So it’s a new year for your business, or the business you’re charged with marketing. And you already know that every business needs a clear direction in which to head. Yet, if you’re honest, you’re not really sure where your next year of clients or sales will be coming from.
Let’s agree on two things first:
1. Hope is not a strategy.
2. A marketing plan shouldn’t sit on a shelf.
An annual marketing plan is truly critical element for success. Every business must ‘do marketing’. Yet many businesses – start-up and long established – don’t have a marketing plan. They have vague goals, ad hoc promotional ideas and a desire to do well…but without a real definition of that looks like. They don’t know how to write a marketing plan.
And I completely understand why.
Putting together a plan can feel daunting, even when it’s what you do for a living (like I do!). It takes thinking, research, action, time and creativity. And that’s before you start the tough task of implementation!
So why don’t we break it down to something completely manageable. Something anyone can tackle.
One hour a day. For 28 days.
You can manage that, right, for something so worthwhile to your business?
And I promise what you’ll have, at the end of your 28 days, is the bones of a well considered, 12 month, action-oriented marketing plan…AND a head start on some of the implementation. Plus, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.
Follow this systematic approach –completing every step, every day – and you’ll be set for your best year yet!
PREPARATION & RESEARCH
Day 1. Start your plan & set your goals
Open a 2017 marketing plan folder on your computer. I recommend you start with both a spreadsheet (with each month across the top and activities down the side) and a word document (as your central planning document), which you’ll add to each day with each task. These two pieces will make up your final plan at the end of your 28 days – although much of the real value will be in the process itself.
Then, the first thing to write in your plan: 3-5 marketing goals for the coming year.
Why is this so important? Because how do you know where you’re going, and if you’ve succeeded, if you don’t have a destination?
Just remember, a goal isn’t “I want to make enough money to survive this year” or “I want everyone to know about my business”. A goal needs to be stated so that it is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive.
What sort of goals should you be setting beyond financial? You could include size of database, size of prospect list, number of inbound enquiries, website visits, sale by channel, effectiveness of sales people, attendance at events, cost of acquisition.
If you’re new to your business, setting goals can be extra hard, because you don’t have previous years to compare to. But you should know what you need to make and what you need to spend – and how many customers/sales you need to get there. So voila, there’s your starter goals!
Day 2. Review three competitor website and three businesses that inspire you.
Write down three things each does well (their strengths) and three that each does poorly or could improve (their weaknesses). Consider if there’s an opportunity there for you to fill or a new direction to try?
Then subscribe to follow them via social/email. You don’t want to be obsessed with them, but it ensures you keep them on your radar for the coming months.
Day 3. Articulate – in writing – what’s great about your business offering.
Write down what it is that your business does better / differently / what’s a little bit unique about you.
If you are struggling to do this, consider what you could need to change to make yourself more distinct, more special, more marketable. Then write down some steps for how you’re going to change.
Day 4. Decide on your key marketing messages for the year.
This isn’t about a campaign or an email. It’s core to what you’re going to be saying for a year. That is, what are you going to be telling people, prospects, customers, suppliers partners – this year – about what your business can do for them – and why they should work with you.
Critically review what you’ve written – and take out any meaningless jargon or complete hyperbole.
GET TECHNICALLY READY & SET A BASELINE
Day 5. Install Google Analytics on your website. And schedule a monthly reminder to review.
If you already have it installed, spend an hour reviewing results – where you’re getting visitors from, what they’re doing when they get to your site, what sort of mechanism are they using to visit.
Why? If you run a website, it’s one of your important promotional or selling tools. It’s a key channel for almost all businesses, even if you sell nothing online. Yet most people build a site and then never look at it again or really understand how customers are using it.
Analytics is free, easy to install and powerful – but only if you look review the results, use them to track any changes or tests and then consider their implications.
Day 6. Install Google search console. And then schedule a monthly reminder to review.
If already installed, spend an hour reviewing it – particularly looking for opportunities you’re missing. By this I mean, what keywords aren’t you getting clicks for that you SHOULD be.
Again, your website is a key marketing asset – make sure you understand what search terms people are using to find you. If you understand this, and happen to be in a market where lot’s of people search for what you’re selling, this could be your most critical – and inexpensive – inbound marketing tool.
Day 7. Conduct a website tune up.
Review your website and look for any out of date information on static pages. Identify typos, broken links, anything the needs updating.
Make the changes as you go or compile the changes to pass onto your developer or action next month when your plan is complete. (And remember to schedule this in your plan!)
Day 8. Perform a website marketing refresh.
Review your website from a communications and persuasion perspective. Ensure your key messages are apparent in your copy.
Add in missing selling queues – testimonials, recent articles, recent customer comments, etc.
Ensure your call to action isn’t missing in action on any page.
Day 9. Build an email sign up form – or test and improve your existing one.
Why? Every business should have a database to market to, to communicate with, to engage with in some way. The best way to do this is still email.
If you don’t have a form, I’d recommend doing this in Mailchimp if you’re just starting out.
If you already have a form, consider if it’s asking what you really need to know and if you’ve got automations set up, such as confirmation and then welcome email.
You should also consider if you need more than one form or list (based on service/product).
Day 10. Put your email sign up form on the home page of your website.
Most people never get past page one of a website. Depressing, I know.
So whilst that says something about the quality of information on your site, it also means you should improve your chance of capturing their details with an email sign up form on the home page. If you have the technical support or know-how, seriously consider an email pop up.
And don’t forget to give people a reason to give you their details.
CONNECT & NETWORK
Day 11. Prepare a list of past clients / colleagues / people you could possibly work with as customers (or partners or referrers).
Ensure there’s at least ten names/emails on your list. Spend the time tracking down their key details, particularly their email address. Potentially add them to your email list or keep them aside in a worksheet.
