Bryony ThomasIt's time to get started on your 2017 marketing plan. We always see a spike in enquiries and searches for tips on marketing planning in December, and in March. This is because financial years typically start in January or in April, but means lots of businesses are actually leaving it pretty late for planning. If you want to hit the ground running in January, October is the latest you should be starting your planning. I've asked Accredited Consultant, Cheryl Crichton, to expand on this.~ Bryony Thomas

At this time of year I’m willing to bet that next year’s marketing plan isn’t yet on a small business owner’s agenda. It’s more likely to be a note in the diary for December.

A small business marketing plan takes time (and, more time on top of that), so calling a marketing consultant in December to have a 12 month action plan ready for January just isn’t enough time. Especially not to do it justice. Here’s why:

  1. Your time*: You’ll need to put aside the right amount of time required to work with your consultant, your team and the other third parties involved. This means making time to provide the input and sign-off your 2017 marketing plan needs.
  2. Their time: You’ll also need to get planning time in your consultant’s diary well in advance. If you’re thinking about next year’s planning, so will others. Avoid the disappointment of unavailability and book with them early.
  3. Your suppliers’ and other people’s time: See point 2.
  4. Christmas: Think about who shuts down and whether all the people involved with your marketing planning will be available.

* Marketing planning usually includes research. Think about the time of other’s that will be required for research too – more often than not staff, suppliers and even customers. It all adds up.

What’s a comfortable timeframe to get your 2017 marketing plan sorted?

In my experience, full marketing strategies just can’t be created in a month. Not unless you can afford Saatchi and Saatchi. I’m sure they’d merrily take your vast budget in return for some fast turn around.

So, in the world of small business marketing, and not so vast budgets, three months is a good chunk of time to set aside. This is enough for your consultant to work with their extended team of marketing, creative and productions suppliers to plan and cost-up suitable and appropriate communications activity for you. That means your 2017 marketing plan needs to be kicked off now!

But, of course, when you do your marketing activity planning is entirely up to you. It should always however be done with your customer’s buying cycle in mind, and not always when you have a naturally quiet period time in your business. Whenever your marketing calendar runs from, just allow plenty of time to plan it. My session on ‘getting stuff done’ at #wmconf16 also explains how good planning saves time in the long run – something we all want.

What’s involved with marketing planning?

There’s plenty of information about marketing activity planning on the Watertight Marketing website and in the book. In it’s simplest form it’s about understanding how your customer buy from you and the messages and marketing activity you need to deliver along their buying journey.

We use the Watertight Marketing Framework to structure an effective baseline marketing activity plan. This covers:

  • What to say: Mapping the right emotional and logical messages to each stage in the buying decision.
  • When to say it: Chunking your content to incrementally earn the right to time, and committing to a consistent rhythm of activity.
  • Who to say it to: Mapping the third parties and what influence they have at each stage of a buying decision.

Then, when you’ve done all that, tested your ideas and worked out how you are going to measure its success, you need to work out how much it’s all going to cost. Not to mention how long it will all take to implement.

When that’s all done, you'll have the basis of a marketing plan.

How can you help speed up the planning process?

Marketing is a bit like a giant ocean-going tanker – it can take a heck of a long time to turn around.

The things you can do to speed things up are more like identifying the things you can do to avoid it being slowed down. Be available. Make swift, firm, decisions. Provide the information requested when asked.

Delaying any of these will delay the delivery of your plan.

Being equipped with the right questions to ask from the outset will also help you be better prepared for an initial conversation about marketing. Having a look at Watertight Marketing's handy guide to briefing marketing suppliers, will go some way to helping you think about your marketing objectives.

And finally...

If, like marketing consultants the world over, I can encourage you to start planning for your 2017 marketing plan now, it’s a win-win situation. Let’s face it – the retailers are already sorted – they were on Christmas in May!

Ooh, and you might find this handy, it's a downloadable 2017 planner. It's not ours, we just like it.

Other posts you might find useful: 

Cheryl Crichton

Cheryl Crichton

Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant

Cheryl is a highly experienced marketing project manager who’s delivered for the country’s most demanding brands. She’s a high-energy individual, whose passion is for owner-managed businesses where she can make the biggest difference.

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