Imagine walking into work Monday and not having a clue what to do, when to do it, or why it should be done. It might sound crazy, but a lot of companies I have spoken with recently come across as though this is their approach to marketing preparations for the 4th quarter. This is not to say these are bad companies. In fact, many of them are multi-million dollar businesses with employees or even other agencies on the payroll who are dedicated to marketing, advertising, and communication programs. But over the last 10 years, I’ve noticed a frightening increasing trend around the 4th quarter that occurs when I ask business leaders of large or small organizations to show me their marketing plan to achieve their goals at the end of the year. In short, they don’t have one.
Most businesses can show some type of marketing-related document they use to guide their sales, branding, advertising, or even just general communication efforts. They had a plan on paper, or at least in mind at some point. Good businesses update this each year. Great businesses have multi-year plans that they live by every day. But very few break it down into a document that breathes in deeply at the start of each quarter to reflect on adaptations that can affect change.
If you don’t have a solid marketing plan for the 4th quarter yet, reading this is going to save you massive amounts of time, stress, and money. It might even help you regain all three! The 4th quarter is the most important time of year for businesses as they approach the peak holiday shopping season and simultaneously prepare for the new year — errr — new decade ahead! Yes, that’s correct. You don’t want to start 2020 without a plan, and the 4th quarter of 2019 is your LAST chance to practice creating a plan and sticking to it before entering a new era of success! Or at least that’s the goal, right?
You do have goals, duh, of course? For yourself and your business, right? And they’re written down, obviously? And looked back at constantly? If not, that’s exactly where you are going to start.
Create your 2020 marketing theme.
Take notice of the fact that your 4th quarter marketing plan should start by carefully considering where you want to be positioned at the start of the new decade ahead. This critical mental shift provides a completely different context for my clients during the next 3 months. When I bring this up in meetings, I literally see a lightbulb go off in the eyes of my clients as they suddenly brighten up and come to life after dully considering their lack of preparation for anything inspiring during Q4.
In the simplest terms possible, write down one sentence that expresses what you want your customers to think about when they buy from you during the next decade. Ready go…
(Insert your 2020-2029 marketing theme above.)
That was easy, right? Of course not! If you’re like me you probably spent the last 2 years banging your head against a wall trying to come up with the perfect statement, only to second guess yourself a thousand times while crying over your coffee. But that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. All you need to do is set a goal and then strive for it. We can change this later.
Here’s my example:
Shark Jockey Digital helps businesses navigate oceans of marketing questions to win the race toward their goals.
That’s it. That sentence encompasses everything I’m going to accomplish during the next decade while en route to helping my clients earn millions of dollars. But next is the hard part.
Modify your positioning statement for the year ahead.
“Wait, I thought we just did this?” Not exactly. This statement should be aimed at what you are going to say to get customers excited about some specific aspect of your products or services during the year ahead. Think of your favorite drink company. Could be related to beer, wine, bourbon, soda pop, or active energy drink. They have a motto, but they always seem to come out with a new thing to grab your attention. What’s your new thing for next year?
Don’t have a new thing? That’s ok! Take note, your new thing doesn’t have to be different from your old thing. You just need to say it in a new way. Pepsi and Coca Cola had the same general formula for decades. Budweiser and Coors Lite are similar. And every athlete knows Gatorade’s story from over half a century ago in Florida.
(Insert your 2020 marketing theme above.)
Here’s my example:
In 2020, Shark Jockey is guiding the exceptionally fast development of websites, creative design, social media, and digital advertising services for modern businesses.
Two things. First, this is what I’ve always done, but now I’m saying it more clearly and concisely than ever. Second, a lot of companies offer similar services. Everyone claims to offer a better mousetrap. My differentiator in 2020 is that I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing proprietary processes and software that help businesses achieve marketing goals faster and in a more streamlined manner (i.e., less expensively) than competing agencies.
While serving as a Chief Marketing Officer for a multi-million dollar agency I told people “We’ll create an amazing website and marketing plan for you but it will cost $50k – 250k and take 3-12 months to complete.” I am extremely thankful for that experience and the people who helped me learn a lot the hard way. But now as the owner of Shark Jockey Digital I am fortunately able to say “I’ll create an amazing website and marketing plan for you but it will cost $1k – 25k and take 1-3 months to complete.”
In other words, Shark Jockey is at its best serving businesses that think of themselves as the mako shark (the fastest shark in the ocean), not the great white (yet). I can certainly help great whites, but these services require use of the teams I work with and more carefully planned terms.
Breakdown your theme into bite-sized lessons
Purpose for the Quarter: Selling websites
Overarching Theme: Your business will sink until your website can swim
Jan: Why is Speed important?
Feb: What Necessities should your site have?
Mar: How do you produce consistent Content?