Day 12. Construct and send a ‘happy new year / how have you been’ update email to your initial list.
This can be brief. It should be friendly, share some information or insight that will be interesting to THEM and ideally you’d include a soft call to action at the end – what you’d like them to do next, setting up a time to meet or what you’d like them to know.
Then…actually send the emails! Or make a call and set up a catch up!
Day 13. Invest time improving your LinkedIn Profile.
Increasingly people check your profile before meeting you or doing business with you. So if your LinkedIn profile the best it can be? Is your picture professional. Is your expertise clear? Are key achievements apparent? Do you have recommendations?
Day 14. Put some thought into partnerships. Who should you be working with this year?
So many businesses have an inner focus. They forget there are many other organisations, that they don’t compete with, who want to reach the same market as their own.
When you have a name or two (I’ve never worked with a single company who didn’t come up with someone when they thought about it!), reach out to at least one potential partner via email – whether for marketing, collaboration or business. Outline who you are and why there’s value to both of your businesses in working together.
Day 15. Research relevant professional networking events, seminars, online groups or conferences that you should get involved in this year.
Then sign up to at least one physical networking event in the coming month….because f2f networking is still as valuable as digital networking.
DOCUMENT & CREATE
Day 16. Put together the skeleton of a marketing calendar in your worksheet for the next 12 months.
Add in any activities you should be undertaking, or are already committed to.
Consider giving each month or fortnight a marketing theme to help you with idea generation over the coming year. Be sure to include any key occasions or ‘days’ that you can work with, perhaps an ‘international day of’ or something more obvious, like Mother’s Day.
Ensure there’s at least one outbound email communication in each month and scheduled time to review your performance against goals.
Day 17. Go back to your marketing goals – and draft some initial steps to get you to your goals.
This is the beginning of the ‘action’ part of your marketing plan. See if you can develop 4-5 steps towards each goal. Include a timeline for each step. And then put these steps into a worksheet, by month and goal.
Day 18. Conduct a mini-brainstorming session – with yourself or with trusted colleagues or friends.
If you’re doing this alone, mind mapping is great tool. If you’re working with others, remember that it’s not about eliminating ideas – first it’s about generating them.
Your aim with this exercise is to develop some creative campaign ideas, engaging social posts or competition ideas that could work.
Then add your ‘ideas list’ to your plan, so you’ve got it to refer to – and refine – over the year.
Day 19. Identify any bigger marketing projects or campaigns you’d like to tackle this year.
You’ve already likely got ideas kicking around, so this is your chance to capture them before they’re gone.
Add them to your plan with the thoughts fleshed out, then schedule them into a month and potentially add budget. Flesh them out a little.
Day 20. Decide which social media channel is worth starting OR continuing with. Do some research and be sure of your reasoning.
You can’t be everywhere. Justify why you’re on the channel to yourself, ensuring it makes business sense. Should you be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or …?
Once you’ve decided to start or continue a particular channel, ensure it’s correctly set up, from headers to notifications to complete ‘about’ information.
Day 21. Create a basic content plan for the next four weeks of what content you’ll be posting on the social media you’ve committed to.
If you’ve decided blogging is critical, aim for one post a week. If it’s more ‘short and sweet’ like Instagram, aim for 3-4 posts a week.
Think ‘themes’ to help you generate ideas for your content calendar for social media. And ensure any content you’re planning to create for social can also be shared with your email list – because that’s a list you actually own and have some control over.
(If you decide social media isn’t for you, spend this hour working on your marketing calendar.)
Day 22. Spend your hour creating your first piece/s of content.
If it’s a blog post, you’ll need longer, so sketch it out and take an additional hour tomorrow to finish it.
Again, if you’re not into social media, spend this hour writing an article for your own website that goes some way to demonstrating your expertise.
Day 23. Sign up for any relevant online tools for social scheduling.
Should you be using something like Hootsuite or Schedugram or Tweetdeck to help ensure your social media channels have activity even when you might be distracted?
If you don’t need social schedule, spend your hour researching any other tools you should be using. Then sign up and begin set up – e.g.. Mailchimp, Salesforce, blogging platform.
Day 24. Post or schedule your first content pieces.
Also consider how you’re going to share and cross promote this piece of content. For example, should you be integrating your instagram feed onto your website, publishing new blog posts and them promoting via LinkedIn and Twitter, boosting a Facebook post?
Once you’ve thought through this, create a little checklist that you can refer to each time to remind yourself of this sharing practice.
Day 25. Schedule key marketing activity due dates.
This is so that you don’t miss your chance, over and over, to be effective and relevant with your marketing communications and sales.
Schedule in your calendar, or set reminders 7-28 days in advance – in your digital calendar. And if you have a written diary, do the same.
Day 26. Create a corresponding marketing budget line/series of lines for the next 12 months.
Marketing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money – but there are usually SOME costs. If nothing else, you should allocate some expected HOURS of your time, if only so you remember to allow for it as the year progresses.
ensuring you’re adding in any required spend, product/service donations, fees for services – and an estimate of your hours if you’re doing it yourself.
Day 27. Populate success metrics against your activities
In your monthly schedule, add key metrics that relate back to your initial goals you put together on day 1. This could be # leads, # people on base, # sales, $ sales, # speaking engagements – anything measurable for a month and year.
Go back and review results in Google Analytics and Webmaster tools to get an idea of your baseline starting point.
Day 28. Read, review, refine your marketing plan
Take the time to sit down and read and review your plan.
Fix any obvious errors, flesh out your ideas, identify holes to fix today – or tomorrow.
If you like the feel of a big, finished document, compile it all into ONE document (through cut and paste or starting something new).
Then…go forth and implement your marketing plan!
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