I thought I’d take a moment before the frenzy of annual strategic planning begins to discuss some strategies you might want to consider as you start to build your annual strategic marketing plan. Naturally, your strategic marketing plan should contain your best guess as to how you’re going to advance your brand and product positions throughout the upcoming year: where you’re going to allocate resources (money and time), and any particular agenda you have to accomplish in the new year. The secret when building a marketing plan is not to get too caught up in the specifics because alterations to “the plan” are a guaranteed certainty. Accept that now and you’ll be a lot happier. Now I’m not saying don’t plan — just acknowledge that accurately predicting the exact moment you’re going to need a promotion for widget X is improbable.
Creating Your Marketing Plan
You know that you should run consistent branding on media channels throughout the year. Include these in your marketing plan. Go ahead and budget for (and once it’s approved) secure annual buys for branding on traditional and online media. You’ll get a better price with the annual buy and worst case scenario – you can switch out your ads for promotional as you need.
While we’re talking about branding, generally, I think television is best suited to branding messages. It’s expensive to produce good spots; you’re not going to want to produce a bunch of television ads for your various promotions. Spend the money to produce good quality spots and use them over and over again. There are several mediums that work well for both branding and promotions: radio, billboards, online ads, and social media. The newspaper should only be used for promotions (especially those targeting an older demographic).
Speaking of promotional, one thing you know you’ll need are promotional windows throughout the year. So build your plan around it. One technique I have used regularly is to create 8-10 promotional windows that I intend to execute throughout the year. Those promotional windows include budgets for traditional media, social media, and guerrilla tactics, as well as staff spiffs and incentives. “Pencil” in your best guess what you might be promoting during those periods – but state in the plan that the specific item will be chosen 2-3 months in advance of the promotional period to meet business needs. That will allow you time to produce the collateral and traffic the media. Once your budget is approved, go ahead and work out your annual or quarterly buys for your promotional windows as well. You don’t have to commit to what ads you’re running, just that you are running them – you might as well get a great price for the media, though — right?
Marketing Plan Extensions
One other, often overlooked item is coordinating your marketing plan with your training department (if you’ve got one) to make sure your staffs’ skills are sharp on the promoted item before you begin marketing it. How many times have we all stood in front of a sales clerk who didn’t know how to handle the request we just made for whatever is currently being promoted? Save your customers the heartache, and your staff the embarrassment, by making sure they’ve had a good brush up on your promotional item before it hits the airwaves. Also, make sure they know what you’re planning on promoting so that they can help you to succeed with the plan. (Spiffs and incentives help a lot here.)
The beauty of a well written strategic marketing plan is that it exists at the intersection of planning and improvisation. Building both into the plan is critical to its (and your) overall success in the upcoming year. So start thinking about what you’re plan will look like for the next year, you’ll be glad you did.