The Importance of a Long-Term Marketing Strategy

March 30, 2020

Many business owners are not aware of the advantages that a long-term marketing plan can give them. In this blog, we’ll talk about the “profiles” that most small business owners fall into as it relates to marketing and we’ll explain why marketing is a necessity for all businesses. Investing in marketing should be like paying your rent or your employees. It’s important that we have a correct mindset toward marketing so that we can commit to an effective long-term marketing plan.

So what is a long-term marketing strategy? How does a business owner create one and why is it better than a reactive strategy? All great questions. A long-term marketing strategy is a complete picture and plan of attack for your marketing dollars over the course of a year or more to achieve specific goals. 

This plan would include:

  • Your total budget in dollar amount and/or percentage of gross sales of your business. 
  • Your marketing calendar for the year and show all promotions you intend to run throughout the year, your goals for those promotions, and any changes to budget throughout the year.
  • Your plan for marketing when promotions are not running. It’s important to be marketing in between promotions because we don’t want to train our customers to wait for promotions to buy from us. 

Once you have this plan down and can see the year as a whole along with your goals and budget, you can create a theme for yourself. This theme doesn’t need to be obvious to your customers but should help keep your messaging consistent as you execute your plan. For example, if you have a small business in the health and wellness industry you may want to commit to the theme of “Simplicity.” All the content you create would focus on how simple it is to be healthy rather than complicated diets and workout plans. Or, your theme could be exactly the opposite. The important thing is that your theme connects with your target market and you stick to it!

Once you make a plan in place and you have your goals and budget set, consistency will be easy. There is almost no scenario where a business sticks to its plan 100% because, as we all know, the market can change in a heartbeat and it’s important that we adapt quickly. The keyword there is adapt and not react. When you have a plan in place and the market forces you to change your plan, we adapt. When you have no plan and have to make a last-second change because of forces in the market, that is a reaction. Adaptation is fluid and easy. It is a slight change to the existing plan and doesn’t shock or surprise you. A reaction is sudden and uncomfortable and can have negative effects on your business. Reaction marketing often leads to mistakes that cause poor customer experience and ultimately wasted marketing budget and eventually less revenue. 

Now that we have talked about what it looks like to have a long-term marketing plan and the benefits, let’s talk about some of the more common marketing behaviors that we see from small businesses.

Marketing Behaviors in Small Business Owners: 

In general, we can put local businesses into a couple of profiles based on how they market their business.

The Campaigner: This business owner hops from campaign to campaign throughout the year when a good idea comes up or an event/promotion presents itself. This owner is all about individual pushes and commits to the short term spend but looks at marketing as a necessary evil, an expense, and a hassle.

The Issues: 

  • High risk for reactive behavior
  • All growth is dependent on short-term promotions
  • Mindset toward marketing is often negative
  • Conditions customers to wait for promotions to make purchases
  • Brand awareness is spotty

The Absentee: This business owner thinks that marketing, especially digital marketing, is silly. They believe that good, old-fashioned elbow grease and word of mouth is all you need! While it’s true that word of mouth and elbow grease never go out of style, it is also true that business owners have never had a marketing tool belt like the one the digital landscape provides. 

The Issues:

  • Low brand awareness 
  • Mindset toward marketing is often negative
  • All growth is dependent on word of mouth
  • Growth is often capped lower than necessary

The One-Trick Pony: This business owner believes in marketing but fails to be diverse in their approach to marketing. They stick to one avenue of marketing that they feel comfortable with. This one area could be direct mail marketing, email marketing, or couponing. This type of business owner quite simply is treating marketing like a box that can be checked. 

The Issues: 

  • Low brand awareness 
  • Growth is dependent on a single channel
  • Resistant to change 
  • Marketing is hindered by diminishing returns

The DIY-er: This business owner understands that marketing is important and is committed but doesn’t believe in working with a partner. They prefer to handle their marketing on their own or delegate it to someone in-house. This owner is either skeptical of marketing agencies or they simply believe that the cost to work with the agency is not worth the extra investment.

The Issues:

  • Possible lack of experience
  • Inefficient use of marketing platforms
  • Inconsistency in focus or messaging
  • Opportunity cost of other activities in their business

If you are reading this and saying “Oh my goodness, that sounds like me!” It’s okay! There is no better time to start on your long-term marketing plan than right now. Your marketing plan doesn’t have to be from January to December. It can be any time frame you choose. 

Other Benefits of a Long-Term Marketing Plan:

#1 Peace of Mind – When you have a long-term marketing plan, you understand the future of your business on a different level. You can create better projections for your growth, cash flow, and hiring needs when you understand your long-term marketing plan and the results you expect to get from it. 

#2 Crisis Management – Having a long-term marketing plan gives you the expectation that you will be making investments in marketing throughout the year. When you have that expectation as a business owner, marketing in a crisis is viewed as part of your business strategy, not an expendable piece of business operations. Staying top of mind with your target market during trying times is an absolute necessity if you intend to weather the storm. 

#3 Data – When you create a long-term marketing plan and stick to it, the data you collect is invaluable! It will inform every decision you make for the foreseeable future and make next year’s plan even better! Imagine how many meaningful learnings can be pulled from a full year of advertising data as opposed to the fragmented data of short-term campaigns.
#4 General Brand Awareness – By continuously marketing your business, your local brand awareness will significantly increase in your area. One-off ads and promotions certainly help but nothing compares to playing the long game and being front and center with your target market for a long period of time!

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