30 September 2012

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, now is the time to think about your marketing strategy for 2013. Follow this step-by-step guide to develop an effective marketing plan.

External review of the market

Your starting point should be a review of what happened in 2012 and what you think could happen in 2013. An in-depth assessment of your business environment, competition and target audience can provide key information needed to develop your 2013 marketing strategy.

For example, what developments have there been in the market place that has affected your business? Do you have any new competitors or are your existing competitors offering new products or services? Has your competition expanded its presence? Are there any new opportunities that your business could exploit? How will changes in legislation affect your business?

Review the successes and disappointments of 2012

Which marketing and business development activities were particularly successful and which activities generated a disappointing return on investment.

Don’t rely on anecdotal feedback from your team but look at how much additional revenue was generated from each marketing activity.

Each year, it is likely that you would have tested some new ideas. Inevitably, there will be some activities where the results were disappointing. Work out why? Was this due to poor execution or because the idea did not engage your target audience after all? Could the idea work better, if approached differently?

Set realistic business objectives for 2013

Measurable, realistic business objectives are the cornerstone of a successful marketing plan. Your firm’s goals should be measurable (e.g. to grow revenue by 15%) so that it is clear whether your objectives have been achieved. Although your objectives should be realistic, they should not lack ambition. Despite the current difficult economic backdrop in the UK, there are still many growing, profitable small businesses.

Base your marketing goals on your business objectives

Likewise, your marketing objectives should also be measurable. For example, if your business objective is to grow revenues by 15%, your marketing objective could be to increase the number of clients by 10% and the average revenue per client by 5%.

Your 2013 marketing strategy

Now you are ready to write your marketing strategy. It is likely that there are a number of maintenance activities that you will need to invest in. These form the base of your marketing and could include updating your website and brand building activities. Then there will be a number of specific initiatives where you will wish to see a direct return on investment.

Look first to your existing clients to grow your business

Maintaining and growing your customer base is a key element of any marketing strategy. For most B2B and professional service firms, it is usually possible to identify which clients you can grow, which clients will have a stable revenue and which clients are at risk of going to a competitor.

Think about the most cost effective ways of keeping your clients and growing the average revenue per client? Can you promote other products and services to your existing clients? Newsletters, seminars, and promotions are all useful reminders of your range of products and services.

Acquiring new clients

What will be the most cost effective activities to grow your client base? How are you going to ensure that your business generates enough leads to have a steady flow of prospects in your sales funnel?

For each marketing activity, apply some commonsense financial targets. How much is it going to cost and how much additional revenue will the activity generate. This provides a useful comparison for different marketing tactics. Some, which initially appear expensive such as a trade show, might in fact be a very efficient way of generating new business and raising your profile in a niche market.

Your 2013 marketing plan

Break your marketing strategy into a month-by-month plan of activities and include detailed costings. Not only is this a useful method of visualizing how each element of the strategy will be achieved – it helps identify pinch points in terms of expertise, resources and cash flow.

Plan to measure the results

Be clear about how you are going to measure the results and evaluate the success of the marketing strategy. This is important to ensure your marketing costs are properly targeted.  Although measuring results can be difficult for some activities, try and develop some simple tests such as comparing the cost of the marketing programme to the expected increase in revenues, after allowing for the direct costs of the generating that revenue.

Make it Happen!

Now you are ready for 2013. With a marketing plan, broken down into bite-sized activities, with clear deadlines, achieving your marketing goals will seem much easier.

Pam Gandee is a marketing consultant, specialising in providing cost effective marketing advice and solutions to B2B and professional service firms in London and South East England.

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