Kick off 2012 with a plan for success

Although 2012 is already off and running, it’s not too late to consider a list of my top 10 marketing tips to give your business a real boost. In fact, there’s no better time than now to put these tips into action.

1. Learn from the past

Reflecting on the past is important in identifying your marketing strengths and weaknesses. Determine whether your team has expended sufficient effort. Also, evaluate the effectiveness of the various marketing campaigns, programs and tactics you’ve been utilizing.

Figure out what from your marketing mix works and what doesn’t, and discover which tactics yield the best return for the time and dollars invested. Evaluate your marketing team for effectiveness, including employees, consultants and outside agencies.

2. Make a plan

An integrated marketing plan details the actions you believe are necessary to reach specific business goals and sales objectives. The plan identifies what to do and when and how to do it, with all activities and tactics working together in a consistent, repetitive approach.

Include efforts that have been successful in the past. Study the competition, and incorporate elements of their best marketing endeavors. And don’t forget to try something new, too.

Some up-to-date information from the 2012 Marketing Trends Survey, conducted by StrongMail and Zoomerang across a wide range of U.S. industries, should help guide your thinking about marketing activities to include in your plan.

The report indicates email marketing (60 percent) is the program most frequently cited for increases in marketing spending and effort. More survey respondents (55 percent) planned to increase their budgets for social media spending than for mobile marketing or search engine optimization/pay-per-click spending (both at 37 percent).

By contrast, few executives expect to increase spending on direct mail (18 percent), tradeshows and events (18 percent) or public relations (16 percent). The trend is clear: companies are ramping up electronic forms of marketing. So, your marketing plan should take this into account.

And don’t forget to make use in your plan of the Rule of Seven, which is based on the notion of repetition. The rule suggests that to get prospects to take action to become a buyer, you must reach and positively impact them at least seven times. You achieve this with as many campaigns, programs and tactics as possible to build awareness, credibility and your reputation.

I recommend that while you are taking all this into account, you make a list of the potential programs, campaigns and tactics you’d like to employ. Then pick those that you believe will give you the most bang for your buck, and include them in your plan.

3. Develop a calendar

Map out exactly what you will do during each month of 2012. Having a marketing calendar in place will help you stick to your plan and identify any potential bandwidth issues. Having a marketing calendar provides companywide visibility into objectives and schedules, which in turn creates transparency and accountability.

4. Create a budget

Figure out how much your marketing plan is really going to cost. Your budget should take into account both in-house and outsourced personnel resources, advertising and events fees, printing and postage costs, travel, and more. Only then will you know exactly what you’ll need financially to make your plan a reality.

Map your spending against your marketing calendar to have a clear picture of cash flow so that funds are available when needed.

A rule of thumb for marketing budgets at small to midsized businesses is 8 to 10 percent of company revenue, with approximately half of the funds committed to generating leads and the other half to building awareness.

5. Secure financial and personnel resources

No plan – no matter how good it is – can be successful without allocating adequate financial and personnel resources. Rather than shoot from the hip day to day or month to month, get executive approval for your plan and secure the funding; then make sure adequate personnel resources are in place.

6. Polish your brand

Make sure your company has a professional corporate identity (logo mark and color scheme) that is visible in every prospect and client interaction you have. Business stationery, electronic templates, marketing materials and your website should present a coordinated, consistent look and feel.

Develop concise, compelling corporate and product messaging that articulates who you are, what you do, what you stand for, the value you deliver and how you’re different from the competition.

7. Prepare supporting marketing materials

These include brochures, presentations, sales letters, emails, website landing pages, banner ads, tradeshow booths and so on. These materials don’t make the sale. But they are fundamental to helping make sales by educating potential buyers while building brand recognition, credibility and reputation. Make sure you have the materials ready to properly support your sales team and the tactics in your marketing plan.

8. Execute, execute, execute

Don’t let fear and laziness – or the excuses that you lack time, effort, knowledge, discipline or persistence – hold you back. Make sure to stick to your plan, your calendar and your budget, and line up proper resources if you want to achieve success.

9. Measure results

Describe what success looks like for every tactic in your marketing plan, and then set metrics. This must be done before you can begin measuring any kind of meaningful results or calculating return on investment.

10. Review and adjust

Systematically review your plan and tactics, perhaps quarterly, and make adjustments based on successes, failures, the competition, business and market conditions. Fortify tactics that work; shelve the ones that don’t. Don’t be afraid to interject something new mid-year. But make sure you think it all the way through before executing.

I hope my top 10 marketing tips for 2012 will help put your company on the path to marketing success. I wish you all the best and expect that you will have a fantastic year.

Posted in Industry News