Imagery of the passing year as a weary old man, and the coming 12 months as a smiling toddler, are common. For businesses, the symbolism is especially appropriate. As a healthy child should develop into maturity, business owners hope each new year brings growth to their companies.
And business growth is often predicated on marketing. While promoting a company can’t overcome a bad product or poor service (at least not in the long term), a well-devised marketing strategy can go a long way toward leveling the playing field within a competitive space.
Effective marketing requires a carefully conceived plan based on a consistent, coherent message being frequently presented to the proper audience. However, it’s not enough to simply know what points to cover and then check the boxes. Just as you wouldn’t burp a baby who hasn’t been fed, or give her a bath before she plays in a sand box, timing is important for every promotional activity.
A good plan conforms to the cycles of a business market. What do your customers want and when? For a few professional service providers there are some easy examples — tax services in the late winter and early spring for accountants, or flu shots in the late fall for medical offices. In such circumstances, one should obviously plan marketing initiatives in preparation for seasonal spikes. Even though professionals may think it “goes without saying” that they offer certain services, advertising is — at a minimum — a good defensive move that may pre-empt existing customers from trying out a competitor.
Yet doing what everyone else is doing doesn’t go very far when trying to grow a business. Transcend basic care to see your customer base thrive.
Think of marketing as spending “quality time” with your clientele. You need to periodically interact with your customers and fortify your relationship throughout the year via your marketing communications. Realistically, how often you can do so depends on your resources. Yet the times you miss out on reaching existing and potential customers represent real opportunity costs.
Would you want your customers to go longer than three months without your business once crossing their minds? How many periods of top of mind awareness do you think would be a minimum objective? Come up with a number and add to it any “seasonally mandated” advertising. This is the number of promotional cycles you want during the year. Keep this number in the back of your mind for a moment.
Next, determine how many people you need to reach to achieve the growth you want. How often will they need to see your message before you reach a point of diminishing returns on your advertising investment? Decide which media are best to carry your message. What level of work is required to produce the messaging you need? Now, what kind of investment will all this necessitate? This is how much a quality marketing cycle will require of your marketing budget.
Once you’ve gone through the costing exercise, you may decide that you don’t really need that much quality — Little Timmy (your customer) can just “amuse” himself. Unfortunately he will… and he won’t be giving your business a second thought.
But let’s assume your budget will cover effective initiatives equal to that minimal number of desired cycles. Simply space them out equally over the course of the year. From this time frame, you can plan your associated marketing activities throughout the upcoming twelve months. If by some chance you find yourself with more than enough money to do the minimum, determine whether your goals would be better served by enhancing each cycle or if you’d be better off with one or more additional marketing initiatives.
Keep in mind that each individual activity within every cycle should always support your brand identity to re-enforce your value proposition in the minds of your customers and prospects. This will add to the overall effectiveness of your marketing and your new year will grow up strong.