When it comes to marketing your business, spur-of-the-moment decisions should be a rarity. Planning ahead saves time, money, headaches and lost opportunities. Planning ahead also provides you with more choices and gives you far better bargaining power when buying ad space.
In marketing, on-the-fly decision making is the equivalent of playing defense—necessary at times, but what we really want to be doing is playing offense. Planning helps to overcome the human tendency to overemphasize the importance of what’s happening right now and allows us to focus on making decisions that can have the best possible effect on your bottom line.
So, how far ahead should you plan? In terms of your overall marketing strategy, every business, large or small, should also have a year-long marketing strategy. And in terms of ad placement, you should have your advertising schedule set up at least one season ahead.
That means as you’re reading this, your fall advertising should have been placed several weeks ago and ready to roll. And right now, you should now be lining up your pre-Christmas marketing schedule.
Many business owners like the freedom of marketing on-the-fly. The problem is that decisions made on-the-fly often diverge from the overall marketing strategy. And last-minute decisions are often not really decisions at all, but reactions. These reactions are greatly influenced by emotions, highly-pressured ad salespeople, last-minute advertising “bargains” and other inducements that don’t necessarily promote rationality.
If you’ve been in business more than a year, you know when your busiest seasons occur and what parts of the year will be slow. For example, for many retail businesses, summer is slow and Christmas is a blur of activity.
It just makes sense for a retailer to take advantage of the slower paces of the summer months to create the best pre-Christmas marketing plan possible. By the same token, a business owner might want to spend the doldrums of late-winter/early-spring designing ways to boost the traditionally slow summer months.
Living for today is a wonderful attitude to have in life. But, in business, proper planning is crucial. Not making your ad buys at least a season ahead is like cramming for a final exam—it rarely works in school and it really doesn’t work in marketing.
Look ahead. Have a strategy. Be proactive. They are simple things, but all involve action. And that’s the bottom line—take more action and spend less time reacting. Christmas is coming—don’t let it surprise you.