It’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to wrapping up work for the holiday season and looking ahead to business growth in the next year. Most businesses need thoughtful planning to grow and develop so take some time to create a 2015 marketing plan. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of a plan as it can be as simple or as detailed as suits your business. Yours may be scribbled thoughts on the back of an envelope or a detailed document outlining activities and timing. Whatever works for you, here are some questions to consider when developing your marketing ideas.
1. Assess 2014
What marketing activities resulted in expansion of current business or new leads? Which ideas felt the most effective? Look at the amount of time you spent on different types of marketing and think about which activities were the most efficient in producing results. Where did you invest your marketing time and money? Did you communicate with the right target customers and if not, why not? Did your business grow in the direction you wanted it to? If you have time, ask a few of your new clients how they heard about your business and why they chose to engage with you.
2. List target clients
Based on your existing client base and your thoughts about new business, decide which new clients you’d like to reach in 2015. Do you want to gain more of the same type of work or do you want to add customers to your roster from new industries? Do you have specific expertise that is not being used by your current customers and, if yes, would you like to work with new clients in that area? Be as specific as possible by listing companies and individuals you’d like to work with and which of your services or products would benefit them.
3. Mix and match
With the 2014 assessment for reference, list the marketing activities you will implement in 2015. If something worked well, don’t reinvent the wheel but update and repeat that process. Also be open to new communication avenues that you haven’t considered in the past. Your decisions need to be guided by your audiences so you’ll need to do some research into what will work for each of your new target clients. For each new target, think about their influencers, where they learn new information and how you can get your messages in front of them. You’ll want to position your products or services as solutions to your target’s business challenges so take some time to understand their needs. Match up your list of new target clients with the marketing approach you’ll use for each.
4. Strengthen existing relationships
It is so much more efficient to gain more business from existing clients than to recruit brand new customers. Make a list of the existing clients that you really want to keep and grow in 2015. Think about why they chose to work with you and make sure you’re still going above and beyond for them. Perhaps 2015 is a good time to offer a feedback session where your key customers can tell you what they feel is working and what could be improved. If hospitality is appropriate, take your top clients out for a new year’s lunch to find out what new business challenges they’re facing. Offer as much support as you can, even if it means referring the client to an associated business. Choose one new service or product to introduce to each existing client in the course of strengthening relationships next year.
5. Make the time
Have you just found your wrinkled 2014 marketing plan at the back of a notebook and thought, ‘Those were some good ideas – I wish I had implemented them this year’? Do you recall a distant but energetic conversation with a mentor or peer about exciting new communication approaches? Let’s make sure 2015 is different and that you’ve got solid results from your marketing efforts one year from now. Make time in your own way. You might mark one day a month in your calendar and spend it communicating with new target clients. Or you could spend several days in January planning different messages to use in your client communication through the year. Perhaps scheduling in-person meetings with your existing clients will strengthen those relationships. Or just keep a visual reminder of your 2015 marketing ideas in your office.
Good luck writing your 2015 marketing plan. I’m wishing you all the best for successful business communication in the coming year!