With a new year now under way, you’ve most likely gone through, or are about to start, a process of budget analysis and a reflection on what worked last year and what didn’t. Although some companies work on a fiscal year, many still look at their businesses with the Gregorian calendar year in mind. As you review the previous year, you are likely to see annual seasonal ups and downs, cyclical buying habits, and marketing attention time spans. This review process should be the groundwork for the plan and strategy for the year ahead.
News and forecast articles still caution us about the economy, and some companies are holding onto their cash to brace for more bumps in the road. No matter how you view the economic climate, if you are serious about business, then you should be serious about marketing, and that requires a plan that can be executed and measured. Hard times require as much, if not more, marketing effort—as long as it is cost effective and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). I have my own rendition of this industry acronym—SMARTS (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely, and Sustainable).
Creating a marketing plan for 2012 (if you don’t already have one), or improving and refining the plan you do have, will move you closer to your goals. To demonstrate SMARTS and offer examples, I’ll focus on marketing to existing customers. Why existing customers? You already have all the information you need to market to this group, and customers are more profitable than targets and prospects. This is often a forgotten, yet critical, piece of a growth matrix.
The specifics for a marketing campaign can consist of, for example, increasing the customer spend by 10 percent or increasing their frequency of purchasing. Another specific goal might be to get business referrals from 15 percent of your customers. And my favorite one is to recapture at least 10 percent of those customers who are no longer buying.
One goal means one measurement. Keeping things simple and breaking it down will help you understand your marketing efforts and measure a true ROI. With the specific goals expressed in percentages, you now have the benchmark and target growth numbers to achieve this year. Create a dashboard or spreadsheet that breaks this into actual dollar amounts or numbered counts. An example might work like this: run a report that shows what your accounts spent last year. Then increase it by 10 percent and this will give you the number each customer needs to hit for you to meet your goal. Then break down that amount weekly, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually to monitor how your program is working. Every specific goal has a number attached to it, and your history reports will help you establish the benchmarks and begin to measure step by step or week by week how you are progressing.
I like grand goals, but why lose your head attempting something you know is unrealistic? A sense of being overwhelmed might get you off track and so goal targets should be sensible. You might want to check your historical rates of growth and bump those numbers up a bit to keep you motivated. An example might be that if you historically get referrals from 10 percent of your customers, you might set a new goal to get referrals from 15 percent of your customers. That means each month you should get a specific number of referrals. This should be attainable and yet with a great targeted marketing program you could hit it out of the park and get even more. What you set out to accomplish should be within your grasp and anything beyond that will be truly worth celebrating.
The easiest way to check relevancy is to ask with each goal, “How does this improve my bottom line?” Chasing shiny nickels can get distracting, so if you are setting social media goals such as new followers, fans, and friends, your marketing program should also include how to engage this flock into actionable, measurable, meaningful events. Another rabbit hole is website traffic. The goal of getting more traffic to your website might not be relevant without the right lead-capturing systems or the right “buy now” triggers. High volume traffic isn’t so much the target as it is the right traffic doing what you need them to do to generate leads and sales. Remember the old adage of quality over quantity. Try setting website goals, such as increasing time on site or number of pages viewed. These metrics will get you closer to providing a marketing site that is doing what you paid it to.
Mardy Sitzer is a certified inbound marketing professional and president of Bumblebee Design & Marketing. Since 1993, Mardy has been delivering creative and innovative marketing solutions. An avid reader of all things internet and marketing, she also writes blogs, articles, and web content for industry magazines as well as for Bumblebee’s clients. She is an adjunct professor at Fordham University and instructor at Rutgers University teaching social media for business. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.