Plan Your Success and Reach for the Stars!

You may have noticed that once the nights start to draw in and Hallowe’en has been and gone, everyone’s thoughts start to turn towards Christmas. However, if the ‘C’ word fills you with dread, then now is a great time to think beyond the festive season and start planning your marketing and communications strategy for the year ahead.

Most people find it hard to start thinking about the New Year in November but trust us, you’ll be grateful you did come January! Taking time out now to think about what you want to achieve in 2019 will pay dividends when the time arrives. Also, you should have a good enough understanding of what worked well and what didn’t quite go as planned this year.

Creating a marketing and communications plan for your business is no mean feat, especially if you don’t have a dedicated person or team in place. But understanding what you want to achieve well in advance will make things a whole lot easier.

Before we give you our top tips, let’s break down the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.

Your marketing strategy is based on what you want to achieve and your marketing objectives should be aligned to your business objectives.

The marketing plan is a direct translation of how you’re going to work towards achieving those objectives day to day. Here’s our step-by-step guide to creating an effective marketing plan.

Start with what you want to achieve

When you start to think about your objectives be sure to keep them ‘SMART’ – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Essentially, what you want to achieve for the year ahead should be challenging (otherwise what’s the point?) but also realistic enough that with time and effort, you’re likely to achieve it!

Know who you’re talking to

Your key messages should be tailored to your target audience: existing and potential customers, employees, suppliers, partners and any other stakeholders who may have an interest in your business.

When developing those messages think about your USPs – what stands you apart from your competitors?

Feel like you’ve got some knowledge gaps in terms of what your business should or could offer? Don’t worry, an important part of creating any plan is research. Understand where these gaps are, what your customers are looking for and areas where you can improve.

Customer satisfaction surveys are a great way of understanding what your customer base thinks about your products and services and what else you might be missing. Don’t worry, you don’t have to commission hugely expensive surveys to glean your results; there are lots of cheap and easy ways of asking for feedback. Try Twitter polls, online surveys tools such as Survey Monkey, Facebook reviews and emails.

Identify opportunities

While you’re researching what your customers’ needs are and how well you’re meeting those needs, you’ll also discover opportunities for your business. Using a simple SWOT analysis will help you identify your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and finally potential threats – such as new competitors. The information gleaned from this process will help you understand how well your business is running and the wider marketing and sales environment you are operating in.

Communication channels

Consider what you want to achieve and how you’re going to go about this – the most appropriate methods to communicate with your customers, what messages you want to get across and when and how much it will potentially cost you.

It’s also important to tailor your messages for each channel and audience – consider who your audience is on each channel, how they will use that information and what you’d like them to do with it.

Get digital

Lots of businesses find it difficult to understand how they can integrate digital and social activities in to their business, particularly if they don’t already have any established channels.

But by using social media marketing to build relationships with your target audience and promote your products and services, you can see some tremendous results.

Why not create a content calendar? It doesn’t have to be too detailed but having something to refer to when things get busy will make the world of difference.

You can use your own simple Word or Excel document or refer to the hundreds of ideas online. A good example can be found here.

If you’d like more information on why you should be integrating digital marketing into the day-to-day promotion of your business, you can read our blog post ‘Five Reasons to Use Digital Marketing to Grow Your Business’.

Allocate a budget

It’s important to have a budget in place so you know which activities you can afford. But don’t worry if you have a limited budget for marketing, as there are plenty of things you can do for free or at a low cost to make an impact.

Measure your achievements and be flexible

This is just as important as all the planning you put in because if you’re not measuring your success then all your hard work could be rendered useless. Bear in mind that things might change, and you may need to adapt your plan accordingly. But don’t panic if you do; just because you wrote it in November, doesn’t mean you can’t change it in February should you need to.

And remember: if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it.

Ask for help

If planning really isn’t your forte, then don’t be afraid to ask for help. You might have a member of staff who is a budding marketer or someone with a bit of capacity willing to take on this task.

If not then there are lots of agencies out there that will offer support with planning and communications; just take your time and choose a partner that suits your business and who you feel comfortable working with.

Can I do this?

In short: yes! It might seem daunting at first, but knowing what you want to say, when and by what means really takes the pressure off.

Ultimately, your success will come from good planning and hard work!

If you’re still not confident that this is something you can tackle on your own, then give us a call – we’d be more than happy to support you.

As the great Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”