Let’s talk about tools–the kind that generate revenue for your small business. A marketing calendar is one of the most essential tools every small business owner needs in his/her toolbox. With a well-planned calendar you’re empowered to eliminate marketing investments that do not generate results and replace them with powerful initiatives that produce. To create your own marketing calendar, follow these four simple steps:
Step 1 – Identify Your Goals:
To create an effective marketing calendar you will first want to consider your business goals.
- Are you looking to increase overall sales and/or a sales of a particular item?
- Are you planning to introduce a new product or service to the market?
- Are you anxious to engage a new demographic into your customer-base?
Action Step: Write down your goals–and in doing so be very specific. Each goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive. Here’s an example: By July 1, 2011 we will generate an additional $3,000 per month from catering sales.
Step 2 – Determine Your Timeline:
Once you’ve identified your specific goals and the date in which you want them met:
- Look at a calendar to determine when and how you will focus your marketing efforts on reaching these goals. Keep in mind, a consumer generally needs to be exposed to your marketing message at least seven times before he/she will respond. That said, remember to plan ahead and begin marketing long before you expect results.
- When possible, tie your marketing efforts into a holiday or a community event. When you “piggy back” on an event that is not your own, you create a sense of urgency to your marketing message. It also becomes more appealing and relevant to your target audience.
Action Step: Review a holiday and community event calendar. Determine the dates that you can run promotions around these events. Here’s an example: My target audience is parents with small children. Knowing that families often enjoy Easter, Halloween and Christmas holidays together, I will run a promotion in March, October and December.
Step 3 – Plan Your Tactics:
Next you’ll want to develop a tactical plan that will enable you to reach your goals.
- How are you going to present this message to your target audience? You need to do research so you know where your target audience spends their time. If you’re targeting professionals that work within a 5 mile radius of your business, your marketing tactics will look different than the business owner that’s attempting to reach retired seniors in San Diego County. Regardless of how good an advertising deal may look, there’s no point in spending your time and hard-earned money on marketing initiatives that reach people outside of your target audience. That being said, be cautious before pulling out your wallet the next time an over-zealous sales rep presents an “irresistible” opportunity to you.
- Consider how much time and money you have to put behind your marketing goals and evaluate the marketing options that will position you in front of your ideal customers. This activity will help you eliminate marketing initiatives that exceed your budget, as well as those that require a time commitment that exceeds your availability. Some marketing options that you may want to consider include:
- social media advertising
- print advertising
- direct mail
- cable advertising
- radio advertising
- press releases
- networking events
- website promotions
- community fairs
- building relationships on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and/or LinkedIn
- referral programs
- speaking engagements
Action Step: Survey your current ideal customers to learn where they spend their time. Investigate advertising opportunities that reach your target demographic. Here’s an example: After surveying 15 of my best customers, I learned that 85% listen to the radio during morning rush hour traffic. 65% of those listen to the Jeff & Jer show. A 60-second radio commercial during the Jeff & Jer show is within my budget.
Step 4 – Execute and Evaluate Your Plan:
Now that you’ve identified your business goals, determined your time line and planned your tactics, it’s time to make the investment and track your results.
- Each time you make an investment–be it your time, money or both–be sure to track results carefully so you know what does and does not work for your business. Over time, this will allow you to adjust and refine your goals, budget and tactics. You’ll create stronger, more effective marketing campaigns and in the end, have a tool chest full of power tools that produce.
Action Step: Determine how you will track results. Implement a tracking policy that requires your staff to be diligent in only offering promotions when they can be tracked. Evaluate results on a quarterly basis. Here’s an example: I will track my results by printing a special code on the coupons we distribute in ValPack. This code, VP1, will only be used in ValPack advertisements so that I’m able to accurately track the return on my advertising investment.
When you take the time to identify your goals, determine your time line, and execute and evaluate your plan, you’ll position your business for growth and increased revenue; bringing truth to the statement “time is money.” Here’s a sample marketing calendar that you can refer to when building your own: