Plan Today to Market Your Small Business in 2014

Don’t you hate when the Christmas decorations are in stores before Halloween even rolls around? Me too! But there are some areas in which it pays to be early and plan ahead. When it comes to marketing, the tighter your budget and the smaller your team, the more lead time you need. So go ahead and be mad at me for talking about 2014 in October . . . but you will thank me later.

Happy New Year 2014With that in mind, here are some important activities to complete now to ring in a positive and profitable new year!

  • Examine your target market. Take a look at what happened to the local and regional market your customers come from and think about what changes are expected in the coming year. For example, if you sell high-end apparel, you need to gauge if consumers are starting to open their wallets more or if they still fixated on saving money in a tight economy. Other factors to consider can be the local unemployment rate, the economic recovery rate or the population rate.
  • Revisit your ideal customer profile. Has anything happened in your business or industry that suggests changes should be made to your customer profile? Before you make changes to any marketing materials, spend some time validating that this information is up-to-date.
  • Survey customers. Measure their satisfaction regularly. You will not only keep a pulse on whether you are providing adequate service, you might also get a better understanding of why customers do business with you and the problems you actually solve. This will feed your messaging and marketing for years to come!
  • Affinity Express Customer Satisfaction SurveyUpdate your corporate identity. It might be time to refresh your brand with a new logo, fonts and tagline. Whether you make an update or completely re-brand, this could give you and your company a whole new perspective.
  • Review current projects. Reflect on what has worked and not worked this year. Make corrections now before 2014 gets started. If possible, contact your best customers and ask them for testimonials and/or create case studies while experiences are still fresh in their minds.
  • Check on your website. As your business has grown and you have become more adept at marketing, does your website still represent who you are, what you do and how you operate? Make sure it is easy for your customers to understand your offering and locate other information that is critical to their purchases and ability to communicate with you.
  • Go mobile. If you want to reach people on the move and increase the chances your marketing will be seen and produce results, make sure your website appears properly and is functional on smartphones and tablets.
  • Nike Responsive WebsiteTap into analytics. As the year winds down, review the analytics for your website to get a sense of traffic patterns, most popular pages, pages with high abandon rates, etc. You can use this data to fuel tweaks to the website, as well as the overall marketing plan. In other words, if certain blog posts, social media ads or pay per click campaigns resulted in traffic spikes, this should factor into your thinking for next year.
  • Check your online reputation. It is important to monitor and enhance your reputation. This includes optimizing your presence in online directories, such as Yelp and Google and checking for reviews and comments about your company. This post shares ten free tools for monitoring your reputation and Mashable has ten reputation tracking tools worth paying for.

Google Alert Screen

  • Tune-up your materials. If you have had the same newsletter template or brochure for several years, it is time to make some updates. Try a new look with some updated graphics, headers, fonts, etc.
  • Switch from print to digital. You can save money on printing, fulfillment and distribution by changing to digital collateral such as presentations, e-books, e-newsletters and i-mags.
  • Notify contacts about events. Make sure you are sharing the schedule of events, trade show exhibits, webinars and more for the coming year so your target participants save the date.
  • Evaluate the competition. Especially if your business experiences a quieter time around the fall/winter holidays, it is a good opportunity to get a read on competitors—their websites, ads, keyword performance, collateral materials and more. Get a sense of their target customers and their differentiators to see how you compare. Ask what marketing tactics they are using to see if you need to make adjustments in your plans. If nine out of ten offer a newsletter signup on their website home pages, it might be a good strategy for you.
  • Search Engine RankingsUpdate the business and marketing plan. Your plan should not be a repeat of 2013’s. You should constantly be asking your prospects and clients how they heard about you. Use that information to feed the plans for the future. What tactics will you try in 2014 and how will you measure success? Incorporate deadlines in your plan, both your internal ones and those from outside partners and media.
  • Change at least one thing. If you rely heavily on one tactic, change things up and try something new. If you spend most of your time on Facebook, try Twitter or Pinterest for a month or two. If you use direct mail most of the time, consider a series of online ads. It’s important to try new things, even if you fail some of the time.

Speaking of new things, I found a helpful blog post. It’s called “Developing a Marketing Plan for the New Year—Change is Good” and was written for companies in the landscaping business, but it has some marketing suggestions that apply to all of us because it taps into customer thought patterns and trends.

  1. Discount shop. Coupons and discounts are worth trying. People are paying more attention to these print materials when they arrive in mailboxes. Plus, you can add value by offering free or upgrade items or future services. Always be professional, informative and use good design.
  2. Chloe AdGo smaller. Although it might seem logical to focus on large projects and quick profits, smaller, entry-level options can bring in more clients and increase spending among people who might not be prospects otherwise.
  3. Eat at home. In other words, think about value. Provide the business case for going out and doing business with you. Illustrate how prospects will ultimately save money with your products and services.
  4. Family Time. This point is about knowing your audience. Package products and services that make sense for your customers, their interests and how they will use them, versus just promoting the items you most want to sell.
  5. Do it yourself. I don’t mean your marketing (as I have commented many times the need to work with pros if you are not a full-time marketing person). Rather, tap into the desire of your prospects to either save money or get the satisfaction of doing something themselves. If you can help them by providing both complete services and a range of flexible options, you might open additional doors.

As Pam Greiner notes, planning for the new year should revolve around one word: value. “Whether it is your knowledge, your skills, or your services, showing your value to your customers and how you can add value to their lives . . . is very important.”

Above all, before you consider the marketing plan “done” for the new year, make sure you build in times to review periodically throughout the year to ensure you are on track and achieving your goals.

Are you gearing up for marketing in 2014 already? If so, what is the most important work to get done now before the end of the fourth quarter?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

One Response to Plan Today to Market Your Small Business in 2014

  1. msienicki says:

    Wow, this post is overflowing with great information – it’s a comprehensive guide for marketing your business next year. I will definitely be sharing this, thank you so much Kelly!

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