4 Steps to Help You Plan for a Great 2018
Without a plan, most business owners won’t reach lofty business goals. Break planning into 4 steps so you can get it done before year-end.
Planning for next year? Wait - there’s still plenty to do before the end of THIS year. But even though there’s never enough hours in the day to get it all done, it’s important to block out some time and just do it. Without a plan, most business owners won’t reach their lofty business goals. So, with the 4 weeks left in 2017, I’ve taking a few hours each week to craft my 2018 plan. I’m sharing my planning process to help you get it done:
1. Let the Data Tell the Story
Before you can move forward, you must understand where you’ve been. Start with the key business and marketing metrics. For my business, it’s online activities and email campaigns. Ideally, there’s been consistent analysis all year, but the reality for most business owners is that it’s probably been random at best. Focus on your most important metrics, correlate the results to sales and expenses and pull it together in a one-page snapshot. Avoid the temptation to dissect every aspect – if analysis paralysis sets in, you’ll never make it past this first step.
2. Look at the Big Picture
Recap your key business goals and objectives for this year along with your results from step 1. Keeping in mind that your marketing plan and business plan are not the same thing – marketing activities grow your business but it’s only one component. After looking back, flash forward – what does your business look like 3, 5 and even 10 years from now? What needs to happen to get there? A lot, right? Start with the big picture and break it down. Then transition into your marketing strategies. Resist the urge to start with tactics! Business owners always seem to jump to tactics and new ideas first. Keep in mind that when tactics and goals don’t align – it can be a big waste of time and money.
3. Take a Quarterly Focus and Get Tactical
Now it’s time to map out the specific activities needed to accomplish your goals. Start by segmenting your year into quarters. Taking a quarterly focus enables you to drill down to the key milestones and necessary actions that will move projects forward and get results. It’s worth the time to map out each quarter to understand realistic timing, identify logistics and designate resources. Share your plan and quarterly calendar with your team and key stakeholders. Soliciting input is important to identify challenges and unify the team towards common goals.
4. Find Greater Success with Budgeting & Performance Indicators
While you don’t need to spell out all the details in your plan, it’s important to understand who’s doing the work, what it’s going to cost and what success looks like. Budgeting is critical to achieve return-on-investment. Keeping a keen eye on anticipated expenses forces you to go back and fine-tune the tactics to achieve the right balance of risk vs. opportunity. Identifying your key performance indicators (KPIs) in advance is also important. KPIs quantify your progress and helps improve operations. Plus, staying on top of KPIs makes ongoing planning so much easier.
While it may seem like a lot of work, having a plan prevents you from wasting valuable time and resources on unproductive activities. Careful analysis provides a clear picture of what you want to accomplish so you can create messages that connect with your ideal clients. And, you’ll see a greater return-on-investment when you stay laser focused on the most cost-effective activities in your plan.
As the new year quickly approaches, there’s no time left to put off planning. Keep in mind, your plan doesn’t need to be 100% by the time the ball drops on Dec 31rst. Dedicating time regularly to planning increases the chances you’ll achieve your 3, 5 and even 10 year+ business goals.
Cheers to making 2018 your best year yet!
Hurricane Irma: A Lesson in Emergency Planning
As Hurricane Irma made its way towards Florida, I realized that I had no Disaster Preparedness Plan. How could I have missed this important aspect of business planning? Prepare for unexpected to avoid becoming a FEMA statistic.
When someone asks me about my strengths, one of the first things that comes to mind is planning. I truly love the whole process of creating a long-term vision, defining strategy and mapping out a tactical plan to achieve success. But a few weeks ago, as Hurricane Irma made its way towards Florida, I quickly realized that I had no Disaster Preparedness Plan. How could I have missed this important aspect of business planning? As meteorologists predicted that Irma was headed for the Gulf coast, it was time to take immediate action.
40% of Businesses Don’t Survive a Disaster
According to FEMA, 40% of businesses never reopen following a disaster. That’s why it’s important to create your emergency plan. Managing potential risk across both your business and personal life needs to be taken seriously. This risk is not just for coastal locations either as disasters take many forms: fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, terrorist attack, etc. When I lived in the Northeast, following Hurricane Sandy, we lost power for 6 ½ days even though we were over 100 miles from the coast.
