Here's one of my favorite ways to stay organized when it comes to small business marketing management. It helps prevent the panic that sets in when you realize there's no time left to prepare for that big trade show or business slump. Planning ahead makes your marketing efforts more effective and can save real money too. For example, rather than buying what you need at the last minute, you can wait for a sale or get a bulk price for 6-months worth of business cards.
The Tools You'll Need
Use whatever makes your life easier and allows you to make changes. Since it's a planning tool and plans often change, it needs to be flexible. A white board and sticky notes, a giant erasable calendar, or if you prefer digital, a spreadsheet or calendaring tool could work too.
Step 1: Create a Chart
Put months across the top – six months to a year should be sufficient. Make it as granular as you like. If monthly is too detailed, do it by quarters. If too general, break it down by weeks (for this level of planning, you don’t need to break it down by day for this exercise. That level of precision would be appropriate for a specific campaign like one that supports a trade show or product announcement).
Step 2: List Major Categories
List the following categories down the left side of the page:
• Your business's key dates: opening, closing, vacations, inventory, anniversaries, events, etc.
• Trade shows and other industry events
• Marketing activities you're planning
• Other time-related activities that impact your business and your customers
Step 3: Fill Out the Calendar
Add activities to support the major dates and marketing opportunities. This could include:
• Website updates
• Sending out notices to your customers
• Materials that need to be created
• Prepping for a trade show
• Marketing activities that occur around a major holiday
If you're short on ideas, consider the following:
Take Advantage of the Ripest Moment
There are many things that impact a customer’s state of mind and influence when they purchase, so time your marketing activities with their purchase behavior. One way to do this is to deliver messages when a prospect starts thinking about making a purchase, usually set off by a trigger event. For example, people often look for a house or new apartment when they’re getting married or having children. Think about where on your calendar you would beef up your marketing activities, say around springtime. By timing communication appropriately, you can be top-of-mind just when they’re ready to shop (otherwise known as the ripest moment).
Follow or Contradict Business Cycles
Another way to time your activities is with the cycles of your business or industry. For example, when you know you're hitting a slow period, beef up your marketing. Conversely, slow down your communications in anticipation of being too busy to handle the work or the orders. If your company caters to businesses, consider what's normal for your industry. And don't forget to keep tabs on what the competition is doing to time your activities to coincide with or counteract what they're up to.
Follow the Christmas Calendar?
Consider how the seasons, holidays and school schedules affect buyer behavior and your income. Either you have a business that’s super busy during November-December, or things come to a crashing halt. Plan accordingly to flatten out the highs and lows, and to anticipate budgetary constraints.
Marketing Campaigns: Schedule Marketing Activities Together for Greater Impact
Coordinate your marketing activities to increase their impact, like sending out a press release in anticipation of a trade show. Align under one campaign theme or umbrella to give you something to talk about in ads, materials, signage or whatever you plan on using to promote. You should also consider partnering with others to leverage the marketing they're doing. For example if you're in retail, time an event with the local art walk.
As they say, timing is everything. And the best way to make the most of your time and money is by planning.