What Should be in Your 2016 Marketing Action Plan?

As 2015 sunsets, many of my clients are updating their marketing plans to chart their progress in the next year. I believe that the best direction for approaching annual planning is to have a simple set of five to seven goals for the New Year.

Each objective should include a measure of how well you performed in 2015. It should include an improvement anticipated for 2016. When a client isn’t sure what the stretch for annual improvement should be, I often suggest 10%. Once you’ve been doing this for several years you’ll be able to base goals partially on past performance. You need to set the bar high enough to motivate the team to do things differently to achieve better results without overstating your expectations. Put in writing the strategy you’ll use to make the anticipated improvements as well as your planned dates for implementing tactics.

What marketing tips might be helpful as you think about next year’s plan?

  1. Make a plan – Don’t just talk about it general terms. Develop a written plan, share it with staff and go back over the objectives monthly to review progress.
  2. Track Progress – You’d be surprised how many small businesses are not looking at website analytics to track changes and improvements. You can see what key words people use to find your site, see how long they engage with your content and identify effectiveness of social media in directing prospects to your website.
  3. Tell Stories – If you hear from clients how they have benefited from your product or services, write down their stories. You can use the content on your blog, include it in sales presentations and share it with staff to reinforce company culture.
  4. Pre-plan Topics – My clients that take the time to brainstorm a list of blog topics and then slowly work through the list are more successful in keeping up with writing regular posts. You can also assign people to topics once you’ve got a list. Continually adding fresh content to your website with blog posts can help with search engine optimization.
  5. Think Retention – Many companies are more focused on getting new customers than retaining loyal clients. Long-term clients are valuable and you should plan to meet with them to see how you can support them in meeting their 2016 goals.
  6. Be Inclusive – Rather than developing your marketing action plan on your own, reach out to your staff to participate in writing goals and strategies for the New Year. People from different departments have useful perspectives and may have many useful ideas gleaned form their interaction with clients.
  7. Take Photos – Your communication will be more interesting and engaging when you include photos. Camera phones take great pictures and can quickly capture events and activities that you could report in a newsletter or blog post.

Employ these marketing tips and develop a written plan for 2016 and your marketing program will be off to an excellent start.

Tips to Start a Business Services Newsletter

If you are thinking about starting a newsletter to promote your business services, consider these tips to take marketing action:

  1. Plan on producing a quarterly newsletter. This gives you some flexibility in the dates for distribution.
  2. Focus on how your clients are using your services and benefiting.
  3. Keep it short – one or two pages.
  4. Include photos and remember to take your camera to events and client meetings.
  5. Ask your clients for testimonials to include in the articles.
  6. Use a professional designer to make it eye catching.
  7. Keep a running list of story ideas.
  8. Post your newsletter on your web site.

To see an example of a business services newsletter, look at the College of the Sequoias Training and Development Summer 2012 newsletter. This California community college produced the newsletter to promote customized employer training and business services to manufacturers through the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies.

Success Stories Sell

Rather than tell prospects how good your product or service is, consider using short stories about how your clients have benefited from working with your company.You can turn success stories into press releases or newsletter articles and then post them on your web site like Sierra College Training & Development does to promote customized training in lean process improvement and other business topics. Sierra College CACT and Training & Development Fall 2010 newsletter

Another way to help prospects envision how they might work with your company is to produce a brief bulleted outline summarizing projects. Use a one page format to explain the success of a project and position your firm as having experience in successfully completing assignments and overcoming challenges. These can be used in sales packets, proposals and on your web site. Generally the format should include:

Client Information: Name, web site and other relevant general information about your client. Look at the client’s home page to pick a few nuggets of information that prospects may be interested in such as location, number of employees or business focus.

Project: Describe what your company did for the client.

Goal: What was your client’s objective?

Challenge: What was the challenge or difficulty that this project faced such as lack of resources, tight time frame or change in the marketplace?

Solution: What did your company do overcome the problems, reinforcing the benefits your offer that differentiate your product or service?

Impact: How did the project help your client make money or save money? List other numeric results such as reduced costs, improved productivity and return on investment.

Testimonial: Include a quote from the client describing what it was like to work with your organization and the results.

Photo: If appropriate, use a photo of the client, the project or other graphic.

Ask your client to review what you’ve written and give permission to include a photo and testimonial before publishing it. Get into the habit of producing a success story as part of your project close out process. Use your success stories to sell others on doing business with your company.