Once a year, marketers around the country stop their day-to-day activities and plan for the year ahead. It’s a time to not only take a step back and think about the future but also to ask for more resources to grow market share. I think of it like a football game: All of the teams in your category are watching replays of past years’ games and coming up with new plays to win during the upcoming season. Rather than using players on a sports field, we are playing with dollars that we spend on various marketing channels including social media, TV and SEO.
I have been creating marketing calendars for a quarter-century since I was an assistant brand manager on Bull’s-Eye Barbecue Sauce at Kraft Foods. As such, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade that can help small-business owners set the foundation and craft a winning marketing calendar. Here are my top ten tips:
Prior to the internet, I would devote as little as 3-5% of my budget to testing new marketing approaches once a year. Now that there are so many digital options out there, this process has become a year-round activity that requires a monthly budget. Today, I make sure to dedicate around 5-10% of my budget to testing new ideas and technology.
2. Training And Development
There is an old axiom that states, “It all starts with your people.” I could not agree more. I always set aside a general allowance for on-site training, online training and off-site training. Given the fast-paced changes in marketing technology, it is imperative for our digital team to attend several conferences every year to keep up and further their growth within the company.
Every significant program must have an expected ROI. This is easy for digital marketing, where you can measure clicks and sales, but it is also required for traditional spending like TV, public affairs and local marketing. If you’re unable to track the results, you cannot assess whether an intervention is working. In that case, cut it from your budget.
In 25 years, I have never created a budget that does not include a research section. It is essential to understand your customers’ needs and wants. Consider new research methods, such as online bulletin boards. Rather than flying around the country conducting two focus groups a night, an online bulletin board provides an opportunity to talk to hundreds of customers over multiple days from the comfort of your office. They are cheaper and more effective.
5. Content Management
One of the big buzzwords of today is content management. It is important to create a separate calendar of all the content that your team will deliver over the next year. When, where and how will you be delivering your TV, radio, print, blog posts, social media, video and thought leadership content in the coming year? The plan needs to be laid out with weeks on one side and channels on the other. Don’t forget to go heavy on the videos — consumers today don’t want to read your story, they want to watch your story.