Last December I put out an Emergency Post to help small businesses that let 2018 sneak up on them, "Are You Still Scrambling To Get Your Plan In Place For 2018". It was specifically designed to help businesses do their best to catch up with their competitors who already had their marketing plans for the new year in place. Some of you may remember that the post laid out some crucial strategies to help businesses with their plans, but most importantly it prioritized what needed to be done first. This year let's not make the same mistake by waiting until the end of December to realize that 2019 is right around the corner, and it is going to be different than 2018. It's time to get your plan for the new year into place.
The Holy Grail of Marketing ?
A lot of people, from business owners to future entrepreneurs, read posts like this and are hoping for the magical answers. They want to be told step by step, exactly what to do to instantly gain visibility for their brand. I completely understand seeking such answers as I have always searched for the same. The only way to find these specific answers however, is to do the necessary research, and gain the necessary experience for each individual business.
That is why there are business fixers, business coaches, business advisers, and business consultants out there that can make very good money if they know what they are talking about. And I will be completely honest with you, as long as these professions are out there making money, even if the magical, universal business checklist that guaranteed your immediate success existed, you are not going to find it out in the open for free.
Proven Principles VS. Universal Checklists
I have had this conversation with business leaders countless times. Often I am challenged in my assertion that a universal business marketing checklist doesn't exist, and you might be thinking the same thing. However, in these cases it is usually because one major factor is being overlooked, and that is the word "universal".
I don't need to elaborate on how there are countless different types of businesses out there, if you are reading this it is a safe bet you already know. That being said, what is to say that the 2019 marketing plan
for a small take-out restaurant would be successful for Dentist office?
The point here is that the best way to come up with a marketing plan designed specifically for your business in 2019 is to follow proven principles. If you can apply the following Four principles to your business (whatever it may be) while inserting the specifics that make it unique, there is a great chance that you will improve upon your 2018 results.
The first thing you can do is evaluate how well your marketing plan from 2018 worked toward getting your business to its goals. This is something that you should have done multiple times throughout the year to make changes on the fly, so at this point it shouldn't take up too much of your time. Whether your marketing plan was a bust, or highly successful, that information is extremely valuable when deciding how to move forward.
Chances are that even if your marketing plan for 2018 wasn't as successful as you would have liked, your business was still able to gain some traction in areas that can be useful. In your analysis you can see what worked with your target market, and what didn't. At this point you can "trim the fat" and have an excellent base, or starting point to build your new plan.
Most people are aware of the phrases "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and "no need to reinvent the wheel", so if your 2018 was wildly successful it is no secret that your game plan should stay the same. That being said, there is always room for improvement. As technology advances at lightning speed, 2018 and 2019 are not going to be exactly the same, and improving upon your success this year will be very important.
Now that you have your baseline from where to grow, it is important to note that no matter how successful you were in 2018, if you change nothing in your plan for the coming year, you will miss out on plenty of opportunities. Your competition will at the very least catch you, and more than likely pass you up.
Copy Your Competition
Now is not the time to be proud. You have looked internally to see what you can improve upon, now take a look at your competitors. This is the same principle you used when starting your business. While you won't have the same in-depth insights that you have with your own business obviously, it is not hard to see what has been successful for your competition and what hasn't. It just means you have to take the time to look.
You, or someone in your organization should already be keeping track of the competitions social media platforms (if not, start this instant!! Do it now, and then come back and read the rest of this).
While your SMM or SMM team should know how to shape your postings and maximize the amount of visibility you are getting each time, the type of content that gains traction with your target market can be easily measured simply by looking. Like I said above, it is not time to be proud. If a certain type of content (specials, deals, type of information, etc.) is attracting more attention, shape your content to emulate it.
I wanted to specifically mention Social Media Marketing (SMM) by name because it is easily the second most cost effective way of marketing, providing the most bang for your buck right behind word-of-mouth (to get more insight into word-of-mouth marketing CLICK HERE). However, this same principle applies to every form of marketing that there is.
(NOTE: Your competitors are doing this to you)
Break the Mold
At this point you have taken the best of what you have done, as well as what your competitors have been doing. You've also filtered out what hasn't worked and is not efficient and effective. When it comes to your 2019 marketing plan, you are in an excellent spot!! Now comes the fun part.
If you went into the new year with what you have after following the first two steps you would actually do pretty well in 2019. Don't stop here however, this is your chance to get creative and start thinking even more outside the box.
