I've asked many small business people the seemingly unwelcome question, "Do you have a marketing plan?" Most, about 90 percent, don't want me to ask. Their shoulders slump, they look at the floor and they deflect. It breaks my heart -- not because they don't have one but because they get so down on themselves for having to say no. I'm here to say I get it. I've worn those shoes as a busy business owner myself. I never ask out of judgement or to shame anyone, but that's how they feel.
Following are instructions for creating a very basic (and flexible) marketing plan that will bend with your ever-changing schedule. It is my new years gift to the countless professionals I've met who are making it happen, every day, running their businesses and legitimately do no not have time or the wherewithal to create a full-blown marketing plan for their business. Spend 20, okay maybe 30 minutes this week on this 4 step process and you'll have something to work with for 2015.
Before we start, it's important to note that this is not your marketing consultant's marketing plan for your business in 2015 -- that comes later when you have a minute to gather your thoughts and realize you might be able to justify paying a professional. Nope, this is your "I-run-the-business-have-no-extra-time-may-be-working-new-year's-day-seriously-no-time-for-a-big-thing" plan. You will need a calendar, a highlighter, a pen or pencil and a handful of sticky notes. You can also do this on a computer/mobile device using your calendar app but for the quick half-hour in and out version, stick to analog.
Step 1 - Highlight Dates Affected By Anything Set In Stone
So, standard holidays should be highlighted, the big conference you already paid to attend should be highlighted, Probably should go ahead and highlight date of the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup or US Open -- whatever you're into and might want to plan around. Highlight first and last days of school for the nearest district to your business. Highlight your birthday and the birthdays of those you should acknowledge. If you want to get fancy, use a different color for the personal stuff, but make sure it's highlighted if you need to be aware of it. Now highlight several days before and after any of the big holidays that might include promotions for your business. Those are key for build-up and wind down. Wondering why personal stuff might be on your marketing plan? Because you're busy running the business and it's important to plan around the big stuff in your own life -- it is meant to help you find balance without having to lose sight of everything on your plate.
Step 2 - Write Down Events or Promos you are Pretty Sure Will Happen
If you always do a sidewalk sale the week before Christmas, write that down -- it should already be highlighted, at least partially. Do you have special offers for big local events or want to? Write it down. For example, in Austin every business should have SXSW convention and Austin City Limits music festival written on their calendar. These bring in business -- even if you're b2b, then it affects your client's businesses and you should be ready to work around it, prepare for it. If you know you are going to send out a monthly newsletter by email, write that down.
Step 3 - Use the Sticky Notes to Put in Ideas for Promotions or Content
They are sticky notes because you might move them around. I highly suggest you use the "super sticky" version of these magical notepads. They stay on and make this easier. For instance, always running behind when the holidays arrive because you've been too busy running the business to plan for a special promotion? Now is the time, yes in January, to plan for next year's special offers and marketing ideas. You have time to plan a little at a time and if it's on the calendar, you'll see it coming. Use the sticky notes to add in content ideas too -- what you might post on social media or in an email blast, or both. You can add stickies anytime, or email yourself if you're away and use the subject line "marketing sticky". Then you can find them easily when needed.
Step 4 - Put it all in a file folder that sits on or near your desk
Keep the plan an arm's length away. Consider writing down your social media and email marketing account logins on the inside of the folder. That way, if you need to delegate at any point, you can simply hand over the plan and that person can hit the ground running. If you need some marketing ideas, pull a sticky from one time to where you need it -- easy edits. If you find yourself answering the same question over and over, add a sticky note to share the answer with all of your followers and email subscribers.
And that's pretty much it. What you have created is a living, breathing document that will change over time, will grow with your needs and can be adapted later. Again, it's not the work of a marketing Ph.D. -- it's a quick resource for the real world of a small business. You can finally say the words, "Yes, I have a marketing plan", knowing maybe It's not the end-all-be-all but it is at least a start. Hold your head high, plan in hand, ready to take on 2015. It's going to be a great year! #YouCanDoThis