**As first seen in the Paducah Sun’s Business Journal and paducahsun.com
“Where do I start?!” We are well into the new year, but this question stops many from developing their annual marketing plan.
There are very important questions to tackle before you put your plan into motion:
- What avenues should you explore?
- What should the timeline look like?
- How do you choose what to say?
- Where should you say it, and when should you deliver the message?
But, back to the original question. Where to start?
Think of your marketing plan as a road trip. Surely, the first thing you are going to do is choose a destination. The same should be true for your marketing plan.
First, ask this: “What are my goals?” Before you can execute, or even really develop an effective marketing plan you need to determine your short term and long term goals.
Once you have defined your goals, then the pieces needed to achieve them should begin to fall in place. You have a starting point, and you have determined where the finish line is, all you need is the gas to get there and the route to take along the way.
Rules of the road:
The next step you will need to undertake is determining the best possible path to get to your finish line. Just like a traditional road map, every destination has many possible routes. But some will make more sense than others. When creating your route, follow these rules of the road:
- Define your audience. Who’s coming along for the ride? More specifically, what area of your business or target demographic are you driving toward that destination? Understanding who you are trying to reach is imperative to a successful marketing campaign. In order to understand your audience, you first have to get to know them. There are many digital metrics at your disposal, especially if you have a social media presence, to help you understand your audience. It might require doing a little digging (and maybe a little math!), but the answers are always out there.
- Develop your message. Once you’ve defined your audience, you then need to craft a message tailored to them. If you can pinpoint your target audience to a specific location, demographic or platform, then you can gain an advantage through messaging by appealing to a more similarly minded audience.Whether that is through sales by targeting a digital keyword campaign, or the style of posts you craft to speak on your social media platforms, keep your target audience in mind. What type of message are they going to respond to?
- Determine your vehicle. Think of marketing as a giant garage that houses all kinds of different vehicles, all with different uses depending on the situation. Distance, terrain, weather and passengers would all factor in to which vehicle you chose to make that trip. Much like choosing that vehicle for your trip, you should similarly choose the vehicle for your marketing. Your audience and your message will help to determine if you should go in heavy on social media, spread your budget over traditional print media, or take aim with television.These decisions should be calculated, as there are metrics that measure trends for different platforms, as well as how those platforms are being engaged by demographic. This is why it’s so important to define your audience before you decide how to allocate your marketing budget.
- Head toward the finish line. Once you’ve set a goal, you will automatically create a benchmark to which you can effectively judge your strategy. While you are on this journey, you can periodically assess the marketing vehicles you chose and the path you ultimately took to see what is working, and more importantly, what isn’t.
Marketing done right never involves doing the same thing forever. Regardless of what your business may be, the landscape is always evolving. It is your job as the business owner to keep an eye on how customers react, as well as how useful those tools were at reaching them.
For this new year, as you begin to dig into your marketing budget, make sure you aren’t just “going for a drive.” Decide what your goals are for the year, then plan out your route from there.