All too often, small business owners get lost in the day-to-day operations. It’s easy to forget to take time to plan, to balance strategy with operations. A successful business needs to be simplified and streamlined – and a successful small business owner could potentially hand off a part of the business to someone else without sacrificing efficiency or quality. That’s routine marketing!

Rather than scrambling to pull together a marketing campaign before typical annual events, how much time would you reclaim if you were able to plan once and then essentially put your plan on auto-pilot? Between Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation season, Thanksgiving and all the other recurring holidays throughout the year, that’s a lot of planning to go over and over year after year. Most of the time, when you finally get around to fine-tuning last year’s plan, it’s already too late to make a real impact.

So, let’s walk through the process of putting together a routine marketing campaign:

1) Identify specific holidays, seasons, annual events or traditions that impact your business

Besides the traditional and officially named holidays, keep groups in mind that will be visiting annually or frequenting your business during a certain season. Keep things like conventions, festivals and other events in mind. What does each season – spring, summer, autumn and winter – mean for your business? Are there annual expos or trade shows that you participate in? If so, get them all on your calendar to make planning easy.

2) Determine specific media and timing for your business

In general, look at what has worked in the past and build on it. Marketing that builds on themes is far more effective than one-off messages and disjointed themes. Think about how far in advance of an event you need to start drawing attention to your events and offers. If you start spreading the word too far out, your money will be wasted. If it’s too close, you may lose the “planners,” and depending too much on last-minute customers – even though you definitely want to draw them in, too – isn’t a plan for consistent business. Consider the unique nature of each event, and how far advance people will be preparing.

3) Make a unique offer

Determine your unique message or offer. An offer doesn’t always have to be a straight-ahead discount, either – although it could be. It may just be a reminder, or a way to inform people about the experience they will have with your product or service. It may be how you solve something for them in a better way than the alternative. Stress the unique aspects of your business, the special qualities that customer won’t find elsewhere.

4) Purchase or schedule your marketing media

No matter if you’re using traditional or paid digital media, if you can secure an entire year in bulk, you’ll be able to negotiate a better deal. After working through the events and seasons you’ll be targeting and planning out when your creative efforts are due, the next 12 months of marketing will be greatly simplified. Consider automation and advance scheduling for social media posts.

Think Through  – Annual planning allows for simplification of both planning and execution. One caveat, though: don’t think of it as the “Showtime Rotisserie” that Ron Poeil from Ronco was selling! You definitely can’t “set it and forget it.” You’ll need to set it, monitor it, and modify it as needed. In any event or situation, you’ll have a plan in place that can easily be set in motion. Ensure that someone has responsibility to monitor execution and results, and keep notes so that you can fine tune your approach for next year. Your marketing will get easier and better each time, and your business performance will reflect that.

Small Business

About the Author:

Gregory Woloszczuk is an Entrepreneur and experienced tech executive that helps small business owners grow their top and bottom line. Gregory believes in straight talk and helping others see things they need to see but may not want to with a focus on taking responsibly for one’s own business. He and his wife, Maureen, started GMW Carolina in 2006.
Gregory has been fortunate to have been part of building teams for companies that went through hyper-growth as well as his own company. He also has experience in working through economic downturns and taking responsibility to fix what is in his control. The focus has always been working with partners, customers, and building a successful business channel. His range of experience includes marketing, sales, support, training, and operations.
Gregory holds an MBA from Nichols College.