Preparation is Key
I didn’t start preparing until Hurricane Irma was approaching, but fortunately, I still had time to address the critical items. But for many businesses, disaster strikes without warning. Take the following steps to ensure you’re not caught off guard:
What Happens if You Lose All Your Files?
As Florida braced for Irma - storm surge, flooding and wind damage were my key concerns. Anxiety turned to panic when I realized there was no records management system in place. It took hours to identify and re-locate important business and personal documents. Be sure to address both electronic and physical files to limit potential loss:
While a strategic plan is important to grow your business, not planning for the unexpected can suddenly end your business. Visit www.ready.gov for information and checklists to help you plan. Don’t let your business hopes and dreams become a FEMA statistic, create your emergency preparedness plan today
The presenters noted that sales tend to much higher when business owners stop trying to do everything themselves. When businesses focus on the core activities that drive sales, there is greater success. The key insight is to spend the majority of your time on the vital functional areas and outsource the rest to experts. What a business should outsource depends on the type of business and the internal areas of expertise.
This is a great strategy, but the reality is quite the opposite, especially when it comes to marketing. So, I decided to talk with conference attendees to see how many actually outsource marketing and their results.
Informal Survey Shows Marketing Approaches Vary
“I wear all the hats”. More than half of the people said they do all their own marketing. Primarily because it saves money but also because it’s “fun”. Most acknowledged they don’t have a marketing plan and only focus on marketing when things are slow. That’s when they decide to try something new like creating a new Facebook post, starting a blog or an email campaign. The results are great initially but there is little to no follow-up activity since marketing gets put aside when things get busy again.
Successful but time-consuming. The owner of several retail stores ran email marketing campaigns promoting in-store events and price discounts. This successful campaign increased sales and store traffic. Now the owner wants to target her best customers, but hasn’t had time to segment the list and develop custom content. She’s thinking of outsourcing her marketing to save time but has cost concerns.
Referral-Driven business. Several business owners said they don’t do any formal marketing as most of their sales come through referrals. Two of these business owners want to significantly increase annual sales without working a lot more hours. They liked the idea of outsourcing marketing so they can focus on selling. But, didn’t want to interview a lot of agencies or freelancers in order to find the right partner.
One person with Two Jobs. One business owner has an employee who handles both marketing and billing. She noted this is not ideal because although the employee is a whiz with numbers, his marketing skills are lacking. This business owner was excited about outsourcing but unsure how to get started.
Inbound Marketing Experts. The most memorable conversation was with the owners of an air conditioning company that had record growth after hiring a marketing firm 3 years ago. They knew exactly which tactics from their recent online ads produced the best conversion rates. Their budget didn’t increase as their marketing partner reallocated funds from yellow page ads and random newspaper advertising to online advertising with targeted social media. And, once the owners knew which tactics worked, they shifted a lot of social media activity in-house. Now they actually spend less on marketing with greater sales results.
It’s evident that business owner marketing strategies are as diverse as their business types. But while their marketing varies, one thing was quite clear – all were weighing the benefits of outsourcing to drive business growth.
5 Reasons Outsourcing Marketing Leads to Greater Business Success:
Outsourcing a key business function like marketing, may seem challenging initially. But if you take a strategic approach and find the right partner, it can pay off in the long run. Clearly defined goals and a strong partner will bring more effective and turnkey marketing solutions which in turn will grow your business.
10 Tips for Effective Emails
Email is such an important of your marketing mix. Make sure your emails are best-in-class with these tips.
Seems like everywhere you look, the latest social media apps, digital platforms and new technologies are increasingly competing for attention. With all this buzz, email may not seem as exciting but it’s still a leader among ALL digital marketing tools. That’s because email works! According to Constant Contact, email has 3 times the conversion rate of social media and a fantastic ROI. For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $38. And, consider that 1-in-4 people check their email multiple times throughout the day while 58% of people check their email first thing every morning. Here are several tips to increase your email effectiveness:
Diana is a content marketing strategist and virtual marketing director specialized in financial services. She has 20 years of marketing expertise, including campaigns for top brands such as Johnson’s Baby and Band-Aid.