shaking handsTraditionally, now is the time of the year marketing managers begin the planning process for the upcoming year, 2010. And, research shows one trend holds true; companies aggressive with marketing campaigns during and after tough economic times fair far better when the economy recovers.

To put it simply, now is an excellent time to gain a head start in the race for revenues; now is the time to build relationships and capture market share.

The Planning Process
First things first. Prepare a “Marketing Plan” that meets the needs of your short and long-term marketing goals. Far too many business owners view marketing as a project here and a project there. And, they fail to integrate their activities into a cohesive marketing campaign. How much does it cost to promote this or that event, seminar or presentation? How much for a printed or email newsletter?

As separate projects, it is expensive and ineffective. As an integrated, ongoing marketing process these projects become a component of a larger, focused marketing campaign. Synergism flourishes, relationships build and referrals as well as the revenues roll in.

Where do you start?

Target Markets – Clearly identify your target markets. This is one of the most important components of your marketing plan. For example, how many people on your social networking “connection lists” are actually prospects? How many people have you specifically targeted? How many are on your mailing list?

Let’s say you want to spend the money to send out a printed and/or email newsletter. How much time have you spent building your mailing list? Or, was your antiquated mailing list an after thought? I still get direct mail and email for a company I owned (and sold) over a decade ago, which tells me don’t do business with the un-organized company that sent the info to me.

Do the names on your list really include your target market or is your list a bunch of names you gathered at the last minute?  Review, segment and revise your list. But first, you must understand the characteristics of your target market.

Market Needs – Your business provides value to your customers. Marketing efforts work best when focused on the benefits you are providing based on the customer needs you are satisfying. Therefore, the short-term and long-term customer needs must be clearly defined. Content developed for your marketing campaigns must support your findings.

Strengths – To develop and implement a marketing strategy for your business, you must identify the strengths within your business that add value, both tangible and intangible attributes (i.e., employee knowledge, product attributes, your expertise, credentials, etc.).

Opportunities – Assess the factors that represent the reason for your business. Understand the opportunities and create actionable marketing projects and implementation strategies in areas that matter most: website usability, content development, graphic design, search engine marketing, newsletter marketing, etc.

Competition – Assess your major competitors in terms of the factors that most influence revenues. The marketing strategy and performance of your competitors are important to develop your most cost-effective solutions for branding your company, delivering your message and growing your business.

Positioning – Based on the findings of the items above, among others, develop positioning statements. In essence, a strategic focus on the most important target market, that market’s most important market need, how your product or service meets that need, and why your company is better than the competition.

Now, and only now that you have a comprehensive marketing plan, launch it.