Build a 12-Month Marketing Plan for Your Small Business
Simply your small business promotion strategy by creating a marketing plan every year. Here's what to include in your promotional calendar.
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At the end of every year, most businesses take time to review how well they've done in the past year and look towards the future. They review their business and marketing plan and make changes when necessary.
Have you taken stock of your business goals? Have you created a marketing plan that prepares to you achieve those goals?
One of the most important tasks you can do during this evaluation is to plan your marketing and promotions for the new year.
Even if you're just starting to get serious about your business in the middle of the year, creating a marketing plan for the next 12 months is beneficial. You can always review and edit it at the end of the year so you can start fresh in January.
The important thing is that whatever time it is during the year, you work on getting started now. So here we go!
Why plan so far ahead?
Creating a marketing plan months ahead of time is the best way to help take your business to the next level. It will serve as a road map of what you need to do and when. If you're working with other people, such as colleagues or joint venture partners, it keeps everyone on the same page.
It also helps you manage your 4 main marketing areas:
- Your website or blog (content marketing)
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Special sales and promotions, including important events like product creation and launch
These work together to drive traffic, generate leads (get subscribers) and make sales.
Promote Your Products
Before you start thinking about how you're going to market, it's helpful to know what products you have currently available. You should also use this time to get an idea of what you'll create in the future.
It’s important to pencil in all the key dates related to your launches in your marketing plan. This helps you make sure nothing gets missed or left until the last minute.
Product creation and launches should be the most important points of your promotional calendar. Research what your target audience wants and needs and build a product around it.
You should also schedule in time to promote products you've already created. You don't have to constantly create new products, just keep promoting the ones you already have.
Build your email list around your products as well, so you can let them know when the products are launching. This will help them sell well right out of the gate.
Create Content Around Your Marketing Plan
Your marketing plan should also include what content you'll create. All marketing is content marketing. It’s just a question of the format of the content.
Imagine you have a fabric and notions brick-and-mortar store, but want to drive traffic to your physical store and also get customers online.
You create helpful content about quilting, making your own clothes, fun holiday crafts to give as gifts, and so on. This gets local customers to come in and online customers to buy. You could even put together reasonably-priced kits with everything they would need for each project to encourage sales.
For international customers who may not wish to pay a lot for shipping and handling, you can sell digital products, such as patterns, video lessons and so on. All of your content would be the context for making a sale.
Other content marketing methods
Email marketing also requires content and provides a context for making a sale. Send an email with information similar to what's on your site and include a link to buy a product related to the content.
Social media marketing can drive traffic to your site and subscribers to your email list. Once they're on your list, they can receive your content and amazing offers.
Use special promotions
Your offers will also include your special promotions—events where you offer a discount or bundle to increase the value of your initial offer. There are three main reasons you may decide to have a special promotion:
- Launch a new product
- Create a seasonal or holiday-related promotion
- Stimulate sales during a slow period
We've already gone over launching, so let's look at seasonal promotions and handling slow periods.
Plan for Seasonal and Holiday Promotions
Seasonal and holiday-related promotions are always a good excuse for a special promotion or sale within your marketing plan. They mark an occasion and it's easy to tie in your products and services.
Returning to our fabric store example, you might create an American flag quilt potholder pattern kit to sell for the 4th of July. Or you can use the pattern as a free download to get people to subscribe to your list. Announce the special promotion on social media and perhaps even run an ad about it on Facebook or Pinterest.
The 12 Days of Christmas is another very popular promotional opportunity, with 12 days of sales items if you wish. This can be the perfect way to stimulate sales during a time when prospective customers might be focusing on gift shopping, or ignoring you because their money is earmarked for other things.
You can promote the usefulness of the item as a gift, a bargain, or something people really need that they haven’t treated themselves to yet, but could make all the difference in their lives.
Start planning for holidays early
Some holidays are fixed, like the Fourth of July or Christmas Day on the 25th of December or Kwanzaa on the 26th. Others fall on different days each year, such as Easter, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and so on.
Top marketers and magazines will tell you that Christmas starts in July or August—that's how far they plan ahead with the help of their calendar.
