Planning, timing, promotional hooks, targeting, consistency, follow-up, repetition & measurement are the key elements that underscore all successful marketing plans.
Written By: Sharron Senter
Most small business owners are short on time. Therefore, I’ve organized this sample marketing calendar article into three categories, with the understanding that it’s okay if you don’t have a “monthly” marketing plan. What’s more important, is that you have an overall plan. I personally follow a bimonthly marketing calendar. I prefer the 60-day flexibility. It gives me more time, while still retaining continuity and visibility for my business.
I lead with a sample quarterly marketing plan because it’s the most realistic for small business owners, particularly sole-proprietors who are frequently caught up in the minutia of running a business.
Planning, Timing & Promotional Hooks
Marketing Plan Strategy
The following marketing plan activities are suggestions, and by no means is my outline exhaustive. In fact, you’ll need to add to it based on your industry-related activities. There are many holidays throughout the year that may be a natural tie-in with your products and services, such as National Book Week in January, if you’re an author or editorial-related service, or American Heart Month in February, if you sell health-related services or products, or Spa Week in April or October if you’re marketing a salon or spa.
My 12-month promotional calendar focuses on the major holidays, when most Americans have been trained to spend extra money or participate in a ceremonial activity. Tie your marketing promotions to a time when customers have their wallets out. Thus, you’re simply positioning your product or service as the perfect gift or solution for the celebrated event. It’s more affordable to piggyback on a consumer habit, a.k.a. inspire prospects to purchase your products when they’re preparing to purchase something.
You can never be too early in preparing your marketing campaigns. For example, in order for the typical small business to prepare for a Valentine’s Day direct mail campaign, you’ll need to get most of your materials printed and ready to go by the third week in January and in the mailstream by the last week in January, certainly no later than the first week in February. I recommend you plan at least two months in advance. Of course, the more involved the campaign, the more lead time.
What’s more, some advertising vehicles have extensive lead times, specifically print magazines that need your camera-ready artwork approximately 6 weeks before publication, (if you’re pitching a story idea, then up to 6 months ahead of time for editorial deadlines.) Newspaper inserts also require a reservation approximately 6-8 weeks before publication.
Keep an eye on Amazon, Target and other large retailers. When their seasonal or holiday advertising starts, yours should too.
Unique Angle, a.k.a. Your Hook
Your promotional hook is the key to distinguishing your business from your competition. People are going to buy gifts at Christmas. But what makes your service or product so interesting, that shoppers should hand over their money to you instead of the myriad of other websites and offline stores? Find a creative answer that appeals to your target audience and you’ll grow your business.