consistent monitoring, you can implement a marketing plan that will positively impact your bottom line. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

What’s in the piggy bank?

Before scheduling a single ad or writing a press release, you need to know how much money is in your overall budget for marketing. This may be a percentage of projected gross sales or another formula that your company uses. Once you have this number, you are off to a good start.

The “plan” part of the plan and budget is simply a timeline. It’s most effective to have marketing tasks slotted into months. This helps you know how much to budget per month and spreads items out so you’re not hit too hard in any one month.

The perfect plan

For your 2010 marketing plan and budget, consider the following items:

• Key dates. Start by planning your key dates, such as tradeshows, conferences, peak sales times, corporatewide events, product launches, and local community events. Determine what is important and what you must do for the upcoming year. Knowing the dates will help guide your budget for the year.

• Research. Budget for surveys, focus groups, competitor research, and any other information gathering. Continual research is critical to remain on-point with your product, advertising, and branding. Don’t overlook this important element of your marketing plan. Just because you like your product doesn’t mean your customers do.

• Public relations (PR). You should be working with a PR firm that charges a monthly, set fee for its scope of work. PR is important because it provides third party credibility and tells your story in a way that paid advertising, a beautiful Web site, and a flashy brochure can’t. Your PR firm should provide accountability for their work, which includes an Advertising Value Equivalency and Return on Investment monthly report. PR should be one of the most straightforward numbers to budget and measure.

• Advertising placement. Take the time to research publications in which you have advertised in the past: Are they still a good fit? What about new publications that have come out? Consider every media sector, including print, online, social media, radio, TV, billboards, and signage. Know your market, know your demographic, and do your research before you plan your advertising budget—it can get expensive fast.

• Direct mail. While the world is becoming more and more digital, direct mail is a familiar, comfortable marketing tool many companies still utilize. If you’re going to implement a direct mail campaign, don’t lump all mailings into one line item. Separate them and indicate the timing as well as the cost. The cost should include design, printing, cost of mailing lists (if you need to purchase them), and postage.

• Online marketing. It’s inescapable: Online marketing is a must in your marketing plan and budget. Having a Web site isn’t enough. Include all hosting costs and budget for blogging, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Web site updates. This is where you should also include any e-mail campaigns.

• Social media. Social media are Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter that provide a way for people to communicate with each other. Facebook offers exceptional, low cost marketing opportunities for businesses. Your basic strategy for Facebook should be to have a Business Fan Page, which lets people register as a “fan” and expands the presence of your business. Twitter is also a free outlet businesses are using to create buzz. Once your account is secured, search for your company name to see if anyone has tweeted about you or the services you offer. Once your social media accounts are established send out a brief e-mail to your clients and prospects letting them know you are now on Facebook or Twitter. Be sure to include the link so they can immediately log-on and become a friend or follower.

• Community marketing. This is the use of grass roots, face-to-face efforts to reach your target market. This means taking your message to reach people where they live, work, and play. Some examples of community marketing include hosting events at your location, sponsoring a local soccer team, or finding other companies that reach your target market and cross promoting your businesses.

• Events. Many people think every key date, such as a product launch or new location, needs a huge over-the-top event. Wrong! This will kill your budget. There are three keys to a successful event: a solid purpose, a strategic invitation list, and a strong registration system and follow up plan. With these items in place, you can have a well-attended event at a moderate budget.

• Networking and relationships. Building relationships and networking are the only sure ways to generate new business these days. You or your company executives need to be networking, prospecting, securing new business, and following up with potential customers. This is mostly an investment of time, but those $30 fees for attending luncheons or formal networking events can add up quickly.

• Oops! Okay, you have been thoughtful, thorough, and strategic, and planned for everything. If we lived in a world where there were no unknowns, you could put this plan and budget to bed and call it a day. But there are unknowns — ad costs change unexpectedly; a perfect sponsorship opportunity comes up at the 11th hour that you have to jump on; or there’s a new social media site that fits your target market. Once you’ve created your plan and budget, tack on an additional 10% of the total for these “contingency” items.

That’s it. A fabulous marketing plan and budget. You are ready to work steadily through the plan throughout 2010. Do not be tempted by shiny new things. When unexpected opportunities arise that will cost you severely, simply repeat this saying, “It’s not in our plan and budget; call me about this next year.” With few exceptions (see above), you have to trust the plan you’ve created and work the plan. Strategic, planned marketing always wins out over impulsive marketing any day.

Maxine McBride is the president of Clockwork Marketing Services, Inc.(www.clockworkmarketing.com), a full-service marketing firm that has provided its premier services to clients throughout the United States for more than 15 years. For information about Clockwork Marketing Services, visit the Web site or call 904-280-7960.


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