5 Expert-Approved Reasons You Need a Long-Term Marketing Plan

Grace

You wouldn’t pack up your family and drive someplace you’ve never been before without a GPS. Starting off without a plan makes no sense, right? So why wouldn’t you use that same logic when considering your business’s marketing strategy?

Marketo, a digital marketing software company, found that over 77 percent of marketers who were extremely satisfied with their marketing teams had documented marketing plans. This makes sense —  a thorough, well-researched plans gets everyone on the same page, making the map to success much easier.

No matter your company’s size, you’re going to need to create, at minimum, an annual marketing plan. Whether you’re a small, medium or large business, you’re going to have the same goals: to promote and sell your product or service, and to do so as efficiently as possible.

Still a little unsure why you should commit to a long-term marketing plan? Don’t worry, your favorite Buffalo marketing agency will walk you through it.

Short-term marketing uses flashy advertising techniques and a ton of hype to communicate a variety of different messages, each for a short amount of time. Think those stores that have “One time only: Biggest sale of the year!” promotions every other week.

Does it work? Sure, it can get your information out there. But the problem with this type of marketing is that it goes from zero to 60 every time, meaning you always have to start from scratch. It’s also purely transactional. Your product or service is based solely on sales, giving it the reputation of only having value when it’s discounted. A long-term plan, on the other hand, is all about big-picture thinking.

“A long-term marketing plan should be at least a one year, but ideally a three- to five-year vision for your business,” Quinlan’s Account Director Jessica Chapman says. “It should include the company’s objective, marketing objective, strategy based on your goals and your audiences and an even further burst into specific tactics and your execution approach.”

Don’t get us wrong here, short-term marketing isn’t bad. It’s actually a great way to create a more accurate, detailed plan of action, since you’re planning for the near future. While the two strategies may be different, they don’t have to compete with each other. In fact, an experienced marketer will expect to deal with both in order to be proactive and reactive.

If long-term marketing plans are so important, why doesn’t everyone have one?

We’re glad you asked. Jumping into the unknown can be scary, especially when you may not always be rewarded for thinking differently. To get everything right out on the table, we’ve identified four key questions keeping decision makers from developing long-term marketing plans:

  • But don’t we already have one? A long-term plan is more than just a list of tactics or a media plan. It’s also not enough to have a business plan, but keep it from your marketing team.

 

  • What if we fail? Many business owners are afraid to define hard, measurable goals because they are afraid they won’t hit them. They also may fear they’ll waste money.

 

  • If it’s not broke, why fix it? Yes, maybe your short-term strategies are bringing in transactions, but how will you ever know your company’s full potential if you don’t step back and re-evaluate?

 

  • What if short-term is all we know? Pure habit can be all that’s holding some leaders back, since many just do what they’ve always done. They also probably lack the confidence they need to take a leap of faith and commit to change.

Sound familiar? Whether you’re the key decision maker in your company and or you’re having trouble influencing your boss to mix things up, we’re pretty confident we’ll open your eyes with these five insanely-important reasons you should create a long-term marketing plan.

5 reasons your business needs a long-term marketing plan

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1. Your business won’t survive without one.

There’s no point in beating around the bush, so we’re just going to tell it to you straight: your business isn’t going to be sustainable in the long-run if you don’t adapt a long-term planning model. Why? Because short-term marketing alone doesn’t work as well as it used to. Consumers are more educated now than ever, since they’re bombarded with massive amounts of information everywhere they go.

“Businesses used to be able to advertise sales claiming they had the best product and the lowest price, and the customer could choose to believe it or not,” Quinlan Executive Vice President Dan Bartlo says. “Now, all they have to do is pull out their phone to see competitors’ options. Long-term planning is marketing’s evolution, and just like evolution wasn’t kind to those who didn’t adapt, the only brands that will do well are the ones that evolve.”

In order to stand out, companies are now realizing they have to think big picture — and that starts with creating an authentic, well-researched, long-term vision.

