For the past three months, it seems like everything in the office has revolved around the “P” word—PLANNING. Didn’t we just do this at the end of 2013 for 2014? Alas, now that clients and staff are back in the office after two weeks of holiday interruptions and vacation, it’s time to finalize and implement the plans we have worked to solidify since October.
If only it were that simple.
For many clients, planning stretches well into the new year. Budgets are constantly tinkered with, media plans develop and evolve over time, and creative direction, tone, and style takes on a life of its own. It would be great to put a giant red stamp on 2015 that says, “FINISHED,” but we all know it’s not possible.
While some may squirm at the shear thought of creating new goals and budgets at the last minute, this really is our favorite time of year. We have the opportunity to reflect and discuss what worked and what didn’t work and determine long-term success of a program.
We are also rested from the holidays (from a work standpoint, but may be mentally exhausted from the holiday hustle) and have had several weeks to think about planning. We all know that the ultimate plan to any marketing strategy is to drive sales. But how are you going to do that?
Allow us to outline some key elements to keep in mind when finalizing last minute planning…
Over the course of a year, what does success look like for you? Start with sales goals and think beyond…will any goal take longer than a year? Consider goals that have great impact but take longer than a year. Sometimes the best goals can take 2 years or more to materialize into something tangible.
Know Your Target Audience
Customers will never know as much about the product as you do (and they will never care), but the secret is to understand their expectations and perceptions for your category and product.
• Accept the fact they can have what they want when they want it. Great marketing doesn’t get in the way of what people are doing already.
• Don’t try to change the way they live their lives because they won’t. The sooner you can accept that, the sooner you will succeed.
• Invest in understanding your target audience.
Get up to Speed with the Market Place and Trends
One of the most important industry trends is the rapid expansion of digital marketing and technology. Not to mention the fact that customers lives have changed drastically in the past five years because of this increase in digital. It’s important to ask some serious questions here.
• How does your product fit in? What needs to change? It could be distribution, packaging… who else is succeeding in the marketplace? If you don’t know what your competitors are doing you are at a great disadvantage.
• Predict where you need to be by understanding the current trends now. It’s not just having facts.
• Look at the marketplace as a whole and define where you are so you can understand where you need to be.
Position & Market Your Brand
Great branding is measureable by three definitive things: 1) what is true about you, 2) knowing what your customers want and need, and 3) what your competitors are saying about themselves. Somewhere in this triangle is where you should be.
In marketing, there is always a next step. As part of your planning, know where you’re at and plan two steps ahead. It may change over time, but it’s good to have goals in place. Fundamentals include:
• A learning system: learn about your customers every year.
• A defined sales cycle: Understanding your distribution process. Understand how your client goes to market and who is involved. Do they have everything they need to close the cycle?
Defining success includes designing a process for gaining information, asking questions, and deciding what to do with the answers. What do we need to know and what are we going to do with it? Anticipate what customers, clients, executives, salespeople, etc. will ask.
There is always a way to obtain information!