Here at Focal Point, we frequently talk to business owners and managers tasked with using social media as a part of their overall marketing plan. Often these folks can pull up their latest Twitter feed, link to YouTube, post on their Facebook page, and download their LinkedIN updates, but just aren’t very sure what to say when it comes to business use.
Well, October is here and Fall is officially upon us. You know what this means – the holidays are quickly approaching as is the end of the year. Yep, I said it; 2014 is coming to a close and 2015 will be here before we know it. It seems like October is that magical month when businesses take a long hard look at what they’ve accomplished throughout the year, what they can wrap up in the last few months and begin planning for the new year. I recently wrote a post about the 2 Must-Haves for Every Online Marketing Plan in 2015 and I’ve received quite a bit of feedback on that post. So today I wanted to follow that up by sharing with you some of the questions that every business should be considering this year as it relates to a marketing strategy.
What Are Our Big Wins So Far This Year?
Think about the first 9 months. What are the 3-4 big wins that stand out to you? Maybe it’s a big deal that you closed or a social media marketing campaign that was very well received. What did you accomplish that helped you or your business move closer to where you want to be? Whatever it was, take a moment to think about why it was successful. All too often, we get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and forget to take a step back to evaluate things. And I’ve got news for you, if you don’t get this done in October there’s no way it’s happening in November or December. We all know how crazy that time of the year can get, so take the time to search for those golden nuggets NOW and learn from them.
Where Did We Come Up Short?
No doubt, there will be some areas over your overall marketing plan or business strategy where you’ve fallen a bit short. It’s much easier and more beneficial to identify those things now rather than at the end of the year. Let me cover that again, think about and begin dealing with your shortcomings NOW rather than at the end of the year. Sometimes we get too caught up in moving forward forward forward, that we forget to look back at things we might be able to easily fix now. Maybe earlier in the year you were working on a website redesign and rushed things a bit when it came to the content development convincing yourself you’d come back to it later in the year. Well, now’s that time. Or perhaps you were thinking about getting some commercial photography work done for your new product line to update your online catalog, but just didn’t get around to it. It’s important to identify these things now, and I will tell you why on my next point.
How Will You Make the Most of the Next 3 Months?
After taking a step back to look at your big wins and places where you fell short, think about how these things fit in with what’s left of your 2014 marketing plan. What can you learn from these successes and setbacks so far to make the most of where you’re going next? Your answers to these questions my change the plan moving forward. Perhaps your original marketing budget didn’t have enough built in for social media marketing or hadn’t taken into consideration the benefits you might get from producing an online video to follow up with the one you rolled out in quarter 2 that was so successful. While it’s always important to stay on budget, where you allocate that budget needs to always be open for review and discussion especially this late into the year. And I’ll tell you one thing – doing things the same way you have always done them in the past is a recipe for getting left in the dust of your competition. In other words, just because you spent X on a TV commercial or radio ad last year around the holidays and included that same budget this year doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest.
What’s The Plan for 2015?
Now that you’ve taken some time to look at the first 3/4 of the year and make sure you’re on the right track for the last quarter, it’s time to turn your attention to next year. The good news is that by answering the first 3 questions, it will make building out your 2015 marketing strategy much easier. Start by visualizing where you want your business to be at the beginning of the new year. Let’s say the New Year starts off with a bang and everything is going great – what does that picture look like for your company? Now, ask yourself that same thing about the end of the year next year. Next it’s time to work backwards – what do you need to do to connect the dots from the most successful year beginning to the most successful year end? Identify the mini-goals that need to be achieved along the way so you have nice, bite-sized chunks to tackle one at a time. If you’re in the right business, answering these questions is sure to get you excited for new year. After all, there’s no reason why it can’t be your best yet.
Answer These Questions NOW
I am going to wrap things up by echoing what I said earlier. NOW is the time to answer these questions. I say this for 3 simple reasons:
1. It’s not too late to get back on track even if 2014 isn’t finishing the way you had hoped.
2. It’s never too early to start planning for the new year.
After the recent iPhone 6 launch event, I can’t help but pause to take note of everything Apple does right. I know it gets said a lot, but they truly are an amazing company with the ultimate brand and marketing strategy. They just “get it” when so many other companies don’t and come up big where others fall short.
Following the event, I came across this article that pointed out three things that makes Apple stand out – trust, taste and utility. In the article, Steve Lohr is mainly talking about the Apple watch, but I wanted to offer my take on these three values and cover an additional point that makes Apple stand out to me
People Trust Apple
Apple has created a brand that people trust. For the most part, when someone buys an Apple phone like the iPhone 6, they know that it’s going to work correctly and be easy to use. They trust that Apple took their time to do the research needed to put out the best phone on the market. Apple has created a brand that is simple, sleek and delivers products that are sexy. And if there are any issues, Apple always seems to do whatever it takes to get it right. As the article I referenced above mentions, it’s not uncommon for loyal Apple customers to even go out of the way to defend the brand and its products when they do make mistakes. One thing is for sure, when it comes to technology, this company has earned the ultimate level of trust.
When it comes to design, it just doesn’t get any better than the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and the Apple Watch. This new lineup of products nails the design element again – all the way across the board. I really questioned some of the wearables that I’ve seen from other companies such as Samsung, but as soon as I saw the Apple watch I knew things would be different. I immediately thought, “now there’s a techy watch that I’d actually wear.” With all of the different bands and styles – the Apple Watch looks to be elegant but highly functional. With it’s release date being early 2015, there are still some questions to be answered, though I have a feeling Apple is going to come in and set the new bar when it comes to expectations from wearable technology.
Apple Products Work
Apple products “just work.” This has been said time and time again. Apple has a reputation for delivering products that function exactly as they should right out of the box with a very minimal learning curve and quick setup times. The iPad is a perfect example of an Apple product that has been proven to be incredibly easy to use for kids just over 1 year old all the way to the elderly. The best word to describe the usability factor would be “intuitive.” What I mean by that is that things work just the way you’d expect them to.
It’s Not Always About Being First. It’s Always About Being Best.
When it comes to marketing strategy and execution, Apple gets it’s not about being the first, it’s about being the best. Many other phones have come to market with larger screens over the past couple years and wearables like the Apple Watch are no longer something new. Apple could have rushed to market with these devices I’m sure, but they take the time to do it right. They understand that it’s not about having good design; it’s about having great design. Apple understands that when it comes to marketing, having a well thought out strategy makes all the difference in the world. There’s a reason the Apple events like the iPhone 6 launch get the exposure they do. It’s because Apple won’t settle for anything but the best.
Wrapping It All Up
Over the next few weeks, there will no doubt be a lot of buzz as the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices ship and consumers get their hands on them for the first time. Sales numbers will be astronomical as they always are leading right into this holiday season. And while it may seem like Apple is this gigantic company (which they are) I can’t help but think about how any business couldn’t help but see success by focusing tirelessly on all of these things. All the way from Apple’s brand identity to its marketing strategy they work and work until it’s right.
While a large part of these Apple events is all about launching new products and driving sales, when you pay attention to everything that goes into it there are so many learning opportunities. I challenge you to think about how you might be able to apply some of these values to your business. I know I certainly have and will continue to do so.