 

2. You’ll get everyone on the same page.

What’s the purpose of your business? Why do you exist? If you can’t explain your company’s unique advantage to consumers, then it’s time to re-evaluate its purpose. Simon Sinek broke it down into one simple concept: people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

When you take the time to create a long-term marketing plan, you’ll have the opportunity to take a look at your industry as a whole, your competitors, your audience and even your own employees to really understand where you fit in. From there, you’ll be able to create your goals. 

“A long-term business plan is crucial to keeping everyone on the same page,” Quinlan Account Manager Katie Mohr says. “You need to include as many people as possible right upfront, so you can incorporate all key stakeholders’ point of views. This way, your plan can be used as a tool to redirect people if they stray away from the agreed upon messages.”

Your goals will vary depending on your industry, but regardless of your business, it’s always better to overshare information than to under share.

“Your goals should include clear definition of your business and marketing objectives,” Chapman adds. “Not only do they need to be measurable, but everyone must understand how they are measured and have the resources, tools and information available to them to appropriately measure them. You’ll only be able to do this if you collaborate and share info with everyone involved, otherwise you won’t be able to analyze growth and track results.”

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3. You’ll have a deeper connection with your audience.

What do you base your business decisions on: your business’s needs or your customers’ needs? On first thought, you’ll probably say you make every decision with your customer in mind. Customer is king, right?

Now take a minute to really think about your planning process. Not that we’re pointing any fingers, but chances are you may make a few (or most) of your decisions without actually taking the time to thoroughly do your research.

Before creating a long-term vision, you’ll have to take the time to identify your audience’s wants and needs.  A long-term marketing plan will allow you to examine your target audience, establishing the most efficient ways to reach them.

One way we help businesses do this is by creating brand personas. With brand personas, you’ll look at your customers as more than just a demographic: identifying information on their personal traits, their lifestyles and what motivates them. From here, you’ll be able to market your product/service in a way that resonates with them.

Thinking of your customers as long-term relationships, and not just short-term sales, will help you realize that they really are the bloodline of your company. This will give you insight on the best ways to reach them, ultimately gaining their trust.

 

4. Your messages will be more strategic.

How do you want people to see your business? Branding is all about telling a consistent story and fueling top-of-mind awareness. While all businesses have some sort of brand, few take the time to make sure it’s accurately represented through its marketing and advertising.

Part of creating a long-term marketing plan will be developing a strategic, long-term content strategy. By laying it out ahead of time, you’ll be able to spend more time developing consistent key messages that align with your brand. These messages will shine through all of your marketing materials, campaigns, communications and tactics.

“Believe in your company,” Bartlo says. “If you have a great product and work with wonderful people, you’ll be enabled to finally let your true vision shine though. It can be very freeing to speak from the heart.”

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5. Your business will be efficient.
This one may be obvious, but it needs to be said: creating a long-term strategy allows you to plan ahead. Planning ahead isn’t just for control freaks. It lets you budget your money, resources and time efficiently to achieve your goals, minimizing unnecessary waste.

“As part of your marketing plan, you’ll be able to create an execution calendar for the year,” Chapman says. “You’ll be able to plot your tactics, distribute your resources and even out your creative time. It allows all teams to be on the same page and stay focused.”

By taking this kind of proactive approach, you’ll prevent panic decisions, have less surprises (which means less stress!) and be all-around more effective at problem solving.

“If you only rely on short-term marketing plans, you can run into missed opportunities,” Mohr says. “For one, if you blow through your budget in the first three quarters, you’re stuck with nothing for your fourth quarter. You’ll also waste money concepting ideas and negotiating rates if you aren’t sure exactly what you want from the start.”

The key to creating any successful marketing plan is to be flexible. No matter how far in advance you begin your planning, things may come up short term, and you’ll have to adapt. Chapman recommends setting aside 5 to 10 percent of your budget for fun, unexpected ideas, so you aren’t discouraged to take creative chances here and there.

“The key to succeeding in your long-term planning is to be patient,” Bartlo says, “and not to be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.”

 

Want to learn more? This Buffalo marketing agency is here to help.

