It’s that time of year again. A chill is in the air, colorful lights are up, and there’s holiday music on the radio. So obviously, that means it’s time to put together a marketing plan for your business for next year, right? Yes, while that’s certainly at the top of everyone’s holiday to-so list, some small businesses eschew a marketing plan as they’re caught up in holiday promotions and year-end accounting. And this is the quickest way to ensure that 2016 ends up being a giant lump of coal. Like anything else in business, marketing requires a plan. It’ll not only keep your sales on track, but also give you some solid goals, an idea of who’s buying your products, and a clear idea of where you need to improve. Here are some tips for preparing your small business’s marketing plan for 2016.
Preparing Your Business's Marketing Plan
The first stage in creating your marketing plan is seeing where you are as a business. Perform a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and see what needs to be addressed in the upcoming year. Next, review your marketing from 2015 and see what was successful and what was not. Did your social media marketing not perform as expected, and were the ads you bought there not driving as much traffic as you thought? Figure out why that happened. Also take a good hard look at your website’s analytics and figure out where your customers were coming from, and which pages they were landing on. Once you’ve figured out 2015, take a look at who your customers are now. Your customers, just like your business, will evolve. If they’re older, younger, families, ethnically diverse, or whatever the breakdown may be, take a good hard look at the channels you can use to reach your most frequent customers. Even if they’re not who you’d first anticipated your target market to be, it’s important to realize how to reach them. Then, develop solid marketing goals for 2016. And don’t make them general, simple things like “increase sales by 20%.” Just like with any goals, you need to make them specific and realistic, like “increase new-customer retention by 15%.” Since a year is a long time, break those goals down into quarterly and monthly goals too, so you can chart progress and adapt as you go. Finally, outline your marketing initiatives and campaigns for 2016. That doesn’t mean you need to go through the entire creative process. But just get an idea of which channels you’re planning to use to market your business in the upcoming year, and develop the creative materials as you go. And what areas should you be focusing on? Glad you asked.
Where Should I Focus My Business’s Marketing Efforts?
- Email Marketing – Yes, much as social media has gotten all the hype, email marketing is still king. According to Outboundengine, 91% of your customers check email daily, and putting together a well-targeted marketing pitch doesn’t take a ton of time or money. For every dollar you invest you can expect about $44 back. So if nothing else, email marketing is an efficient use of your business’s marketing budget. Pay close attention to who is opening your emails, and who is converting those into sales. This will be important information to know when you look at how to target your advertising dollars as well.
- Mobile Optimization – In about the middle of 2013, mobile searches overtook desktop and laptop searches as the most common way people looked for information. Now about 51% of Internet users prefer to surf on mobile devices, 75% of Americans own a smartphone, and Google actually penalizes websites that aren’t mobile optimized in their search results. So even if you don’t depend on online sales, your business’s website needs to be mobile optimized so people can find you. Further, if you don’t sell much online, don’t waste your money on an app: a survey from Bronto found that 76% of consumers prefer to use mobile-optimized websites vs. 26% preferring apps.
- Content Marketing – This has become a major buzzword in the marketing world, and for good reason. NewsCred reported that in 2014 companies with effective content marketing strategies converted customers at about twice the rate of ones who didn’t. What does this mean for you? Like it or not, you’ll probably need to create (or perfect!) your blog, and create content people find even when they’re not looking to buy. Longer-form content is actually ranking higher in Google searches now, which means either more time or more money creating longer posts. But when you become a trusted resource for information, you’ll inherently become a trusted vendor when people are looking to purchase your products. So it’s definitely an investment worth making.
- Social Media Marketing – Instead of just blankly throwing yourself into five different social media platforms, think hard about which ones your customers are using. Facebook has now become the platform most popular with a more-mature audience. So if your product is youth-focused, then Facebook might not be the best social media platform for your business. Snapchat, on the other hand, is exploding as a social media channel among millennials and those younger. Also, get a tool that allows you to track who’s interacting with you on social media. Products like HubSpot will track leads and customers that come in from specific social media initiatives, including posts, promotions and pictures.
- Videos – Telling your small business’ story is the most effective way to create some sort of attachment with your customers. And in an era where attention spans are dwindling, the best way to do this is through video. According to Animoto, 59% of customers consider a business who produces video to be more trustworthy, and blog posts with video consistently outperform those that don’t. So if you don’t have time to jump in front of (or behind) a camera yourself, it may be wise to hire someone who does.
Planning will make all the difference in your business’s 2016 marketing successes. And with proper preparation, careful examination of data, and targeted marketing channels, you’ll put your business in the best position for growth in the upcoming year. And if implementing your business’s marketing plan is going to require a quick infusion of capital, remember BFS Capital is always here to help. Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net