Planning for the new year – News – Sharon Advocate

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While many marketing experts will advise that you should start your new year planning a few months in advance, many business owners wait until the actual new year arrives to start focusing on the year ahead.

There’s something about a new year to rev up the thinking and dreaming about trying new tactics, launching new initiatives and gaining new customers and improved results.

The first thing you’ll want to do is look over your 2018 plan and determine what worked and what didn’t. You’ll naturally want to scratch any tactics that produced no business leads, but perhaps there’s something that could have been better executed or tweaked in a way that produced greater results. Try getting feedback from your team, and, if possible, ask customers and partners what marketing activities drew them in or resonated with them.

Areas To reassess

There are several key areas of your marketing you will want to reassess if you haven’t done so in a long time (especially if you haven’t looked at them since developing your 2018 plan). These are areas that should be looked at least a couple times each year and include:

The market and your competition – The marketplace never stops changing. Just look at the recent stock market fluctuations. You’ll want to explore the business and industry outlook for the new year, but also look closely at who is in your industry. Are there any new players? Did any companies merge or get acquired? Did any leave the market or fold? Any of these occurrences is likely to change the competitive landscape and may affect the next areas of exploration.

Your target audience – You should look often at who your target audience is for your marketing, especially as you work on or make any changes to your marketing messages (discussed below). Look closely at who your new customers were in 2018 to get a sense of their demographics, geographic location, buying goals and habits, and what’s important to them. You’ll also want to find out what messages drove them in your direction and which communications channels they used (that information will be important for reassessing the two areas discussed next).

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Once you have all this information, you can create customer profiles or “personas” to refer to for guidance with planning and implementing your marketing programs. Personas are humanized versions of a customer profile that outline the goals, needs, challenges and vendor interaction preferences of a specific (but fictional) person in a specific role. Creating personas can provide you with the best representation of your ideal customer.

Your message – The messages you communicate to the marketplace should reflect your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) but also resonate with and speak to your target audience. The USP is a clear statement of value pertaining to your uniqueness and what you bring to the table, oftentimes used as a tagline. Basically, it would be your whole argument for what you offer and why customers need it now to solve a problem or address a situation they have. The UVP is a set of statements that convey what your prospective customers and each of the other groups in your target audience (partners, investors, etc.) get by doing business with you. The UVP statements ultimately become what I call the company’s “core messages,” which should be woven into all external communications and marketing content — the website, sales materials, press releases, social media, etc.

Your communication channels – The channels you use to reach out to your target audience (traditional media, social media, email, etc.) should be the channels that best access your audience and your audience most uses to get information. As mentioned above, figure out which channels your customers came through or generated the most engagement with your target audience.

Your website content – It’s easy for businesses to forget about what’s on their website. If you or someone in your business hasn’t looked at it in a while, you’ll want to examine it to make sure all the information is up to date. The copyright should have the current year, but make sure you’ve also posted recent product or service upgrade info, new executive team members, and recent press releases and news coverage. Check the blog (if you have one) to ensure all the posts and accompanying photos are formatted properly. If you’ve made changes to your messages, they should be reflected across the content.

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More importantly, determine whether your website needs a content refresh, an SEO (search engine optimization) update or a design overhaul to ensure it’s capturing your audience’s attention, tied in well to your brand and highly responsive (able to be rendered and viewed on multiple types of devices such as tablets, smartphones, etc.).

Your social media presence – Like your website, you want to make sure your social media pages or accounts contain up-to-date information. They should also have complete profiles and provide categories of information that would be most sought by your target audience (think what’s on your website). Consider refreshing the pages with new profile and cover photos and add other relevant photos, such as of team members, company events, etc.

Your brand – Is your logo dated or tired-looking? Does your tagline reflect your USP or resonate with the target market? Are you projecting an image or personality that accurately reflects who you are? A new year is always a good time to think about revamping your brand, but remember that rebranding can be a costly investment and time-consuming process as a new brand needs to be incorporated across all marketing and business materials and successfully communicated to and accepted by your target audience.

Once you have reassessed all these core areas of your marketing platform, your next steps will be goal-setting for the new year and determining the best tactics for achieving those goals, reaching your target audience and distributing your messages. In my next column, I’ll talk about must-have tactics that should be part of any marketing plan. Stay tuned.

Beth Bryant is the owner/principal of BBWrites Strategic Communications in Marlborough, which specializes in providing public relations, marketing and content writing services. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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