Long-term marketing plans are important. We get that. Our team of account service and creative experts can help you define your business’s goals and create a strong plan that works towards achieving each one.
Are you finally ready to secure your brand’s future with a long-term marketing plan? Let’s chat. Contact us and our experts will be sure to get back to you, or you can also tweet us @QuinlanCompany.

PR’s Unjust Wage Gap: Powerful Advice From 4 Fearless Women

Grace

Women account for nearly 85 percent of the public relations workforce, yet 80 percent of top management positions are held by men. That’s kind of mind-blowing, right?

For public relations workers with under five years of experience, men take home $5,500 more annually, and the gap increases to $42,000 per year for people with over five years of experience in the field.

The Public Relations Society of America recognizes the imbalance, which is why the Buffalo/Niagara chapter held a panel on Nov. 4, 2015, at 8 a.m. at the Every Person Influences Children center in Buffalo to address these issues head on. The panel, “Gender and the Glass Ceiling: Attaining a Better Salary, Job and Career,” addressed methods of negotiating a higher salary, securing a promotion, navigating gender-biased office politics and more.

The panel, which was moderated by Therese Hickok Fuerst, vice president of Pantano & Associates, included:

  • Victoria Hong, director of corporate communication for Delaware North
  • Katie Krawczyk, president and communications and marketing director of 19 IDEAS and director of communications for You and Who
  • Andrea Todaro, president of Innovative Placements

 

As young women new to the workforce, my colleague Sarah Miller and I were able to learn a lot from these four fearless Buffalo professionals.

Our four takeaways:

1. If you’re going to ask for a raise, know your value.
andrea todaroIf you found out your male counterpart is making more money than you are, it can be tempting to stomp into your boss’s office demanding an explanation. But that’s not enough — in fact, if you approach anyone asking for a raise this way, you’ll just look like a complainer.

“Know the worth of your job and the value you lend to the company,” Todaro says. “Just as every product has a price, every job has a market value. Also, while the performance review might seem like a logical time to ask for a raise, that’s not always the case.  Don’t wait until the time of your review to discuss how you’ve helped your company achieve its goals and objectives. In many companies, salary decisions are made before appraisals are discussed with employees, so get your request in early. Document your accomplishments in advance and come in well-prepared and rehearsed with both quantitative and qualitative results.”

It’s also a good idea to check in with websites like Glassdoor and PayScale to see what other professionals in your industry are making, and explain why you should be compensated similarly. Most importantly, it’s crucial that you approach the situation with confidence and professionalism. Even the most thought-out proposal will turn south if you come off as arrogant or unappreciative.

2. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion (but don’t BS it.)
thereseIt’s natural to want to get noticed in your workplace, but that doesn’t mean you should just head into work one day with a plan to stand out.

A great way to make a good impression organically is by voicing your opinion in meetings and discussions. A well-developed idea with valid reasons to back it up will gain respect from your colleagues and superiors, without seeming like you are trying too hard.

Hickok Fuerst warned not to try and fake it. If you don’t know about a topic, don’t pretend like you do. Your boss will see through the B.S., and you’ll lose any credibility you’ve worked hard to gain. Instead, be honest and admit that you don’t know enough about the situation to take an educated stance.

3. The change won’t happen overnight.
victoria hongWe’ve all heard the cliche saying: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. While you may have just rolled your eyes at me, there is a lot of truth to this belief. You have every right to want to be paid fairly for the work that you do, but if your only inspiration is salary, your career will only ever be “work.”

“My mother always told me to ‘Never chase the money, if you love what you do, the money will come,’” Hong says. “It was the most valuable piece of advice she’s given me.”

If you enjoy what you do, keep doing it, and work to be the best. Of course the money is important, but giving everything up right away won’t do you any good. Sometimes you need to be a little creative to get by (ex. ask mom and dad to borrow money to purchase some business outfit staples, get a roommate, cut unnecessary costs), but if you love your work and fight for your value, it’ll be worth it in the end.

