By Marsha Friedman
I love the fresh-scrubbed feel of springtime. It’s a great time to set goals for myself and my company, which always fires me up and inspires me to charge ahead.
I do more looking forward this time of year than looking back, but it is important to pause and take stock of where I’ve been. It helps me avoid making the same mistakes twice, and reminds me of things we did that worked well, so that we can try to repeat them.
To that end, here are my top four marketing must-do’s this year.
1. Define your marketing goals.
With clearly defined goals, you have something to aim for and a way to measure your progress (or lack thereof). Throughout the year, I can easily analyze the numbers and see whether I’m on track to meet my goals; if I’m not, I know I need to look for any problems that need to be addressed.
Some marketing goal ideas include how many followers or connections you’ll gain on your social media networks, and how many new subscribers you’ll sign up for newsletters. Sales may be a number you take into account, but it shouldn’t be a goal for your marketing efforts. Sales are the result of a comprehensive strategy of which marketing is just one component.
2. Develop and build your own marketing database
Building a database with email addresses and relevant information about former, current and prospective clients is absolutely essential. It allows you to communicate with them, reminding past customers of all you have to offer; strengthening the confidence of current customers; and encouraging prospective customers to move toward a sale.
If you’re just getting started, create a database of all the people you know who might be interested in hearing from you: friends, family members, former business associates – everyone. Your communications should not be sales pitches; rather, offer valuable, helpful information relevant to your field.
Keeps your database growing by offering content on your website that includes a “call to action” – an invitation for visitors to share their contact information in exchange for something that benefits them. That might include free reports available as downloads, how-to videos or subscriptions to your blog posts. If you’re an author, you can provide a free chapter or two of your book.
3. Maintain your marketing budget even when sales slump.
The first thing some people do when income declines is minimize expenses by whacking their marketing budget. Huge mistake! In fact, you need to pay more attention to marketing when sales drop off.
The new prospects you develop today, and the prospects you’ve been establishing relationships with, will be your paying customers tomorrow. If you allow that stream to dry up, you’ll be in even more dire straits a few weeks or months from now.
4. Use every marketing tool available to you.
Today we have more tools than ever for communicating the value of our service or product to the public. Many of them cost you nothing!
Forget yesterday’s expensive direct mail letters. Today I can jump on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and the other social media networks and reach a potentially far larger audience for free.
Speaking engagements may be old school, but they’re still effective; personal, face-to-face experiences create lasting impressions. Traditional media — radio, newspapers and magazines, and TV – are also still powerful and carry the additional benefit of giving you credibility. That implied endorsement from journalists and talk show hosts sets you apart from the crowd.
Creating a great website accessible to millions of potential shoppers doesn’t have to break the bank, and you can ramp up its value by using it to showcase your publicity.
Use everything at your disposal to share your message.
Following these simple but essential tips will help ensure you stay in front of your customers in the months ahead, which may just make 2014 your best year ever.
Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com/smallbusiness), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST. Follow her on Twitter: @marshafriedman.