One of the biggest ways that super successful small businesses improved their marketing strategy in 2018 was to relevantly incorporate video into their campaigns. And if you think the use of relevant video isn't going to become even more important in 2019 you are crazy! It is important to emphasize the word relevantly though because using or creating videos that don't land with your target market is just as big of a waste of time as creating any content that isn't specifically targeted.
While normally I focus mostly on principles here in my blog, this time I am just going to give you an answer straight out. In this video where Jamie gives a tremendous testimonial, Lifelock has combined two of the top five most successful marketing tools in 2018 by putting an extremely targeted and effective testimonial on video. You will see testimonials in prominent places all over websites as it became a huge deal in 2018, but 2019 will take it to the next level with video. While video isn't new or ground breakingly outside-the-box, finding new and innovative ways to use it can be.
One way you can get a leg up on your competitors in the coming year is to find ways to use a strategy that has basically become a traditional marketing tool at this point. Email marketing, while simple and certainly not new, continued to be extremely effective for most business types in 2018. My business (AES) is focusing a significant amount of time coming up with ways for our specific clients to capitalize on new and innovative ways to use this tool in 2019.
While I certainly encourage you to reach out to us (www.chooseaes.com/contact) if you would like help with incorporating this into your 2019 campaign, if you have the time, staff, and knowledge to do this yourself it is going to be an extremely successful tool moving forward.
The last idea I want to mention that will help you keep up with the curve in 2019 is expanding the use of geo-terms in your digital campaigns. Also referred to as geo-tagging, it is a great way for small businesses to increase their visibility in their own communities. Basically geo-terms are just specific locations or landmarks that can be towns, cities, major streets, etc. that you use in hashtags on social media for example.
I know, I know.... I don't usually just give you a couple of sure fire answers the way I just did. Keep in mind that there are usually not many universal answers as we mentioned before. However this is extremely important, and if you follow the lead of this post I am confident that I you will become a loyal reader. This post literally can shape the way the year 2019 goes for your business. If you are looking for a few other ideas after you try what is here, take a look at this article at www.inc.com. "8 Quick End-of-Year Marketing Planning Tips to Start the New Year Off Right" by Adam Heitzman gives more ideas that you may be able to incorporate. It also offers some insight as to why, which is very important to me when deciding what could be the fate of my business.
What Do You Have To Spend?
Most businesses will have their budget done or make sure to do their budget first when it comes to this process. Or at the very least they will look to see how much money they have to spend to kick off their campaign for 2019. I
strategically have this step placed last for a couple of very important reasons.
The most important reason is that when you have a dollar amount in the back of your mind, you will automatically dismiss some of your brainstorms before you even explore them as a possibility. A natural barricade to ideas is formed and you could miss out on something very innovative. When you are coming up with ideas to gain visibility for your business, at least the first round of ideas should be recorded with no monetary value in mind. If you find out later that you don't have the money for what you want to do, that is where you can get creative again to adjust your plan.
Secondly, if you are going through these steps and for some reason your plan changes, how will it effect the budget? There is another valuable saying, "measure twice, cut once". It pertains to cutting lumber while building something, however can apply to most things in life. The budgeting part of this process, besides being the most boring, can be the most labor intensive. Why mess with it more than once? If you do this step last the only thing that may need to be adjusted is the strategy.
Hopefully your 2018 was a success and you can increase your marketing budget this year. Even if it wasn't that great, conventional wisdom will say that as long as you can put 7% to 10% of your revenue towards marketing then you are doing it right. Those of you that have read my posts before know that I look to buck conventional wisdom every chance I get, however this percentage is pretty right on. I will sometimes spend more than that with AES, but I probably don't have as much overhead as your business does either.
Regardless of how to handle your budget, the main thing to take away from this is to not let a monetary value cripple the creative process. Be the innovator, and make your business the one that we are copying next year at this time when we are planning for 2020.
The Wrap Up
Let's face it, you will be making adjustments to your marketing plan for 2019 all year long. However if you have a solid plan going into the year, adjustments are all that you will be making. You won't have to spend a lot of time in any sort of planning process. This will open up more time to actually run your business and provide the best product or service that you possibly can!
As usual, thank you so much for taking the time to read this. It is humbling to know that someone took the time to read your work, and even more humbling if it can help even one business be more successful. PLEASE take the time to Like, Share, and Comment below.