I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s Cyber Monday. How did your weekend sales go? Did you implement some sort of customer building effort like we talked about last week? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Today, we are going to talk about planning, and specifically how to plan out a marketing campaign. My undergraduate degree is in business with a double option in marketing and advertising. My education covered general marketing principles, but in terms of advertising and application, it was focused on working in an advertising agency where you would research and develop a plan over a period of months.

What I’ve found in working with small businesses “out in the wild,” so to speak, is that the majority of them don’t operate that way. They know they need to market their business, but for most of them, that usually means they by an ad or a service if a salesperson happens to hit them at the right time.

That is the extreme end, of course, there are businesses who have more of a plan, but even then I’ve noticed that most of the time, all the pieces such as their website, their social media, their print, and their in-store promotions, don’t all tie together. There is not a single message.

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Because this is so common, the very first seminar I gave was on “how to develop a marketing plan” specifically for small businesses. I want to ask you a question. If something happened to the person who normally makes your marketing decisions, whether that is the owner or a specific employee, would you know the plan for the coming year? Could someone else step in and carry out that plan? If the answer is yes, “Yes, we do have a written plan,” then my next question is, does everyone on your team have an understanding of the activities and goals of that plan? When you play any sort of sport, there is a specific goal . . . An end in mind. Does every person on your team understand the goal they are working towards? If the answer to either of those questions (do you have a plan and is it communicated to employees) is no, some adjustment is necessary. I know one of the things about entrepreneurs is that very often they resist being nailed down to a specific plan or structure. That is part of why they are entrepreneurs, they want to do their own thing and a “plan” can seem so rigid, they like the excitement of uncertainty. What I would say to that is this. Even with the best-laid plans, life will bring enough uncertainty as it is. If you plan and prepare the best you can, you will be ready to deal with the “surprises” that pop up. The other thing I would say is that freewheeling attitude that energizes you as an entrepreneur stresses out your employees. If they were entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t be working for you, they would have their own business. Leaders point to a destination or goal. If you can’t communicate direction, you won’t have the full support of your team. Plans are important, in every area.

Make It Simple

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate report that an agency would create. It just has to be a plan. When I gave the seminar on developing a marketing plan, we talked about things to consider in the plan, but as for the actual plan itself, my recommendation was to keep it simple. Especially if you haven’t done this before, just get a year-at-a-glance calendar and think about the seasons of your business. When are the busy times of your year? What type of event or promotion will you run for that? Write it down. Think about the holidays, what will you do during those times? What are the slow times during your year? This might be a good time to hold a customer appreciation event or spend some one-on-one time with your best clients. When I work with clients, we usually look at the year in quarters and what we will be focusing on during that time. Not always, sometimes themes or focuses need to be shorter, but that is where we begin. Let’s say you have four major promotions or focuses planned for the coming year, those are your pillars. Everything else that you do will either build up to or follow up on those events: your advertising, your on-site promotions, your content marketing, your email newsletters, your social media postings. Do you see how the rest of your marketing and promotion become much easier once you have the sketches of a plan?

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