Thanksgiving is over, and the Christmas/Holiday rush is about to consume many small business owners. This is perhaps the best time to secure a disruption-free business operation in the coming New Year. In the upcoming weeks you will undoubtedly become distracted by the Hustle-bustle of holiday business demands but also parties, luncheons, shopping, and family gatherings, and let’s not forget you’ll also experience some staff shortages, as individuals can find more than one way to “become incapacitated” during this time of year. While you are focused on finishing out the year as strong as possible, disruptions are working against you. More importantly, a similar set of distractions await you on the other side of New Year’s Eve.
One way to minimize the upcoming 2018 disruptions and maximize your marketing opportunity is to plan for them now. As in, right now.
“Christmas is typically the largest economic stimulus for many nations around the world as sales increase dramatically in almost all retail areas. The United States’ retail industry generated over three trillion U.S. dollars during the holidays in 2013. These holiday sales reflected about 19.2 percent of the retail industries total sales that year. As a result, just over 768 thousand employees were hired throughout the United States to compensate for the holiday rush. The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September and some consumers begin even earlier.” – Statista.com
That is why I really, really encourage all of our clients to sit down and create a roadmap of 2018 TODAY, with special consideration to holidays, events or opportunities related to the demands on their product or service, gift giving, religious crossover, and much more. If you delay this crucial planning process until sometime down the road, well, it likely won’t get done and then you’ll be back to the fire drills every small business owner despises. There are innumerable aspects of business, especially marketing, and each of them can be assisted by planning. SCORE has some great templates that can help you develop actionable plans to grow your organization effectively.
The process varies by what you may have learned about goal-setting, but here’s a tried and true method that I picked up years ago. It might come in especially handy for your future planning. It’s a process of analysis, goal setting, and action. Here’s the long and short of it.
Quiet, Calm, Remembering
I think the mentor from whom I discovered this method might have had a different name for this first step, but what you should really do is set aside some time to sneak away to a quiet, calm environment and start thinking about this past year. It might take some time, and you might get some flashes of remembrance once your subconscious mind gets rolling on it. That’s okay, because the more you remember, the better foundation you will build.
Phase One has several facets.
Review previous goals established
- What worked, and why
- What didn’t and why
- What did you learn about each?
- What can you add or embellish for next year, and what can you avoid?
Phase Two – SMART GOALS
In my book, Shiney Object Syndrome-The Entrepreneur’s Drug of Choice, I offered many lists and acronyms to help provide business owners with some best practices and process improvement. Being SMART is one of my favorites, and is seemingly mentioned daily. SMART Goals are Smart for a reason, and the acronym says it all:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Results-Oriented
T – Time-Bound
The goals you establish for the coming year need to include all of the components actually to be smart goals. If you cannot measure them, what good does it do? If they are too aggressive, you won’t achieve them. Results-oriented, relevant and time-bound are also critical in that the goals should work directly for your business, and the timeframe allowed must be reasonable yet achievable. Here is a great download from the University of Virginia that can help you build a great goal planning session.
To achieve a disruption-free business, you must put your goals into action, for without any action, you’ll get nowhere. You have determined your endpoint, now determine how you’ll get there. This phase has numerous facets, much like phase one.
- Set SMART goals
- Break them down to step by step goals
- Establish regular review intervals
- Be accountable for your own success
Often a goal is targeted over a long period of time, say a year. Break it down into quarters, or even months. At each set period, make time to review the success or lack thereof your tactics to achieve your goals. The most important thing is to remain focus and be a responsible adult and hold yourself accountable. Can’t do it? Get an accountability partner.
All this goal setting is a great move toward better organization, growth, and success. But all this work is for naught unless an action plan is actually enacted.
“Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.” – Bradley Whitford
Marketing Planning is Equally Important
It’s a relatively simple process, too. Highlight every date that represents a key event around which to market, then back up three to four weeks and indicate that a marketing/content/website work project initiation is to begin.
Major holidays are usually obvious, but some industries have special or unique dates. Florists enjoy a nice revenue bump around prom and wedding season; accountants, not so much. Pet stores can “invent” special dates tied into activities in the towns they are based in, such as parades or homecomings. What are some interesting dates for your business? Put each of them on the calendar!
My agency uses content and social media calendars with which to do our marketing planning, and there are some great free ones online. You can find a good social calendar planning tool here.
Be certain also to include other tactical things that help your business grow, from Rotary and Chamber of Commerce meetings to facilitated networking groups you may belong to (if not, you should!). Those drains on your time always affect your ability to run a disruption-free business.
When you have your calendar completed, look for any obvious gaps. It is vital to consistently sustain the conversation with your customers, clients, and subscribers. For most SMB’s that is a weekly or bi-monthly email distribution and at least a daily social network post (if not more).
Next step; share the calendar with your managers and especially your marketing and/or advertising partners.
The benefit is enormous. You can avoid deadline crunches while allowing your team and outside partners to plan better their time to execute your needs. Zen Marketing has a great track record of being able to flex to meet last-minute (dare I say, unscheduled or unexpected?) client needs, but will that always be the case… probably not.
Such a process will also allow you to construct an expectation for financial expenditures toward your marketing. Simply apply a realistic cost estimate for every tactic and you can bubble up a yearly estimate.
Here are few simple to use, printable templates (some are editable in MSWord or Adobe Acrobat):
For Microsoft users, MS offers many downloadable templates:
Further consideration: make certain to incorporate twice-monthly email distributions; these should also be reflected on the calendar, as time is needed to research and write great content, source appropriate images, and condensed down for social networking shares. We highly suggest leveraging blog posts and introduce the new articles via the email, along with a special offer or new product announcement.
With this approach to planning, and a small sense of urgency, you’ll not only avoid the crunch of deadlines, but you’ll execute better quality content that is robust, professional, and timelier.
We all can get caught up in the seasonal frivolities, challenges, and disruptions. Furthermore, the opportunities to market your business throughout the year that you may have missed by not planning far out no enough longer will be an issue if you plan now. To enjoy a disruption-free business operating throughout the entire year is possible. Just as possible is taking advantage of the disruption and momentum that the holidays can bring. Taking the time to plan for next year during the lull in business between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day time is one of the best things any small business owner can do. I’ll be finding a quiet spot away from work and family for a few days reflecting on 2017, and planning for a smoother, growth-oriented 2018.
How about you?