money-building-blocksHaving a strategic plan for your promotional marketing programs is essential for success. In fact, strategic plans play a vital role in the marketing of your business—from saving time and money to creating message cohesion and improving program creativity.

Building a strategy into your marketing plans from the beginning also allows you to better target your audience, separate yourself from the competition and determine ROI to keep you on track. Plus, you also have better product selection and can even develop custom items to really get your audience’s attention. (Check out all the reasons why strategy is imperative to your marketing promotions in this previous post.)

The reasons why strategic planning is important are clear. What’s not as apparent, oftentimes, is how to go about creating this strategic plan.

Your Strategic Plan: Putting The Building Blocks In Place

Just like every business is unique, so are strategic plans. There is no “one right way” to develop them. It all depends on your goals and priorities. What works for one firm may not be ideal for another and vice versa.

While there is no absolute blueprint, there are five main considerations that essentially make up the building blocks of any successful strategic plan.

1. Begin With The End In Mind
Every promotion should have a reason for being, a desired result or action you want your audience to take. Too often, marketers select a promotional product because they believe “having a giveaway is necessary.” Giving branded merchandise to your audience can be a very effective marketing tool, but only if there is a purpose behind it.

For example, are you trying to attract new customers? Do you want current buyers to try a new product? How about thanking customers for their repeat business? By identifying upfront what you want to accomplish, you give your promotional consultant valuable information needed to go beyond simply ordering branded merchandise to truly building a promotional program.

2. Think Outcome, Not Product
One of the most common mistakes marketers make is thinking in terms of the promotional product they want to use in branding initiatives. Drop in on any marketing meeting and you’ll hear suggestions for giving away t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, notebooks—all fine products that can get results when paired with the right situation.

So how do you know what product to pick? Making the smart product choice goes back to beginning with the outcome in mind. Perhaps you’re going to a tradeshow and want to have a gift for those who stop by your booth. Sure you could give away pens, one of the most popular tradeshow offerings, but is this going to achieve your exhibition goals? Depends.

If you want prospective customers to stop at your booth, have a conversation about your company and actually schedule a follow-up appointment, a pen in and of itself probably isn’t going to be substantial enough to entice this kind of action. Get recommendations from your promotional consultant on what works. You may be surprised. There are so many product offerings available, so use your promotional consultant’s expertise to narrow the field.

3. Put Your Audience First
Are you purchasing promotional products that you want to give away or ones that your audience wants to receive? It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes: Would you like to receive the gift in question? Is this item meaningful to you? Would you keep and use it?

Recently, an company was giving away sunglasses as a way to build brand awareness at an outdoor event. Initially, the marketing manager wanted to include a phone number in addition to the logo imprinted on the temple. But the reality is that recipients aren’t going to wear such an overt advertisement. A more sophisticated tone-on-tone imprint made the sunglasses more appealing to the audience, increasing the likelihood of them being worn an appreciated for years to come.

4. Think About Packaging And Distribution
No promotion happens until the logoed product reaches the audiences’ hands. Consider how you are going to give the merchandise. Ask yourself which gives a better impression: Reaching into a brown cardboard box, pulling the item out and handing it to the recipient versus having the item placed in tissue in a gift bag imprinted with the property logo?

You only have once chance to make a first impression. Presenting the branded merchandise as a gift immediately increases the perceived value without adding much to the overall cost of the promotion. Conversely, not presenting the gift with any flair can devalue the item and make a $5 product seem like it only cost 50¢.

Your promotional consultant can work with you to find the packaging that best suits your promotion, budget and distribution plan, from custom or stock boxes, gift bags, tubes, tissue, wrapping paper or ribbons—all in your company’s logo colors, of course.

5. Build In ROI
Unlike traditional advertising where you evaluate value primarily based on cost-per-impression, one of the main benefits of promotional marketing is that ROI can be built into the program so you can determine how successful your efforts are. Without metrics to measure effectiveness, how can you know what programs to repeat, which ones to course correct for next time and which ones to avoid altogether?

Work with your promotional consultant to identify ways to track success and build this into the program. For example, rather than blindly giving away items at a community event or tradeshow, ask for something in return. If you’re building a list of prospective customers to target in an upcoming campaign, ask for a name and email address in exchange for the gift. What’s that name worth to you—50¢, $1, $2, $5? This will help determine the cost-per-item when creating your overall budget.

From there, assign a code to each of these contacts in your CRM software. This will allow you to track if any of them respond to email offers sent, come in for a tour and eventually convert to a customer. Not only can you track what products are successful during the conversion process but also what events and marketing messages are most appealing to your audience so you can focus efforts there.

Your Successful Marketing Plan

Remember: The goal of any promotional marketing plan is to get your company name into the hands of your intended audience to enhance the experience they have with your brand so they think positively of your products and services and want to purchase year after year—and tell their friends to become customers, too. By analyzing the five areas above, you’re well on your way to making it happen.

Now that we’ve covered not only what’s at stake and why incorporating a strategic plan into your marketing efforts will impact your success but also the five building blocks every strategic plan contains, the final installment of this series will look at how to implement the strategic plan for the greatest impact.