It’s never too early to start thinking about how to market your business or nonprofit organization in the coming year.
Before diving in, it is helpful to analyze how you marketed in 2015 and determine what worked, what did not and which activities may require more analytical information. An overview of your current marketing can be a handy guide for use in developing future plans.
Follow these tips to get your plan in place well before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve:
- Know your customer. This may seem obvious, but it’s still worth a review year to year. Sometimes who we want our customer to be is different than who our customer actually is. Who is your customer? What does he or she do for a living? Where do they live? What are their hobbies/interests? What problem does your product or service solve?
- Build relationships. Once you know your customer, think about how you can build a stronger foundation for continued patronage. Does your ideal customer buy your products once a week? If you offer a special package or limited-time pricing could that encourage more frequent sales?
- Branch out. Finding new customers is nearly as important as keeping your current ones happy. Think about expanding the channels you used to find existing customers. This might mean dabbling in a new social media platform, advertising in a new or different niche publication or writing a blog with topics of interest to a new target audience.
- Put it in writing. A well-thought-out marketing plan can be beneficial for several reasons. First, it provides an outline for what you would like to achieve. Second, it can be useful for comparing, year-over-year, what you tried in the past. There’s also something powerful about having it in writing. Your marketing plan can keep you on task and also prevent you from trying too many things at once.
- Plan ahead. Particularly when seeking out new audiences, be mindful of how your products or services could complement seasons, holidays or annual events. Create a calendar for blog content that is date- or event-specific. These ideas could be a natural fit for editorial calendars in the press as well. Keep in mind that it’s a good rule of thumb to contact reporters well in advance of the time frame you envision for coverage.
- Find a partner(s). Make a list of 10 businesses whose offerings complement your business. Think strategically about how you might be able to barter services, cross-market or share customers. Or, better yet, suggest ways to do all of the above. You could invite the CEO of a complementary company to speak at your event. In exchange, the business sends your latest email to their customer list. By joining forces with just one company, for instance, you could essentially double your email marketing efforts through the sharing of networks.
- Set guidelines. This is a biggie for budget-conscious companies. How much do you want (or can you afford) to spend? Industry experts recommend that businesses spend anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of their gross sales on marketing. Without a thorough overview, costs can spiral to considerably more. From glossy rack cards to printed newsletters, fliers, advertising … and everything in between, marketing can be expensive. By setting a limit on how much your company will spend in the coming year you can avoid the sticker shock of a pricier-than-expected project.
- Ask for help. Entrepreneurs wear many hats. Sometimes even the best business owner-turned-marketer simply does not have the time to effectively run their business while still promoting it. It’s OK to ask for help. Outside perspectives often offer marketing opportunities that the business owner had not thought about. Have you ever heard the expression of being too close to a subject? That also relates to knowing how best to market one’s business.
What marketing tips have worked for you? Please share your tips. For help in developing a marketing plan, contact Theresa Katalinas at 215-519-8833.