Do you know exactly how much money you want to make in 2006? Do you know how much income you'll need to make to cover your overhead? To buy that new camcorder you've been eyeing? To cover the cost of participating in a bridal show this year, to attend a helpful convention, to end the year with a profit?
If you've got a financial goal in mind for the coming year, now's the time to figure out just how you're going to reach it. And the best way to do that is to put a plan together to identify where you are, where you're going, and how you're going to accomplish your goal.
Writing your own marketing plan doesn't have to be a major headache involving days of thought and agony. I write my own marketing plan using bullet points and very short sentences, and it rarely runs over a page or two in length. If you're ready to get a head start on next year, here's a simple five-step plan that will make your plan easy to write, and—more importantly-easy to follow.
Step 1: Overview
This is often called a "situational analysis," and consists of a brief overview of your current business situation. Begin with a short description of the services you offer and their prices. Note the advantages you have, such as your outstanding reputation for good work; an effective, lead-producing Web site or direct mail campaign; or a working network of event-industry associates (bridal planners, convention facility managers, etc.).
Next, make a note of any challenges you might face in the next year including increased competition, or the need to raise your prices. If you live in an area recently hit by bad weather and are facing diminished business levels, this is the place to note it in your plan.
Step 2: Define Your Audience
This is a simple one. Jot down a brief description of your target audiences. For weddings, young brides-to be and their mothers are a given. How about prospects for dance recitals or other types of events? Are they dance instructors, corporate trainers, or sales executives? Make notes on their age, their gender, their educational level. The more you can identify your targets, the better you can market to their needs and desires.
Step 3: Define Your Goals
In a couple paragraphs, list your marketing goals for 2006. In order to make this work, your goals must be both realistic and measurable so you can see how you're doing as the year progresses. "Book more weddings" is a good start for a goal, but your plan needs to be more specific than that. If you write down, say, "Book 36 weddings," you will have a goal that can be used to measure your progress. It might help to break your goals down by quarters or months, too.
Step 4: Define Your Marketing Tools
This will probably be the largest portion of your marketing plan, because you need to take a good look at your marketing and advertising strategies, and list the tools you'll be using to accomplish them. For example, let's say increasing your income in wedding or stage or corporate videography by 25 percent is one of your goals. Here's where you write down how you'll make that happen, such as "attend the February Bridal Fair," "plan and mail a series of three postcard mailers to sales trainers in 50 local businesses," "personally call every dance studio owner in my county with goal of setting up appointment," "publishing a monthly email newsletter to clients, prospects, and suppliers," "send news release to local newspaper about our new DVD packaging options," and the like.
Once you've got a good start on this list, it'll be helpful if you plug in your activities on a calendar or spreadsheet, so you can determine exactly when you've got to do what to get your plan in motion and keep it that way throughout 2006. As the old saying goes, "Plan your work, then work your plan."
Step 5: Determine Your Budget
This is where the fun really starts. You've identified a few dozen marketing tools and strategies you'd like to implement during 2006 to bring your business up to new levels of profitability; you've also probably already figured out that you can't afford them all. My suggestion: do what you can with what you can afford. Discard the advertising that costs too much and won't produce enough return on investment. Substitute postcards for direct mailings instead of oversized, multi-page brochures. Invest your own time into sharpening up your demo DVD, or learn how to stream media and load up your Web site with crisp, clear samples of your work. Then, as the year progresses, keep track of what works to bring in new business and what doesn't work; weed out the unproductive marketing ideas and build on the tools that are really working for you.