Short Term Marketing for Small Businesses

by | Sales and marketing

If you’ve spent any time at all on a golf course, you’re probably aware that as distance increases, accuracy tends to decrease. Sometimes dramatically.

A shot that feels good coming off the tee can hook or slice as it moves farther away, leaving it way to the left or right of the flag, and with you wondering what went wrong.

One lesson here is that your medium and short shots had better be as good as possible, because there are too many factors out of your control – wind, bad bounces, etc. – that can hurt your accuracy, especially with longer shots. (Factors that are in your control, like selecting the wrong club, poor swing mechanics, and ignoring the mental part of the game are critical, too. But that’s fodder for a different discussion.)

And the principle doesn’t apply only to golf. Even seasoned stock analysts are hesitant to predict a company’s earnings much past two quarters out. On any given Tuesday, weather forecasters in most parts of the country can’t be relied on to tell you for certain if it will rain on Saturday. And a year ago, was anybody outside Baltimore picking the Ravens to win the Super Bowl?

So greater distance, be it measured by physical increments or by units of time, makes predicting or achieving a desired result more difficult.

So what’s that say about your company’s annual marketing plan?

The Case for a Short Term Plan

Marketing plans are usually prepared for the approaching calendar or sales year, and provide direction, strategy and tactics for a growing company. A well crafted marketing plan can be a great tool, and serve as a sort of road map. MP Star Financial has used this space to provide tips on compiling an annual marketing plan, on integrating effective marketing communications to the plan, and even for making sure that marketing receives adequate budgeting from your company.

All this is great, but don’t ignore the short game. That is, make sure your company is flexible enough to respond to changes.

Think about it. One of the great things about running a small business is that you can be nimble and agile enough to respond to market signals your company might be able to use to its advantage. So the key to leveraging the strength of a short term plan – and for sake of discussion, consider anything 90 days and under “short term” – is to not throw out the annual plan, but to adjust it in response to new information.

Tip: Incorporate 90-day mini-plans to your marketing plan to adjust to changes in circumstances.

Example: Say your janitorial services or commercial cleaning company has earmarked certain resources for promotion via a mail campaign and direct selling. All is going according to the master marketing plan, and sales forecasts are being met. But suppose a competitor is forced out of the region and a dozen or so accounts are up for grabs?

This was probably not anticipated when your plan was put together months before, but you’d be foolish not to pursue the opportunities, even if it means re-directing certain promotion or sales efforts to the potential new accounts. Put what you must on hold, but re-evaluate and re-write your plan for the short-term (90 days, again), to ensure a full-court press on the possible new business.

Maybe that’s sort of obvious. But consider another example.

Suppose sales are not where you expect them to be mid-year, and you need a jump-start to have a shot at making your target numbers. It’s time to get proactive. For example:

  • Call old accounts and cut deals. Do your best to protect your margins, but concentrate on getting business in the door.
  • Try a new promotion that cuts directly to the chase. Send targeted emails that provide details and ask for a response, e.g., Would you like us to contact you today to provide a quote for professional cleaning services? You might get only a five percent positive response, but you’ll know where to apply your efforts.
  • Contact current customers with offers to extend the scope of the contract or arrangement, and add the additional services on a trial basis at a discounted rate.

None of these tactics might have been part of the original annual marketing plan that was written, perhaps, a year before. But all are possible fixes to short-term revenue problems.

Stay Flexible

But even absent a cash flow crisis, a short term revision to your marketing plan with attention placed on new opportunities can ultimately make achieving your annual goals easier.

The key is to maintain a level of flexibility that lets your company adapt. Don’t be so tied to your annual plan that you ignore the obvious. Keep an eye on the big picture, but think short term when it comes to marketplace changes and your company’s responding actions.

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