One of the most important things you can do to prepare your business for a new year is to plan your promotional calendar. When it comes to marketing, there are ongoing activities and short-term activities. Today, we’re focusing on the short-term promotions.
What are you selling?
The first thing to decide when building out your promotional strategy is what it is you want to sell. This might be individual products and services, or it might be larger groups of what your business sells. Of course, we’re not going to promote every single item or service you offer, but you should have a good idea of what your top sellers are. What items would you like to sell more of? Are planning to introduce a new product or service this year?
What problems do you solve?
What are the problems that your products and services solve? When are your customers facing them or noticing them the most? Some problems may be concrete like needing winter tires, while others may be psychological like providing comfort or the feeling of safety.
This pretty much falls under the ‘who are you selling to’ category. Remember that you likely have multiple customer segments with different needs and expectations.
Are there any seasonal tie-ins?
If your business is naturally seasonal, this part might seem obvious but I challenge you to think outside the box. A ski resort, for example, often sells early bird passes in the early summer even though they operate in the winter.
Your promotion may tie-in to one of the four seasons. Official holidays, such as Christmas, Labour Day, etc., are another great tie-in option. Restaurants campaign for holidays such as Valentine’s day or Mother’s day every year.
Annual events such as back-to-school, tax season. spring cleaning, ect., are also times when people are looking to solve a problem. List out any special dates you can think of, then try to decide if there are any logical connections between what you sell and what your customers are doing at those times of the year.
If you have products or services that don’t tie-in to any events, you may choose to create your own annual sale. You can also schedule the item in to be promoted during a blank space in your campaign calendar.
How big is the decision being made?
The length of each of your promotions will depend on how much time your customer needs to make a decision. Is your customer is aware of their problem and looking for a solution? If so, you probably just need to give them enough time to compare your offer to others. If you are informing your customers of a new problem, they will need more time to decide whether or not they need your solution.
Some of your campaigns may be a few days or a week, while others may be a month or longer.
How will you create urgency?
If people know they can buy something from you at any time, they will be more likely to put it off. Creating urgency is one of the ways that you can influence your customers to buy now. Generally, it is created by some type of scarcity.
Scarcity can come in the form of a limited time offer or a limited number of items available. Not all promotions will require this sort of incentive, and you have to be careful of damaging your brand with too many discounts, but it is an effective way to build urgency.
Pulling it all together
With the information from the questions above, you should be able to pull together a simple promotional calendar for 2017. You should know what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to and why they’re buying it, when you’re promoting it, how long you are promoting it for, and if/how you will be creating a sense of urgency.
Remember that you don’t want to overlap any of your campaigns or exhaust your audience by always selling to them. Narrow your campaign calendar down to the number of promotions that you can put the time and resources into promoting and advertising.
Using your promotional calendar
Don’t let your promotional calendar sit around collecting dust on your computer hard drive. Add the campaigns to your computer calendar and print them out in a physical calendar. Be sure to schedule some prep time to create content or book any advertisements.
You can build out the rest of your content strategy, social media strategy and newsletter strategy around your planned promotional campaigns. Use the content you create for those channels to prep your audience and support your sales activities.
Your up-front planning for the promotional calendar sets the stage for the rest of your marketing efforts next year. Knowing what you’re going to sell and when will put you ahead of most small businesses in the marketing department.