To help you create a marketing plan for the holidays, you can create and download free PDF calendars to print out from timeanddate.com. You can toggle the various choices, such as including all US holidays.
Print out 1 copy of the calendar for each marketing initiative, such as the editorial content for your blog, email marketing mailings, and product launches. Then start penciling in your ideas.
Dealing with Slow Periods
Every business is going to hit a slow patch from time to time. If the summer is dragging on with barely any sales, it's time for some extra marketing to maintain a decent level of sales and profits.
Using the fabric store again, you could think of 12 weeks of projects that kids can do while they are on summer vacation. You could also market these as useful gifts to give to others. You're promoting your products by getting parents to teach their kids the power of giving.
It may take some time and creativity to come up with winning ideas, but your marketing plan will keep you on track. This will make it easier to do everything at the right time and in the right order.
Build on Your Successes
Another reason to revisit your marketing plan at the end of the year is to evaluate your best promotions. Look back at the ones that generated the most income and plan to recycle them during the next year.
You can even copy and use the same content you used before. Set the dates and queue them up in your blog or email marketing platform and you're ready to go.
Make Use of Affiliate Products in Your Marketing Plan
If you don't have a product of your own to sell yet, that's perfectly okay! You can start working on creating your first product while you're promoting affiliate products. With your own product, you can keep 100% of the profits for yourself.
One way to test your product idea is to find a similar product and promote it to your audience. If it goes well, consider developing a similar product of an even higher quality and your own ideas (but don't steal, of course!).
Even if you do already have your own products, adding affiliate products is a great way to create a new income stream. You can easily become an affiliate for products related to your niche that your audience will find useful and you don't even have to worry about shipping or supporting the products. Yay!
Popular choices for affiliate marketers are Amazon and affiliate networks like ShareASale or Awin. You can earn a commission anytime someone purchases through your specially-coded links.
If you have a specific product, service, or retailer in mind, do a Google search for "[your item] affiliate program" to find out if they offer an affiliate or referral program.
Keep adding promotions to make sure you have a full calendar. Affiliate programs usually have a newsletter sent to keep you up-to-date with current promotions. Use this information about special offers, flash sales, and forthcoming holiday sales to get ahead of other affiliates who may not be paying attention.
Share a calendar with your own affiliates
If you have affiliates yourself or are trying to get more, an affiliate calendar will show you're prepared and have everything well-organized. The calendar can help you make sure your supporting material for your affiliates is all ready in time for the holidays or for your next product launch.
Your calendar can also be an invaluable selling point if you want to get joint venture partnerships. This is an agreement in which two partners cross-promote and split the profits. JV partnerships usually have a higher split than regular affiliates, such as 60/40 or 50/50.
For example, you email a special offer from them to your list and they email an offer from you to their list. With both of you marketing your newly launched product, for example, you could double your chances of success.
Track Your Promotions
You should also keep track of traffic to your content and pay attention to which channel is generating the most sign-ups or sales. This can be useful for the next time you release a product. If you notice a video is generating a lot of sales, you may want to put more effort into creating video content for the next product.
You can also share this content with your affiliates and JVs so they can share them with their own audience.
For example, most affiliate software allows people to create links directly to any page on your website (this is called deeplinking). This means any of your affiliates could share an affiliate-enabled link that leads to a blog post rather than directly to a sales page.
So let's say you have that video from before embedded in a blog post. You can ask your affiliates to help you drive traffic to this post through a deeplink because it's converting well. They'll love this, too, because it means more commissions for them.
Recap: Create a Marketing Plan to Promote Your Business Throughout the Year
Creating a marketing plan, either on paper or digitally, is one of the best things you can do for your online business.
After reading through this post, you should have a good idea of why! It's an easy way to plan and promote both new and existing products and services and recycle the most successful marketing campaigns you’ve launched.
Don't forget to:
- Create a plan and set your goals ahead of time
- Use both your own products and affiliate products
- Take advantage of seasonal events and holidays
- Build on success and recycle successful marketing campaigns
- Create a promotion calendar
- Share your promotions and successful content with your affiliates
Set your business goals for the new year and start planning so you can take action to accomplish those goals or even exceed them!