The National Newspaper Association (NAA) recently shared its 2016 planning guide and I love its opening paragraph:  

"Too many business-people market themselves these days without first developing plans, goals and success measures. They tend to spend from the proverbial register if they have enough money in it this week. Advertising can be a critical component to marketing success, but advertising only works well if you have executed a well thought out plan. Ready, shoot, aim typically does not reap success. If advertising is not a core component of your marketing efforts, then maybe it should be."

As the Post-Bulletin media planner, I often hear that local organizations have a plan, but rarely do I see one. It's critical to make a marketing plan before you begin investing in advertising.

Your plan should guide decisions, keep you on target and drive business. Simple is okay; just ensure you have one.

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  • Your own organization’s history
  • Your customers
  • Your competitors
  • Your marketplace
  • Your offerings
  • Your pricing
  • Your budget
  • Your unique differentiators

What should you include in your written plan?

The contents of your plan:

  • A summary of your marketing plan. After outlining your plan’s details, summarize it at the top – short enough to explain to someone in the elevator going from floor to floor. This will help simply communicate your plan at-a-glance to your team, vendors or other influencers. 
  • Market background and audience. Understanding the market can influence business decisions. For example, an influx of population with steady unemployment can indicate economy growth. Retail sales, discretionary income and even housing market data can reveal how people spend their money. Get smart on Rochester-area market data and download our guide.

To persuade your audience to consider, try or purchase your product or service, you must know that audience – their demographics (sex, age, location), what keeps them up at night, employment and income, how they shop, what they like to do, etc. Knowing this information will inform what you say, when you say it and to whom. This may seem like a "duh" moment but when I ask local advertisers, "Who is your primary audience?" I frequently hear, "Well, everybody." To successfully market your product or service, you need to market to a specific audience because different groups respond differently. Tailored messages will have the most effect on your audience.

  • Marketing objectives and strategies. Be clear on what you want to accomplish and how you plan on doing it. For example: increase qualified leads/emails (or drive sales of specific product line) through advertising and social contests. Be specific with your goals; write out deliverable actions. Clear objectives and strategies will help you measure the success of your program because you’ll know exactly what you wanted to accomplish and how you will accomplish it.
  • Your marketing mix. Some say multi-channel, others say multi-media. When writing a marketing plan, consider different media types to reach your target audience. For example, vary your media (print, online, direct) because consumers jump in and out of media channels all day. They may browse the Internet during breakfast, pick up a magazine at the hair salon and tune into Pandora while working out. Learn where your customer is spending their time. Then market to them in those channels.
  • Timing and budget. Your plan should list what you want to say and when you want to say it. Include seasonal triggers (e.g. weather, holidays, promotions, etc.) that influence your customer’s behavior. Run advertising campaigns in advance of and during this time to maximize top-of-mind awareness and trigger action. Also, list the amount you plan on spending each quarter; clearly define how much of your budget is spent in print, online, TV, radio, direct mail, social, etc. Then include your ad buys on a calendar so you can easily see your plan.
  • Measurement. Whether highly targeted or to mass audiences, advertising works when sent with the right message, at the right time to the right person. Measuring ad effectiveness depends on the media mix and your original goals.

Some specific ways to measure promotional ads or discount ads is to offer "Clip ‘N Save," or "Mention this ad and get a # percent discount," or "Scan ‘N Save." Watch website referral traffic to identify how your ads are driving website traffic, assuming that’s a business goal. You can chart your sales on a monthly basis against your ad buy calendar to see any spikes and make conclusions. And always, ask your customers. What brought you in? How did you hear about us? Learn where they see your brand around town.

Choose metrics to measure based on your business objectives. Measurement can be complicated and unique to each company. Ask a media consultant for the best ways to measure your specific campaigns.

A written marketing plan keeps you focused and allows you to evaluate new opportunities that will support your goals.

We’re here to help you plan to win!

As the NAA puts it: "newspapers only succeed if you do."