Football coach. Architect. Neurosurgeon. Successful marketer. What do all these professionals have in common? Planning. Coaches develop game plans, architects create building plans and neurosurgeons have surgical plans. Without the proper forethought, games are lost, buildings crumble and lives are lost.
While these may seem like extreme examples, they illustrate the point: Success in any field requires strategic planning—and this includes marketing of your business.
Why Strategic Planning Is Critical
Author Kelli Jae Baeli writes in the novel Armchair Detective that having no plan “is like leaping off a precipice and trying to knit yourself a parachute on the way down.” I don’t know about you, but I’d never jump off a cliff without a parachute! So why do so many marketers leap with both feet into campaigns without a parachute (read: proper planning) and wonder why their promos crash and burn?
Perhaps they don’t understand the importance of creating a strategic plan. Perhaps they know they should develop a plan but aren’t sure how to start. Or maybe they don’t know how to implement the plan and measure success. This three-part series will address each of these steps so you can incorporate strategic planning into your promotional marketing campaigns with confidence.
What’s In It For Me: The Benefits Of Strategic Planning
Having a sound strategy is the cornerstone for any marketing plan. Here are 10 reasons why your business can benefit from some strategic thought:
1. Saves Time (And Stress!)
There’s a misconception that strategic planning takes too much time. Not true! In fact, proper planning at the beginning can save time overall throughout the process because you can not only work through all the facets of the campaign with your promotional consultant to ensure nothing is being left out but also make contingency plans for any potential issues that may arise. By developing a plan at the onset, it’s much easier—and less stressful— to overcome any unexpected obstacles.
2. Creates Cohesion
There are many facets to any comprehensive marketing plan—email blasts, banner ads, tradeshow exhibitions, direct mail pieces, community outreach, just to name a few. And promotional products can play a role in any or all of these ways to reach potential and current customers. Strategically planning your message and how branded merchandise will play a role creates cohesion throughout your entire marketing plan, which makes for stronger communication with your intended audience and boosts their experience with your brand.
3. Improves Creative
Every day, each of us is exposed to thousands of advertising messages. With all the noise, how will you get the attention of your audience? It’s going to take something special that resonates with your audience’s needs to make a splash. By strategically planning with your promotional consultant, you can determine how promotional products can be a delivery vehicle as well as an expression of this message, giving you a better chance of cutting through the clutter.
4. Targets Your Audience
One mistake many marketers make is not tailoring the campaign to a specific audience. Each marketing message and supporting promotional product should have a purpose—brand awareness with prospective customers, thank-you gifts for current clients, retention programs or employee appreciation gifts, to name a few. While it’s easy to order one promotional product and give to everyone, that’s typically not going to be effective and may ultimately undermine your efforts.
5. Separates You From The Competition
Do you know what your competition is doing to attract and retain residents? You should. And by incorporating some reconnaissance into your strategic plan, you can learn what other properties are doing (or not doing) to further target your message and promotional merchandise to appeal to your audience so they think of your property—and not the competition—when looking for their next home.
6. Increases Product Selection
If you wait until the last minute to add promotional merchandise into your current marketing activities, you’ll be at the mercy of what goods are currently in stock. These days, inventory is tight. So you’ll want to work with your promotional consultant to order early and ensure you get the exact product and color you want. Having to settle for an item that’s not your first choice can dilute the effectiveness of your plan. And you certainly don’t want the only option to be a product of inferior quality, as that can harm your brand more than help it.
7. Makes Custom Merchandise An Option
Don’t think that you’re limited to only stock branded merchandise. Creating custom promotional products that are unique to your property is possible—and you don’t need a massive budget to make it happen. But you do need time and a promotional consultant that can do the sourcing for you. Perfecting the product design and decoration, obtaining the raw materials and factoring in domestic or overseas manufacturing can lengthen the buying cycle, so you’ll want to build this into your plans.
8. Saves Money
When you have a plan, you can better allocate monies across all the marketing functions and ensure each is supported appropriately. Without a plan, you may encounter rush charges and expedited shipping costs to get the promotional products you need by the campaign deadlines. Assuming you have a finite budget, these fees take away from any future promotions, thus reducing the effectiveness of your overall marketing efforts.
9. Eliminates Missed Opportunities
If you don’t have a plan, how will you be able to evaluate marketing opportunities that come along throughout the year to determine if they are not only a good fit but also confirm you have the budget to participate? Oftentimes, these unplanned opportunities have a quick turn-around time to be included, further complicating the decision making process. And if other marketing dollars were spent on needless rush charges and expedited shipping costs as describe above, then there simply may not be monies in the contingency fund to add anything extra—even if it would be very beneficial to reaching your audience.
10. Builds In ROI
Many marketers include branded merchandise in their promotional programs because they know they work, but they don’t build in any measurements of success. How else can you determine ROI? Work with your promotional consultant to build metrics into your promotion so you can demonstrate success and repeat those actions on future campaigns.
Your Successful Marketing Plan
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. With some planning, it can happen.
Now that you understand what’s at stake and why incorporating a strategic plan into your marketing efforts will impact your success, Part 2 of this series will look at the elements every successful promotional marketing plan includes not only to attract new customers but also to retain them.