As 2017 comes to a close, now is the time to start thinking about your marketing plan for the coming year. What’s been working well? What hasn’t? What new strategies will you try for 2018?
Of course, we’re happy to help you come up with a comprehensive marketing plan for your business, but if you’d like some advice to do it yourself, follow this convenient guide.
How to Create Your 2018 Marketing Plan
Step 1: Review 2017
Before you can figure out where you’re going, take a look at where you are. What were your goals from this last year? Did you achieve them?
Also, think about the marketing strategies you used this past year. How did they work out?
If you didn’t have specific goals for this year, now is a great time to collect some baseline data, too:
- Set up a Google Analytics account so you can measure your website traffic
- Export and review analytics from your social media accounts so you have data saved showing your current numbers
- Check your e-newsletter’s open rates and click-through rates to make note of where they are now
Step 2: Establish New Goals
After you’ve established how 2016 went, it’s time to look ahead to 2018. What goals do you want to achieve? Make sure that you set goals that are SMART:
It’s much better to have a few realistic, clear goals than a vague idea like, “I want more customers.” Instead, set goals like:
- 50 new Facebook fans
- 25% more website traffic
- 5 new sales a month
Once you have SMART goals established, you can figure out how you’ll get there.
Step 3: Brainstorm Strategies to Achieve Your Goals
This is the time you’ll come up with specific ways you’ll achieve your goals. For each goal, write down a couple of strategies you think will get you there (see below for a few suggestions).
For example, if one of your goals is to increase website traffic, you might want to include blogging regularly in your marketing plan. Or, if you want to see a certain amount of growth in your Facebook page, consider running a Facebook ad campaign.
In addition to thinking about strategies you think might work, take the time to do some research and write down ideas you want to try. Look at industry trends and strategies experts are predicting to be important in the coming year.
Step 4: Write Out a Marketing Plan
Once you’ve written down your ideas, it’s time to turn your thoughts into an actual plan. I suggest doing this by writing each month of the year on a piece of paper and then listing the strategies you plan to employ during the month underneath it. This helps you visually see how many different marketing activities you’re committing to take on each month.
Of course, some strategies (such as blogging or social media) are ongoing, but some (such as pitching the media or running Facebook ads) can be done a couple of specific times during the year. This way you can plan extra activities in your marketing plan for the months you know tend to be a little slower.
Once you’ve drafted your plan, type it out month-by-month so it’s clear for you to see which activities you need to do when.
Step 5: Put it into Action
This is probably one of the most important steps! Your marketing plan is useless if you don’t follow it. Yes, things will come up that take over, but make sure you stay on track with the strategies you put in place so that you can tell if you’re successful by the end of the year. Actually write down which activities to do and when you plan to do them in your calendar or planner. Give yourself deadlines and stick to them!
Each month, go through your various points of data collection to take a quick look at how you’re doing. Check your Google Analytics, e-newsletter open and click-through rates, and social media data. If you see your e-newsletter isn’t getting many opens, maybe try a different approach to the subject lines, or if you see a certain blog post getting a lot of traffic or clicks, consider writing a follow-up to it.
Also, make a note to evaluate your plan toward the end of June. At that point, you can do a full review of your marketing plan to see what’s working well and what isn’t. It may be a good time to shift focus from one area that isn’t performing well to an area that is, or to try a new strategy altogether instead.
Extra: Common Strategies for Your Marketing Plan
It can be hard to know which strategies to use to achieve your marketing plan’s goals. Here are a few common tactics that we’ve seen work well across a wide variety of industries:
Strategy: Creating & Distributing Press Releases
Goals it Helps: Increased website traffic, editorial media coverage, name recognition and brand awareness
As long as you have something newsworthy to share, press releases can be used in a few ways. If you release them on the wires, they can provide hundreds of links back to your website, increasing your search engine optimization (SEO) and your traffic. If you send them to specific media contacts, and if the news truly is important to their readers, they can write about your company and introduce your business to even more possible customers.
Strategy: Event Creation & Promotion
Goals it Helps: Increased consumer engagement, editorial media coverage, website traffic, name recognition and brand awareness
Despite the growth of digital media, consumers crave connection. An event can be a fantastic way to interact with your customers face-to-face, and depending on the type of event you’re hosting, you might even be able to get some media coverage out of it. As you consider creating an event as a way to connect with your consumers, think about ways you can give them an unforgettable experience with your brand.
Strategy: Editorial Media Pitching
Goals it Helps: Increased name recognition, brand awareness and (sometimes) website traffic, in addition to establishing you as an expert in your field and providing a credible testimonial endorsement for your business, making consumers more likely to make a purchase
It can be exciting to see you your business’ name in the press! In addition to providing yet another way for potential consumers to see your company, editorial media coverage is a third-party endorsement from the journalist, telling their readers, viewers and listeners why they should consider your business. This can carry a lot of weight! In addition, if the coverage runs online, the reporter will likely include a link to your website, which can make a positive difference for SEO and your website traffic.
Strategy: Social Media Ads
Goals it Helps: Increased consumer presence and engagement, website traffic, name recognition and brand awareness, in addition to establishing you as an expert in your field and showing followers why they should work with you
Advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn can be a very affordable way to increase your reach across the platforms. In addition to the traditional ads you see on the side bars of these websites, sponsored posts actually show up in users’ newsfeeds as any update would. As long as you target the ad correctly, write a compelling update and using an engaging image or two, they can greatly increase your visibility to new potential followers. In fact, Facebook’s algorithm actually weights posts from advertisers, so if you’re spending money on ads, chances are your organic posts will be more visible too.
Strategy: Organic Social Media
Goals it Helps: Increased consumer engagement, website traffic, name recognition and brand awareness in addition to showing followers why they should work with you or buy from your company, and providing a convenient way for customers to communicate with your business
Even if you don’t pay for social media advertising, maintaining a presence on the platforms your target consumers use can be extremely helpful. In addition to providing a forum for you to connect with users that are interested in your business and industry, your social channels are a fantastic opportunity to remind consumers about the services you offer, your expertise and that you care about them. They can be fantastic for increasing website traffic and SEO, as well as providing excellent and attentive customer care.
Goals it Helps: Increased website traffic, name recognition and brand awareness plus gives you authority as an expert and shows visitors why they should work with you
The primary benefit to blogging for your business is that it can drive additional traffic to your website. By publishing quality, helpful posts at the same day and time each week, you show the search engines that your website is high quality and helpful for internet users, which can greatly increase your ranking in search results. Because the best way to write for search engines is to write quality posts, your content should already be helpful to your target consumers. Your blog can also establish you as an expert and provide a fantastic forum for customer care.
Strategy: Email marketing (or an e-newsletter)
Goals it Helps: Increased website traffic, credibility, name recognition and brand awareness, in addition to reminding contacts you already have that they should work with you
Email marketing continues to be an important component to a successful marketing plan. Research shows:
- Email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020.
- Gmail has 1 billion active users worldwide.
- 86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly.
If you want to increase your website traffic and credibility with your consumers, as well as name recognition and brand awareness, a monthly e-newsletter can be a fantastic strategy. A brief email with helpful articles, links, etc. can be another helpful reminder for your target consumers to contact you and find out more about your products and services.