When you primary skill set does not include a marketing focus (like me), it can be difficult to dedicate time and creative resources to putting a plan together. This is when marketing might be outsourced to a third party. This is fine if you want to somewhat divorce yourself to this task, but if you are a small business owner, maybe it might be better to have some input or some control on where you are heading. This is not to say that third party marketing services are not valuable, they are; good contracted marketing services will work closely with your aspirations, goals, available resources, capacity, and drive.
But if you wanted to go it alone, or wanted to build a framework that you would feel comfortable with, then where do you start?
One method (and there are plenty of them) is to look at your plan as a deck of cards and associate the playing cards to particular date events.
First of, you have 52 weeks per year, and you have 52 cards in a deck. Pick out your aces - these are your major calendar events; Christmas, New Year, Easter, ANZAC Day, etc. Pick events that are important to what you do or believe, or what your demographics feel are important.
Next, pick out your secondary date events; maybe Chinese New Year, or Melbourne Cup, or Australia Day, or the end of Ramadan, etc. Group these into 3 groups of 4. Allocate these to your picture cards in order of event importance (King, Queen, and Jack).
You now have 36 cards left, and, if your events worked out, 36 weeks that do not have a card allocated to it.
Out of the remaining cards, you will have 4 different suits with 9 cards each (2 to 10). Think of 4 different retail themes. If you are a butcher, it might be something based on the animal, I.e. beef, lamb, pork, and poultry. Allocate each theme to a particular suit. Now distribute these cards across the weeks that do not have an allocated card. Your marketing will be based on the card that falls on that week. You may group same suites to follow consecutive weeks, or (my preference), group each week so that there is a different suit.
Your cards may end up looking like:
Beef = Spades
Lamb = Clubs
Pork = Hearts
Poultry = Diamonds
Ace Spade = Christmas
Ace Club = Easter
Ace Heart = New Year
Ace Diamond = Labor Day
King Spade = New Year
King Club = Chinese New Year
King Heart = ANZAC Day
King Diamond = Queens Birthday
Queen Spade = Start Term 1 School Holidays
Queen Club = Start Term 2 School Holidays
Queen Heart = Start Term 3 School Holidays
Queen Diamond = Start Term 4 School Holidays
Jack Spade = End of Ramadan
Jack Club = All Saints Day
Jack Heart = Ash Wednesday
Jack Diamond = Shop opening anniversary
The remaining suit cards fit into the weeks between the ace and picture cards on your calendar.
That's the hard part done. The easy part is now being more specific with the different events. Some of these will be easy to do and could tie into parallel events. A classic example sticking with the butcher theme is that typically the MLA will start a series of lamb television ads leading up to Australia day. Its a no brainer that your own lead up marketing will feature lamb during the time up to Australia Day. Trying to promote poultry will be a waste of time.
What you do as a promotion is totally up to you. You customers will expect something, and using the card deck marketing method will ensure that they return every week to see what new specials are available in your store this week.
Lastly, make sure your staff know what is happening this week, and what will happen in the future. Stick your cards up in the shop somewhere. Don't make the plan a secret, and if your customers ask, let them know when beef will be on sale again. You can keep your customers guessing as to what it will actually be, so long as they know that it is beef, then there will be a sence of satisfaction and surprise when they turn up and see what cut is on sale.
IMPORTANT: Don't forget to evaluate your plan. This should not be set in stone, and much like a business plan should be a fluid work-in-progress. If your POS system allows it, some analysis of sales against products for the different promotions can be a valuable source of data to determine effectiveness.
Future posts will look at shoulder marketing and value adding to supplement your sales. We will also touch on how to tie in companion marketing into your plan.