There’s a lot of talk around year-end planning, especially as we inch closer to Q4. And, while you can certainly pull together a proposed marketing plan toward the end of the year, a marketing plan is something that can (and should) be evaluated throughout the year.
The landscape of marketing can change quickly. Between the development of new media platforms, updates to Google’s algorithm and much more, missed opportunities can pile up if you’re still executing the original marketing plan you set in place at the beginning of the year. Checking in on a marketing plan every quarter becomes critical to reaching business goals, and also makes it easier to tackle next year’s strategy – because Q4 is stressful enough!
Below are four ways entrepreneurs can evaluate their marketing plan to identify and eliminate gaps before they become larger problems.
Identify goals to determine tactics
A marketing plan should work to help your team reach business goals. In fact, marketing plans may flop if business goals are not clearly defined in the first place. It can be equated to providing someone with a map, but not a destination, which makes it near impossible to navigate missteps – or even travel at all.
First, establish high-level goals, like increase foot traffic, open new shop location, launch updated website and boost web traffic, for example. Next, assign numbers to these goals wherever possible so that they’re easier to monitor. This could look like XX new customers, XX% increase in social media engagement or identify XX new keywords for SEO. When creating goals, make sure you’re focusing on the results you want to achieve and not the tactics.
With your goals in place, it’s time to select marketing tactics that will help you achieve them. In fact, that’s what a marketing plan is – a set of tactics used to achieve goals throughout the year, which can change to align with different events throughout the year, like the holidays, a new shop opening or a website launch. Some tactics are better than others for certain goals. For instance, public relations is great for boosting brand awareness, organic and paid social media is great for directing traffic, SEO and keywords are helpful in reaching a specific audience.
When creating goals, make sure you’re focusing on the results you want to achieve and not the tactics.
Competitor analysis and research
Entrepreneurs are often so laser focused on their own business that they neglect to pay attention to the surrounding marketplace, like trends on the horizon, competitor activity or an evolving customer profile. All these factors should translate into changes to your marketing plan.
The pandemic is a helpful case study for this as it changed how people dressed (shift to lounge and activewear), exercised (virtual classes), worked (remote) and dined (emphasis on carryout or cooking at home). Are you showing up where your customers are? Is Google picking up on adjusted keywords and content to help you communicate change? Every action – a social post, newsletter, blog – should be intentional and consistent for you to reap the full benefits of your marketing plan.
Routine audience evaluation
It’s vital to identify and narrow the audience for your marketing efforts. This is because the marketing tactic used to market to specific audiences will change drastically from one to the other. If you have multiple demographics you’re attempting to reach, you’ll likely have different marketing campaigns running in tandem.
Neglecting to keep a pulse on your customer profile can create a huge gap in your marketing plan and end up costing you big time because you’re throwing precious marketing dollars at the wrong tactics. For example, a gym that used to only work with high school athletes because of their virtual training program (easier for scheduling), but during the pandemic, new audiences for this gym emerged as many people began to work out remotely from home. These completely new demographics (young professionals, working mothers, etc.) require different marketing tactics.
Audit existing marketing program
Every marketing tactic – no matter it’s success – is a critical learning tool, so pay attention. There’s a lot of grey area when auditing an existing plan because certain elements may be working, but the approach may be wrong. For instance, you’re finding posts on a certain social media platform aren’t gaining as much traction as you anticipated. But some people were resharing it on a different platform and engagement was much higher. In this example, the messaging was solid, but not pushed out via the best platform. This is why it’s important to be intentional about marketing, so that every action can be measured – trial and error is key in determining the best marketing approach.
The overall goal of the audit is to identify areas of the marketing plan that can be improved, grown or scaled back. And, by taking the time to sit down and look at the numbers, the audit will tell you where money and time is being most effectively.
Marketing can be allusive – and sometimes expensive if you’re investing in the wrong areas – but it’s also a core driver of new business if executed correctly. As with any business strategy, it’s important to check in on your marketing plan regularly to identify gaps, course correct and grow your business.