4. Always communicate with your manager.
Katie KrawczykIf you feel like you’ve been discriminated against for a position you were qualified for, your first step should be a meeting with your direct manager. This will allow you to see whether you genuinely were not the best fit for the position, or if you were treated unfairly.

“You should be working with your manager regularly not just for your career goals,” Krawczyk says, “but also for personal growth and development and any conflicts that might arise in the office. While your colleagues can offer a sense of camaraderie and fellowship, your manager is the one who can help you achieve the goals you set for yourself and for your career.”

It’s also safe to stay away from discussing your hurt feelings with your coworkers, since things can easily be twisted and get back to your boss. Your manager won’t appreciate it, and in a city as small as Buffalo, you don’t want to burn any bridges.

In the case that you were discriminated against, though, you have every right to consult legal help.

Do you have any advice to help women succeed in the public relations field? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Tweet us at @QuinlanCompany!

Social Media & Election Day 2015: Politicians Gone Digital!

Sarah

Politicians are utilizing social media in just about every for: pushing campaigns on Facebook, connecting and communicating with citizens on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and more. In order to control their own messaging, take advantage of the low cost of entry and speak to voter demos who sometimes need a nudge to get to the polls (looking at you, millennials), social media usage among politicians has become as American as apple pie.

Over the past week, I spoke to and emailed with Buffalo-based political operative, writer and media relations professional Michael Caputo on his thoughts about social networking in the political world. Mr. Caputo has worked on political campaigns across the globe and can be heard sharing political commentary on WBEN 930-AM and the Daily Public podcast on TrendingBuffalo.com.

“Today, a winning campaign must have an adept social media team operating full-bore on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube,” Mr. Caputo told me. “You can’t be competitive on a statewide or national campaign without well-crafted video, audio and photoshop content. Smart campaigns are leveraging Medium and Buzzfeed and other popular content platforms. The best are finding niche audiences with Scribd and Soundcloud, too. Crunching all the resulting data to discover and define your target audience is the secret sauce.”

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Let’s take a quick look at the Erie County Executive race, where New York State Assemblyman and Republican candidate Ray Walter took to Twitter and Facebook to reach his audience. Walter — who is facing a tough incumbent, Democrat Mark Poloncarz — needed to use social media to bridge the storytelling gap between his campaign and that of his well-known, well-funded opponent.

Walter’s tactics include opinionated tweets on debates, local and national political notes and a solid share of “Buffalove” by highlighting his visits to and support of local businesses.

“Today, Walter is running at the same pace as Poloncarz and has put out far more creative social media content,” Caputo claimed. “They’ve done things I didn’t know could be done. As a practitioner, I like watching an operation that teaches me.”

Poloncarz has been active on social, too.

“Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is pretty effective on social media. He always has been,” Mr. Caputo said. “I think he often does it himself; it looks like he enjoys it.”

Poloncarz has over 9,000 followers on Twitter and is constantly pushing content — he’s recorded over 17,000 tweets.

politic

Poloncarz may have learned from the best: the man in the White House. Well, his campaign team, anyway.

“On the national level, nobody compares to the campaigns of President Barack Obama,” Mr. Caputo explained. “His data-mining operation set a global standard. Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 operation collapsed on Election Day, contributing significantly to his loss. Today, all that 2012 winning and losing tech and all those winning and losing consultants are employed at presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle.”

So-how do political figures find success with social media campaigns? The same way they’ve found success since the earliest days of the United States: authenticity.

“To break through the noise and make an impact on voters, campaigns need to be original and authentic,” Zach Peterson, Chief Editor of Socialbakers, wrote. “Nobody is marketed to like millennials are, and they know when they’re being marketed to.”

Authenticity is the key for social media and the buzzword for content marketing. It is the most personable and direct form of communication between politicians and the outside world, which can prove to have a great impact on results if used properly.

Still unsure? Watch this debate “Is Social Media Ruining Politics” from Boston’s HUBWeek Event at the Harvard Institute of Politics from October 9th, 2015.

Social media usage by politicians will only continue to grow. We are excited to see what’s coming next.

What are your thoughts on social media in the election? Let us know and tweet us @QuinlanCompany.