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12 Months of Marketing Ideas for Franchise & Small Business Owners

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I find that planning out certain aspects of my business at the start of the year makes it easy to adhere to a plan for the following 12 months. Whether you hire someone else to do your marketing or handle it yourself, these ideas will keep you busy in 2016.

January: Beef Up Your Content Marketing

First, where are you with your business’ content marketing efforts? If you don’t even have a company blog, that’s where you’ll start. If you’ve been sporadically producing blog content, use January to really get consistent in publishing useful content.

Here are your to-dos this month:

  • Look at your competitors’ blogs to see the kinds of content you should write

  • Aim for no less than one blog post a week

  • Diversify the types of posts you write: how to, product demonstrations, industry news

February: Straighten Up Your Social Media

Social media is such a fantastic place to attract potential customers and establish yourself as an industry leader, so let’s maximize your efforts this month:

  • Zero in on 2-4 social networks where your audience spends time

  • Get a schedule of updating your profiles several times a week (daily is better)

  • Use tools to automate your work

March: Polish Your Promotions

Promotions are especially essential if you run a retail or food franchise. You need a steady stream of promotions to drive traffic to your store, so use this month to map out the rest of the year.

  • Build a promotions calendar around holidays and key events

  • Decide where you will share your promotions: email? social media? ads? all?

  • Set up tools to measure results, such as Google Analytics

April: Evaluate Your Email Marketing

Email marketing has an extremely high ROI compared to other tools, so let’s take advantage of that fact in April! If you’re not fully leveraging it as a tool, now’s the time.

  • Find a free or affordable email marketing platform like MailChimp

  • Offer something valuable to get email signups (coupon, free ebook)

  • Send a monthly newsletter and monthly promotion

May: Manage Your Marketing Message

A lot of times, business owners spend more time actually doing (publishing social media updates and blogs, sending emails) and not enough time crafting their message. Consider what the message you want to relate is, and make sure it’s in everything you do marketing-wise.

  • Maintain consistent tone across all channels (social media, blog, email, etc.)

  • Before publishing, ask yourself does this emit the message I want?

  • Track response. How do people respond to your message?

June: Amp Up Analytics

The amazing thing about digital marketing is how you can easily measure results. Whether that’s how many people opened an email and clicked a link to your site, how many people shared an article, or how many coupon redemptions a given campaign received, the data is all there.

  • Familiarize yourself with Google Analytics and start tracking website visits

  • Look at your email data: how many people open each email? click links?

  • Use this information moving forward. Tweak one thing at a time to aim for better results.

July: Plan for Christmas in July

It’s not too early to plan your marketing attack for the fourth quarter, since it likely is your busiest. Starting early keeps you from stressing at year’s end.

  • Decide what promotions you will offer

  • Create product bundles: buy one get one, free gift with purchase, etc.

  • Hire extra marketing help if you can’t do it all during the holidays

August: Automate More of Your Efforts

There are tons of tools out there that help you spend less time on marketing your business, so this month, research them and implement the ones that resonate:

  • Hootsuite lets you schedule social media updates in advance

  • Wordpress allows you to schedule blog posts ahead of time

  • Zapier connects functions, like adding a new customer to your CRM system

September: Leverage Learning

You don’t know all there is to know about marketing, so spend September getting smart. Invest time and money in the right places, and you’ll take your marketing to new heights!

  • Subscribe to marketing blogs like Duct Tape Marketing

  • Visit your local SCORE center for free and affordable marketing workshops

  • Buy books on specific areas of marketing you want to improve upon

October: Branch Out with Your Marketing

By now, you’re probably fairly confident in what you’re doing, so it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. Try one of these tactics and see what your audience responds to:

  • Create your own podcast (or be a guest on someone else’s)

  • Add infographics to breathe life into your blog

  • Try out other content marketing tools like ebooks, videos, or whitepapers

November: Assess Results

Take some time to look back on everything you’ve done this year. What got best results? What failed? This can help you strategize for the coming year.

  • Look at those analytics to see how each marketing channel did in branding your business

  • Acknowledge mistakes and learn from them

  • Determine how you’ll do things differently next year

December: Set Goals and Budget for Next Year

With the information you gleaned last month, set goals for what you want to achieve in 2017. The more specific the goals are, the better. So rather than saying you want to increase sales, say you want to increase them by 30%. That way, you can easily measure results next year.

  • Create action steps for each goal you establish

  • Build a budget: how much will you spend on each marketing channel?

  • Assign tasks so that they actually get done in the new year

With this marketing calendar, you’re set up for 2016 being an amazing year for your franchise or small business!

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a marketing firm specializing in content writing and social media management. She’s written three business books, including How to Get More Customers With Press Releases, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, and Tweak Your Biz. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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