As we wind down 2019, it’s time (if you haven’t already) to start planning for 2020.  A solid marketing plan is essential to growing your business and providing a roadmap for your success in achieving your business objectives. Here are our six steps to creating a plan that can guide your business decision making for the new year.

Know your Business, Know your Competitors

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. A SWOT Analysis is a succinct overview of your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It doesn’t have to be formal, just four bulleted lists will give you a great snapshot of where you need to focus your energies. Even if you’ve done one in the past, it’s important to continue to evaluate and reevaluate your business as it evolves through the years. Likewise, it’s important to understand your direct competitors and what their strengths and weaknesses are so that you can use that understanding to your advantage.

Create a Customer Profile

Sure, you know what products they like, but do you really know who they are? By narrowly defining your customer in a pithy paragraph using standard demographics or lifestyle factors you’ll in effect create a guide for all of your future efforts. It is important to make this as specific as possible so that it will keep you focused throughout your plan and you won’t be spinning your wheels, or spending your money, on irrelevant tactics. For example, if your customer gets their news from The Skimm every morning, why spend valuable marketing dollars on print ads that they will never see? B2B companies can create a similar profile by using the type of business.

Establish SMART Goals

Every year should bring new goals. A goal shouldn’t simply be “grow the business” but rather something that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If your goal is to increase your social media efforts for the year, narrow it down and set a goal to increase the number of posts per month, increase followers by X amount each quarter, or improve the number of engagements per post by Y%. These are all easily tracked within the various platforms which will allow you to see how successful you’ve been, and give you something to celebrate when you reach your goal.

Define your Tactics

How will you reach your goals? Outline your strategies using a combination of marketing strategies that are relevant to your customer as defined by your customer profile. Choose strategies that are consistent with your brand. Avoid broad-based tactics unless the content and medium is relevant to your customer. By using methods that allow you to better target your audience, you’re better able to make each dollar count. Include a timeline so that you are able to look ahead and better forecast your marketing expenses so that they balance and support your busy periods. This is also a great time to go over roles in terms of which team member will be responsible for implementing each tactic.

Create a Budget

You know what they say, you have to spend money to make money, but it’s important to make sure that you are spending it wisely. Lay out your budget based on the tactics you’ve already identified as being a focus for the year. Your marketing budget should be comprised of dollars you specifically designate to go towards marketing or branding efforts – this should not simply be whatever is left over after your other expenses. Your marketing budget will be determined by your sales, but as a general rule, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising if you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales.

Review and Revise

You created your SWOT analysis, defined your customer, established your goals, outlined your tactics, and created a budget – now you’re set, right? Wrong. Situations change, goals shift, and priorities certainly evolve so it’s important to regularly review and revise your budget, your tactics, and your goals to make sure that they are still relevant and on track.