Start the year with an integrated marine marketing plan that clearly outlines your business objectives and the marketing strategies & tactics you plan to use to achieve them
A version of this article originally appeared on Small Business Marketing Tools
An annual marketing plan helps keep your marine business on track with goals and objectives for the year and ensures that marketing opportunities and budgets are maximized.
A solid annual marketing plan should be structured with a disciplined approach to reaching your business goals and objectives, yet flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions and business opportunities throughout the year.
Start by Reviewing Previous Year Marketing Performance
Before you begin the annual planning process for the coming year’s marketing efforts, you’ll want to take a close look at how you performed over the current year. Even if you did not have a structured marketing plan in place previously, you should be able to review past marketing activities and results.
Here are some questions to ask when evaluating the performance of a previous annual marketing plan or year’s activities:
- Did you achieve desired results from your marketing efforts (such as improved brand recognition, X number of leads generated or sales/revenue figures)?
- Which specific marketing activities were effective?
- Which specific marketing activities were not effective?
- Should you reallocate resources to better performing targets, markets or marketing tactics?
- Has your target market, audience or geographic area changed over the year?
- Were you able to stay within a marketing budget at the end of the year?
- What areas of your marketing budget do you need to cut costs in for the coming year?
- What areas of your marketing budget do you want to invest more in for the coming year?
The answers to questions about your previous year’s marketing plan will play a big part in building an annual marketing plan for the coming year. Each year adjustments should be made to your marketing planning efforts that incorporate learning from the past – what works or what doesn’t work.
Develop Essential Components of an Annual Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is a written document that contains a business’ marketing strategies and tactics. The first step in developing an annual marketing plan is getting organized. Make a list of all the marketing components or categories that are important for your business.
Marketing Plan Template Builder – This popular marketing plan builder lets you select marketing categories important to your own business to build a customized template for marketing plans.
Typical components in a marketing plan include:
- Advertising (print and/or online)
- Branding and Graphics (promotional giveaway items, photography, video production, graphic development)
- Collateral (sell sheets, brochures, business cards)
- Events (trade shows, webinars)
- Direct Marketing (email, direct mail, list generation, promotional incentives/contests)
- Public Relations (press release distribution, PR agency)
- Research (focus groups, surveys, marketing reference books)
- Social Media (social media networks)
- Website (search engine optimization, web development/hosting)
Of course the actual components for your business may vary depending on your business, industry and marketing budget. The important thing is to identify all the potential components in your annual marketing plan so you can decide how you plan to address those components for your business.
Even if you do not plan to allocate budget for a category – like social media – it should be included if you have any marketing efforts planned for the category so strategies and tactics can be outlined in an integrated planning approach.
Define Marketing Plan Strategies, Tactics and Budget
Once marketing components are outlined for the business, all potential strategies and tactics should be defined per category or component.
Here is an example of defining strategies and tactics for the “advertising” category:
Marketing Category: Advertising
Strategy #1 – Drive traffic to website via online advertising
Tactic # 1 – Google Adwords
Tactic #2 – Banner ads on industry association website
Each tactic will also need to have an allocated budget, if applicable. The marketing plan should include fields to capture your allocated budget, actual spend and budget variance so that you can track throughout the year and make any adjustments needed.
For example, if you are tracking under budget in one category you can shift funds to another category where you may be tracking over budget.
Flexibility to adapt an annual marketing plan throughout the year is important to adapt to a changing business environment and be “opportunistic” in marketing efforts. Be sure to take advantage of tracking mechanisms for marketing efforts whenever possible – such as unique 800 numbers or website analytic reports – so that you can make adjustments to maximize performance of campaigns (or dump marketing efforts that are not producing desired results).
Goals should also be set for all areas of a marketing plan so that you can measure the performance of marketing tactics against business objectives.
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