Small businesses face unique challenges when it comes to competing with large brands for customers. But digital marketing practices are helping to level the playing field, giving small businesses more opportunities than ever to make a big impression on the web.
If you're a small business looking to grow in 2015, digital marketing is a must to help build your brand and generate leads. December is a great time to plan ahead for activities that will position you for growth next year.
Year-End Marketing Plan Checklist
Before closing the books on 2014, give yourself a head start on the new year with a look back on your marketing progress over the past year. The following year-end marketing plan checklist will put your small business in the position to hit the ground running with the marketing tools and ideas you'll need for a successful 2015.
1) Set or review Your Marketing budget
Budget planning is a necessity for any business. If haven't already mapped out your budget for 2015, now is the time. Hopefully, you can include an increase in your digital marketing budget, which will help you achieve growth in the areas discussed further in this checklist. Some of the areas you'll need to account for in your budget include ongoing marketing strategy, content creation, marketing software and website upgrades.
You can get some general guidelines for setting your marketing budget from Kuno Creative's blog post. This budget planning advice is geared towards companies with fairly well-established marketing programs, but can be a good starting point for smaller companies looking to develop their infrastructure as well, as it gives a basic formula for setting your overall marketing budget.
2) Create a content strategy
Creating the large amount of content that you'll need, then publishing it and promoting it strategically will require full-time resources. Part of your marketing plan should be to develop or improve your content strategy for the coming year; don't skip it! This important part of your plan has the potential to make or break your digital marketing plan.
Plan to increase production. Your content plan should include your plans for increasing production of content for the coming year. Plan for a robust publishing schedule on your blog and develop strategic and timely offers that will be of interest to your audience. Plan these offers not only on the basis of what has worked in the past, but also the areas of opportunity that you may have missed in past years.
Create an editorial calendar. An organized calendar that maps out your blog themes, social media posting strategy and content offers will help you stay on track with your content plan. Hubspot's editorial calendar template, shown below, is a basic Excel approach that can get you started. You can include as much detail as necessary, but essentials will be 1) topic/title, 2) keywords, 3) included offer and 4) responsibility. Peg Fitzpatrick gives even more tips for organizing your content here.
3) Reach out to clients with a holiday message
December is the perfect time to reach out to all of your customers or clients with a holiday message of appreciation. After all, they're the reason you're able to do what you do, right? It can be a simple gesture or message, with no strings attached. You may even be surprised by the response of your customers, which could range from a quick reply to a follow-up call that leads to potential business or a year-end sales deal. Regardless of the outcome, the message should be sincere and without expectations on your part.
Image credit: greetings
4) Assess your technology needs
Make a marketing technology "wish list" and create a plan to act on it now or early in the year. Which marketing tools could take your business to the next level? Here are some things to consider:
- Updated computer hardware you'll need
- Software systems that could simplify your business, including marketing automation
- Paid online subscriptions to sign up for
- Video equipment that could add new capabilities.
- Social network account set up, including improving company pages
- Mobile apps or mobile website for your company
5) Consider a re-design of your website
Your website should be viewed as the strongest tool for executing your marketing strategy. You need to carefully consider whether the current design of your website is supporting your marketing goals. If not, a re-design may be in order. Must-haves for your website include responsive design and/or a mobile website and simple navigation. Check out other tips for creating a modern web design in our related post here.
Take time to look at design trends that could improve the user experience on your site. You can get inspiration from some website design trends expected in 2015, including graphic treatments like the image below.
Image credit: trends
You'll improve marketing results by reviving your website's design, functionality and experience. It's a good idea to revisit and make improvements to your website at least three to four times each year.
6) Evaluate what worked and what didn't with your digital marketing plan.
Review the success of the campaigns you ran over the last year.
Goals. Did you set measurable goals for the last year and did you reach your stated goals for increasing your online presence, your site visitors, your lead generation goals and lead conversion goals?
Tools. Did you have the right plans in place to achieve your goals? Did you have measurement and reporting tools available? If not, how will you change your approach to make sure you're tracking progress and hitting your targets in 2015?
Conversions. Which offers were successful and which social networks or channels brought results that you wanted? Which tactics best helped you get closer to reaching your goals?
7) Plan to innovate for 2015:
Reaching your growth goals will require doing what you've put off doing — thinking outside the box and tackling the tasks and planning that you know must be done in order to grow. Business growth will require doing things differently, in some or many ways, than you've done in the past.
This step takes some reflection and honesty on your part. What's one idea that makes you a little uncomfortable, but could yield great results for your business? Should you invest in software or systems that will shake up your marketing model? Should you hire those additional employees who will round out your team? Should you engage with an inbound agency to expand the activities you're able to execute?
Plan to hit the ground running
Year-end is not the time to rest easy on your past success. Using the marketing plan checklist above will help you prepare for 2015 now and start the new year with the momentum you need to reach your goals.
Image credit: pre-pop