It’s true that markets change, the economy changes, and peoples’ tastes change. But you can’t start to make marketing plans for the coming year until you’ve assessed your successes and failures of the months just gone by…
Did a particular campaign not work out as you’d expected? Analysing what happened will help you understand whether it was just misdirected, or totally misplaced. Now is the time to trawl through all the analytics you have and glean what you can. Google statistics. Email campaign statistics. Social media statistics. Work out where your leads are coming from, the quality of those leads, and where your best return on investment lies. Assess things for each marketing channel you have used and do the maths.
But also consider external factors…
Of course, this is also the time to consider what outside factors have influenced your strategies in the past. If you’re planning for next year, you’ll want to work out if they are likely to be present in the next twelve months. Some will have been positive influences, some will have been negative. So it’s worth assessing where there will be gain without pain. Ask yourself:
- Did new competitors join the game?
- How did trends make a difference?
- Has the skill set in your organisation changed?
- Is an advance in technology having an impact?
Once you’ve gathered all the information, and analysed it, the next step is to work out how you can optimise each channel.
Now you’re ready to focus on 2018…
All your marketing goals need to align with, and support, the business objectives you have set for the year and beyond. When you know what your revenue and profit targets are, getting down to the business of detail can begin in earnest.
- What investment does your website need to support your marketing efforts? How will you measure the success of this investment? This may well be something you consider once you’ve worked out your marketing strategy overall, but do not overlook this critical aspect in your plans.
- What online advertising and pay-per-click budget do you need? What specific actions will you measure to check the success of this strategy? Work out what return on investment you want, and be prepared to cut any campaigns that don’t measure up.
- What’s the best email marketing strategy to implement for the coming year? Know your database of contacts. Ensure you carry out effective A/B testing. Choose who gets what messages, when… remember the buyer’s journey.
- Is there a role for social media advertising? LinkedIn is superb for B2B. Facebook great for B2C. Research the relevant one for your business now.
- What publications – online and in print – should you aim to appear in regularly in 2018? PR is never ‘free’ as people suggest, because it takes time and thought and planning. But it can make a huge difference to your brand when implemented well.
- Do you have a content calendar prepared? Content marketing can be an extremely effective tool when used cleverly and wisely. If you’re B2B, good content that gets shared can work like an extra sales person. Make use of that.
Other traditional marketing channels
- Is there a role for direct mailing in 2018? It’s enjoying a resurgence in certain industries. Discount it, by all means, but at least consider it before you do.
- What events and exhibitions should the business attend? Exhibitions can be time consuming but they tend to engage a targeted audience. Supporting attendance at each exhibition through effective social media strategies, email campaigns, and content marketing can make for a very effective combination.
- Can printed advertising and radio support other marketing channels in any way? These can be expensive, so there needs to be a careful assessment of the quality of leads etc. that will come from such investment before committing to it in your budget.
And now that you’ve answered those questions…
…Pour some mulled wine and mull it all over
Most small and medium sized enterprises can’t do it all. Neither time nor budget permit, so you need to prioritise. What will be the most effective tactics for your business in the above armoury? And what budget do you need for them? And it’s worth investigating what small gains can be made for little effort or budget. Can they be squeezed in from time to time?
For businesses that struggle with time, an outside agency may well be the most cost effective solution by a long way; particularly for channels in which you have little expertise in house. Or it may be that an agency can get involved in specific initiatives for a set period of time, whilst your staff do the day-to-day grind. Whatever your answers are to these questions, though, take a sip of mulled wine and think it through. Because now is the time to prepare for hitting the ground running in 2018.