Whether you run a business, manage an organization, or are just someone who likes to get things done—having a plan can help.
Planning is likely something you’ve been doing from day one—from the day you first opened your business or the moment you made your first fundraising call. So you’ve seen how important planning can be.
Planning can make a real difference in your marketing as well.
It enables you to come into every marketing task—whether its designing an email, planning an event, or coming up with something to say on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn—better prepared and with a better probability of achieving your marketing goals.
Plus, by putting a plan together ahead of time, you’ll be able to get your campaigns put together faster—giving you more time to spend on running your business.
This week, I sat down with Suzy Veilleux, Director of Marketing Operations for Constant Contact. Suzy plays an integral role in planning our marketing here at Constant Contact and has some great advice to help you put your planning together next year and beyond.
Watch this week’s Ask an Expert to learn more and make sure to make planning a top priority in 2013!
(DISCLAIMER: The audio on this video recorded at low volume. We recommend watching with headphones or reading the transcript below.)
Why is it so important for businesses to have a plan for their marketing?
Small business owners are busy. Whether you’re running a retail store of if you’re an accountant or work for a nonprofit—you guys are busy people out there.
And having a plan can really help with maximizing your time and being efficient.
It’s hard to find time to do the marketing you want to do, yet you know it’s going to help your business or your organization. So taking the time out to sit down and plan can really help you in making the commitment to get a campaign out the door. If you have a plan it’s much easier to say, “Okay, I know what I’m going to write about or I know what I’m going to tell people—I’m going to go ahead and get my campaign done.”
It does take some upfront investment but at the end of the day it’s going to really pay off and it’s really going to help you meet your goals of staying top-of-mind with your customers, your members, your clients, or your donors.
What are some of the things businesses should keep in mind when putting a plan together?
The first thing I think you should start with is: how often does it make sense for you to communicate with your customers, your clients, or your members, or donors?
For a retail store, you may want to contact people on your mailing list every week to let them know about weekly specials. For someone who’s an accountant and maybe only sees their clients once a year, you may only want to stay in touch with them quarterly. If you’re a nonprofit, you may want to have your communications focused around your fundraising calendar or your event calendar.
It really depends on your business or organization. That’s the first thing you’ll want to think about.
Once you know that then you can sit down with a calendar and say, “Okay, I’m going to mail on Fridays because my customers tend to come in during the weekend…” Or, “I’m going to mail once a month and it’s going to be the first week of the month…”
Once you decide when you’re going to mail, my suggestion is that you commit to scheduling not just the day you’re going to send but also the time you’re going to need to get it ready. So, not just doing that the day before you plan to mail—build a couple days in there so if you get held up with something at work, you’ll still have room to keep to your schedule.
So I’d suggest really thinking about what your calendar looks like and then planning for the type of prep time that’s going to be needed to get the campaign out the door.
Next, you have to think about what you’re going to say. That’s probably one of the hardest things.
Keep in mind that your campaigns don’t need to be long—they should be short and to the point. And in fact, your customers are probably only going to take a few minutes to read them anyway.
Think about what the goal of the communication is going to be. Is the goal to get somebody to come in because you’ve got a special? Is your goal to have somebody refer you to a friend of theirs because they’ve had such good service from you? Or is it to get volunteers to come support an event that you’re running?
Think about your goal and be very clear about what you want the reader to do. Make sure that’s the main message in your mailing.
So at this point it’s:
- When do you want to mail?
- When will you have time to create that mailing?
- What are you going to say? What are you trying to get across? How should you say it?
That’s really the main components of building a plan.
And then the last thing to think about is making time to build out that plan. If you’re going to mail weekly, you’re probably going to want to sit down once a month and think about “What are the four mailings I’m going to do this month?” If you’re going to mail monthly, you probably only need to sit down quarterly and decide on what your three mailings are going to be.
You don’t want to plan too far in advance because things are going to change and it’s time consuming. Instead, bite off planning in chunks. The idea is really to put some serious thought into it ahead of time so your better prepared when you do have the time to sit down to put your campaign together, which will make it so much easier.
What is your best advice for a business that is just getting started with putting a plan together?
So, like I said, I think one of the hardest things is just figuring out what the heck you’re going to talk about.
And I think one of the suggestions that I would give is to just talk to some of your customers, your clients, or your members to get ideas about what they want to hear about.
If you own a spa, maybe you want to talk about recommended skin care products and why you would recommend it. Or, if you’re a nonprofit—who was the founder; how did your organization even come about?
Or if you’re more of a service organization and you’re a financial advisor for example, and someone says, “I would really like to learn more about this law…” You can get really great content ideas from your customers about what they want to hear from you in your communications with them.
If you’re interested in getting started with planning your marketing, email marketing is a great place to start. Find out How Creating a Plan Can Change the Way You Think About Email Marketing.