Lisa May Huby
I donít know about you, but the closer we get to the year end, the more communications I always see aimed at planning for the next year. This article is no exception, but hopefully contains some common-sense food for thought.
First, let me say that if youíve waited until now to start your planning for next year, youíve left it too long. Youíre not too late Ė itís never too late Ė but itís a good practice to start your new yearís marketing plan near the beginning of the final quarter of the year, if not a little earlier. This gives you time to research new ideas and tactics, brainstorm with other stakeholders there may be in your business, develop your budget, and fine tune your plan before implementation at the first of the year.
By waiting until now, you most likely wonít be in a position to implement any plans until well into the second quarter. You also run the risk of rushing projects and putting new plans into place that are far from perfect, which can have an adverse effect on your business.
The good news is that you can review your plans as often as you wish, and make changes
throughout the year. But, had you been proactive outlining your plans during the previous year, you would likely find only minor tweaks needing to be done.
Here are a few common-sense things to consider when developing your marketing plan for the
1. Budget. The foundation for your plan. You may have great ideas, but if you or your company are not willing to make an investment to support them, then you need to go
back to the drawing board. If youíve got a small budget or limited means, then get
creative. Find out what will give you the best, most qualified exposure for your money.
Talk to business associates and suppliers. Pick their brains. Thereís usually at least one
good idea you can get out of conversations with people outside your company, even if itís
just a passing comment that sparks something in you.
2. Review past successes and failures. See what worked for you over the past year, and
repeat it Ė just make a few modifications to ensure the tactic is relevant and current.
3. Research. Vital to anything you havenít tried before, tried before and failed with, or tried in the past and want to re-visit. Tactics are changing quickly, with emergent methods of internet marketing, and increasing consumer knowledge. What worked 3 years or even 3
months ago probably wonít work now. If you tried something before but found it failed,
why did it fail? Can you make small changes to the tactic and make it work now? Make
sure youíve done the legwork before you finalize your plans.
4. Year-long testing. Staggering results come in from MarketingSherpa and other sources
about the lack of e-mail testing, and testing in general, thatís being done by businesses
all over the world. Itís just not widely practiced. My guess is that itís due to a global
shortage of resources, such as time. Hereís an idea: build testing into your marketing
plan. For every program or promotion or advertising campaign, you need to have the
plans in place to monitor the success or failure of the activity. For example, test variables like keywords or phrases, for different e-mail campaigns during a promotion. Find out which ones improve open rates, click-throughs, and so on. The tactic youíre
implementing has a timeline attached to it. So should your testing and tracking.
5. Vendor relationships. While this is slightly outside the scope of developing a marketing
plan, itís a good idea to review your suppliers at least once a year. You may have a
supplier thatís a great person and easy to work with, but hasnít been able to meet one of
your deadlines. It may be time to cut them loose. The old adage that ďtime is moneyĒ is
more true today than ever with tightening opportunity windows. Assess each vendorís
work, and the cost of doing business with them. If you can live with missed deadlines
because the vendor does fantastic work, then have a serious chat with them to correct
the problem, and donít put up with excuses. A good relationship often outweighs the
costs of starting over with a new supplier.
In all, itís best to kick the new year off with a solid marketing plan in place. However,
remember to review your plan periodically during the year Ė monthly, quarterly, bi-monthly Ė
however often you choose to do it. Make changes to your plan as you see fit. Itís not carved
in stone, and your year-end results are what count, not how many changes you made to your
marketing plans during the year to get there.
Lisa May Huby is an integrated B2B marketing consultant and communications expert located
north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. To sign up for Lisa Mayís free monthly newsletter, or to learn more about services Lisa May provides, visit http://www.hubymarketing.com/