Purpose for the Quarter: Selling digital platform management
Overarching Theme: Every Jockey requires equipment
Apr: What Platforms do you need?
May: Why is Digital Plumbing crucial?
Jun: How does social content power your business
Purpose for the Quarter: Selling SEO and influencer marketing
Overarching Theme: Winners get the crowd to cheer
Jul: How do you gain more reviews?
Aug: When do you build ambassadors and influencers?
Sep: Why should you ask for referrals?
Purpose for the Quarter: Selling advertising services
Overarching Theme: The biggest shark in the ocean
Oct: How do you create a sales funnel?
Nov: Which advertising techniques are important?
Dec: What retargeting tools do you need?
Build messaging that compliments next year’s plan.
You might be wondering why up until this point, I discuss putting a lot of work into planning for next year. This is so that you are better prepared for Q4. Imagine starting a race without knowing where you intend to finish. Every week I talk to entrepreneurs and marketing leaders who claim they know their goals but fail to do 2 things. First, they typically do not break down their goals into KPIs. I’ll talk more about this term in a later blog. Second, they fail to create a series of smaller goals to help them win the big race.
If your 4th quarter plan starts with creating a pumpkin-inspired ‘something’ and ends with a Merry Christmas and buy from us in the year ‘something else,’ your strategy has sent your business racing in the wrong direction. Keep in mind, a lot of my conversations and plans with clients start by talking about developing these type of promotions because they are small steps in the right direction. Everyone I’ve ever worked with gets excited when I talk about creating content around holiday themes. Even if they do not view the holidays as an important sales period, they still want their company to express happiness and joy to customers during this time of the year. So we start here and then use the processes developed to launch into more robust planning like that which is described through this blog.
Now that you can see the finish line is set at improving your bottom line by 2029, and not just at Happy Holidays, it is time to complete the exercise related to the 4th quarter. How are you going to win this race?
(Insert your Q4 2019 marketing theme above.)
The examples I’m sharing in this blog provide a great outline for each of the next 15 months and beyond. Notice, my themes don’t have anything to do with specific holidays or events, but I certainly plan to weave those into the daily content calendar as I build pictures, videos, and blogs into the schedule. This might seem like a lot to produce, but the basic plan itself took only an hour of time. And now, I am much more confident in the direction I need to head for everything related to marketing my business during the 4th quarter of 2019. Here is my last example.
Q4 2019 Example
Purpose for the Quarter: Selling marketing strategy
Overarching Theme: What kind of shark describes you and your business?
Oct: How do you create your Plan?
Nov: Which Marketing Tools do you need to learn about?
Dec: Why is your business going to win in 2020?
Insert your big events, promotions, sales, and holidays
This last part can be easily simplified to say ‘Insert your content.’ But the headline above more accurately shows the kind of things you need to think about when completing a content calendar that supports your 4th quarter marketing plan. At this point, you should have a much more clear idea of the direction your marketing will head in during the future. So now instead of just posting a Happy Halloween picture, you should be thinking about how the entire month of October could revolve around creating a promotion that gets attention for your product in a way that relates to the upcoming holiday.
Creating great content is not easy. But this is why Shark Jockey tries to provide a lot of great tools to clients to help with this process. I have an easy solution and amazing software that can help anyone (no matter your experience level or lack thereof) with video and photo design, graphic animation, social media scheduling, review generation, SEO, and the creation of a monthly content calendar. If you do not yet have access to these tools, please click here to schedule a time where we can talk about adding this to your monthly plan.
I am also offering this content calendar tool that I highly recommend you download and start using on a regular basis. It will be updated monthly moving forward but you can also download the template and update it on your own to move forward more quickly. Once you create your 4th quarter plan and use the tool to help you begin the day to day content, you’ll have a great start on the items you or I will need to market your business more effectively. The next step will be to create and optimize that content. Make sure to leave a comment below or contact me directly if you have other suggestions or need additional help.
Get started on your marketing plan today.
Regardless of whether you are a current client, someone considering asking for help, or a do-it-yourself all-star, this article provides a quick way to start on your next marketing plan. This blog is now required reading for my clients and the outline is fast becoming the foundation of every meeting I attend. These tips might appear to be basic steps, but the difference between a professional and a novice athlete is that the former has such a command over basic skills that he or she can accomplish them with ease while focusing on and simultaneously achieving more complex objectives.
If you have completed a plan like this or something similar, please share your approach in the comments below. Or, I encourage you to message me on social media or email to compare strategies. The 4th quarter will fly by before you know it but there is still time to develop a plan capable of impacting your revenue. Reach out today to talk about your plan and how I can help deliver the components necessary to accomplish it this month.
Nick is the owner of Shark Jockey Digital and 20 year veteran in the marketing industry. He currently helps clients with development projects, lead generation, website creation, SEO, SEM, PPC, social media marketing, Google reviews, online listing, and campaign management.