It’s always around this time of year when I finally admit summer is over and start planning for the holidays. We begin looking up plane tickets to fly home ($$$), I swap shorts and T-shirts for boots and coats and I think that this year, THIS YEAR, I will get my Christmas shopping done early.
Such great intentions, right? I’m a planner and a list maker and yet somehow, every year without fail, I find myself paying exorbitant 2-day shipping fees because I waited until the last minute in search of that ‘perfect gift.’ ::facepalm::
Unlike my unfortunate Christmas shopping habits, one thing that can’t wait until the last minute is strategic planning for 2019, and more specifically marketing planning. If your fiscal year runs January to December, you want to kick the year off right with a clear plan for how you will market your business. It’s all too easy to get caught up in client work and push aside the tasks that get you that business in the first place. Instead, you must draw your line in the sand and declare that thou shalt not go into 2019 unplanned!
Take these five steps NOW to kick-start your marketing in 2019:
- Book it.
Take a few minutes to open up your calendar and look for windows of time in the next month that you can block to assemble your plan. Ideally, schedule a few hours for research and brainstorming, a few hours for putting the plan together, and then go ahead and book the meeting for presenting your ideas. These time blocks might get bumped around, but if there are deadlines in place—especially an impending meeting with your team and leadership—you’re more likely to end up with a well-thought-out plan. Step one, done!
- Strategize it.
It can be easy to come up with lots of fun ideas for advertising here and Instagramming there, but the best marketing in the world is a bunch of fluff if there’s no plan behind it. Always start with the mission, vision and values for your company, look at the objectives/goals for the next year (or write them if there aren’t any!) and develop the marketing strategies you’ll deploy to get you there. Any tactics you put in the plan should create a direct bridge back to those strategies—and ideally, all of it delivers on who you are as a company. If you think there are pieces missing between who you are and where you want to be, this is a great tool for filling in the gaps.
- Research it.
First, take time to look at what you did last year. Did you work off a marketing plan, or did you hit the ground running with tactics? What goals and objectives did you set? Was your plan successful? How much did you spend? Hopefully you have metrics showing results (if not, setting SMART goals is a key step in your new plan). Even if you didn’t have a plan last year, your tactics can be a basis for what bears repeating and what didn’t move the needle.
No analytics from this year? Here’s why measuring your plan’s performance is important and what forms of tracking you should implement so you’re better set for next year.
- Write it.
Long format, short format, lots of words, bullets and infographics, or stick figures. However you choose to organize and communicate your plan, you must put it down in writing to check against throughout the year—and keep your whole team moving in the same direction. HubSpot offers five great options for organizing and drafting your plan including the oldie-but-goodie Forbes outline that may take longer to complete but ensures you won’t miss any key steps.
- Execute it.
This isn’t to say, “start writing Facebook posts now,” but in the spirit of Step No. 1, start booking and blocking the time to act on your plan. Get meetings on the calendar weekly, monthly or quarterly to generate content, review analytics or prepare for the next time period. There’s no point in putting together a plan that sits on a shelf gathering dust, so schedule your checkpoints now so you won’t forget to review and adjust (it’s okay to be flexible!) along the way.
Some people get a little blue around the holidays because it’s the end of the year, and some people love Jan. 1 because it’s a chance at a fresh start. Despite mourning the end of summer in Wisconsin, I love October because this is my chance to plan and get ahead on the next year and think about all the exciting things we’re going to accomplish. Bring on the sweaters, colorful foliage and planning sessions!
Marketing your business is a big job and, frankly, it may not be in your wheelhouse or other work may be eating up every spare minute (a great problem to have!). Why not stick to what you do best, and let us be an extension of your team? Whether it’s helping you develop a solid plan for 2019, writing those Facebook posts or executing a radio campaign, we can bring an extra set of hands to your business to help you grow.
With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business and more than 11 years of diverse marketing experience, Tara understands that clear communication is the key to customer satisfaction. Whether it’s consumer product goods, higher education, insurance, or healthcare, developing a solid strategy that leads to concise, targeted messaging creates a framework for successful projects and sustainable growth. Tara is experienced in writing copy, designing ads and recording radio spots, and is responsible for leading the Writing by Design team and its clients through each communications project.