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The end of the year is near. And that is a great thing for most Americans. While many businesses grew amid the pandemic, many suffered drastically. As we look to the year ahead, savvy business owners and leaders consider how to utilize marketing to make up for their 2020 losses. 

When going to the grocery store, you bring a list, so you don’t overspend. The same is true when it comes to marketing without a plan. Creating a marketing plan takes time and is a lot of work. But once you have a plan, the foundation is set to help propel you toward achieving your professional goals. There are certain critical elements to be included in a marketing plan. Here are five of them. 

Identify your Target Audience

Who is your ideal customer? You can’t say anyone with a heart. Who does your product or service best serve? Where do they live, and what is their age range? What are their interests, educational background, and income level? Some of these criteria may not matter; however, some of this information is critical to honing in and targeting the right customer. There is no point in wasting marketing dollars on someone who would never buy. Spend your money wisely by targeting your content marketing messages to the right people. Once you know your target audience, you can do this!

Determine a Marketing Budget

The SBA recommends that small businesses allocate 7-8% of their gross revenue to marketing. A marketing budget helps you prioritize your marketing efforts and lock in a set amount to utilize throughout the year. By setting a marketing budget, you allocate specific funds for individual marketing tactics. This is helpful when you get a call from some random person selling billboards or ad space. Knowing what you have available to spend will ensure you don’t spend money on something that isn’t necessary. Equally, it motivates you to track the efficacy of your campaigns. If something isn’t working and you are actively monitoring it, you can quickly pivot before the money is entirely spent and do something else that may be more effective.

Identify Your Critical numbers

Critical numbers can be a lot of different things. From a marketing standpoint, it is great to have a baseline to track results. Knowing where you were before starting a campaign can clearly show results. Depending on the business, critical numbers may include monthly data on factors such as new patients or customers, new customer types, and repeat business. If you are super savvy (and we know you are), this should include your marketing sources, which is basically how a customer found you. Plug each source into a graph as a line item. As you close out each month, notate how many patients found you per source. Breaking down your sources will allow you to track your marketing’s efficacy and compare it with months and years prior. It can also help project growth. 

Run a Competitive Analysis

You need to know what your competitors are doing so you can stay ahead of them. We watch our client’s competitors like hawks. We do this because we don’t want any of them sneaking up and become a significant competitor. Our goal is to stay ahead of the competition, so we need to make sure we are always ahead and pivot to maintain any lead. It would be best if you were watching out for your competitors too. Knowing what your competitors are doing well and what they aren’t will help you make more informed decisions for your company. Knowing what your competitors are NOT doing will help you provide something unique as a service offering. It sounds like a remarkable difference is brewing, huh? 

Set Goals

Lawrence Peter said that if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. NOW is the time for setting goals for your business. Where do you want to be at this point next year? What will you have accomplished? If you set clear goals that are challenging but possible, you have something to work toward in the year ahead. Goals trigger certain behaviors. When you have a goal in place, you work toward achieving it. Business goals should never be arbitrary. They should stretch you (and your team) but be attainable with hard work. Use your critical numbers to help make projections based on historical growth. Consider your slow and faster times of the year in your planning and set goals accordingly.

You can make 2021 a fantastic year for your business. With proper planning and execution, you can cut costs, reach the right customer and stay ahead of the competition, all of which will find your business sitting in a much more comfortable place this time next year.