This article is the second in a three-part series on annual business planning. The first part discussing the financials and numbers can be found here. The second part to my annual business plan is my marketing plan.

Too many of us just do marketing in a halfhearted way. I feel it is important to go into the year with a calendar of what marketing activities we are going to accomplish each month. As we get into the year and the day to day begins it can often be hard to find time to think and to add new things. Going into to the year with a calendar allows us to put the marketing on autopilot. We have a version of the marketing calendar we use for our own business and the consulting we do for other cleaning business owners. Down the left column we have all of the activities we want to work on for marketing then across the top we have the months of the year. Then where the two meet you can write in what you will be doing as an activity that month. You can download a template of our marketing spreadsheet here.

It is very important to understand you do not have to fill in every square, nor should you. While it makes sense to have a gift card campaign set up for Christmas and Mother’s Day, trying to come up with a Fourth of July gift card program is not a good use of your time. It is also important to be realistic in what you can do. I normally recommend that you only add one new element per month to your marketing plan. If your only marketing is Home Advisor, that is fine. In January, start out with bound email programs. Then in February begin blogging, and so on. The goal is to add a new activity each month and by the end of the year you will be amazed by how much marketing you are doing. Learning new software and skills like copy writing is going to take some time, so do not set yourself up for failure by making a calendar and scheduling everything at once. There are some exceptions. I know people who rent a hotel room to get away from their business and their family for two or three days and they schedule their marketing for the entire year during this mini retreat. If you are going to program a year’s worth of marketing activity all at once you need to really have that focused time. It cannot be accomplished during regular day-to-day business.

I also recommend doing a full year of activities at a time. It is a lot easier to find two hours to write 12 monthly newsletters which you then schedule to go out for the next 12 months than it is to find 30 minutes when you remember it each month. I find certain activities require focus and specific parts of your brain to be turned on. It is a lot easier to write 12 articles in a row and create 10 Facebook graphics than it is to produce one each month. Remember, the goal here is to automate your marketing plan and put it on autopilot as much as possible. Some things like in-person networking cannot be done ahead of time, but you can set up your schedule for the full year to make sure you have the time open. Finally, once you learn how to use a platform, enlist others to help you to keep it going. You can train your office staff to take over blogging and posting activities or you can hire a virtual assistant to help with these activities. There is not a lot of magic to marketing. It is all about regular activity and making sure you keep delivering a consistent message over and over again.