When to Review Your Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan is just that: a plan. It’s fluid. It’s flexible. It’s a living and breathing document. At least, it should be.

So how often should you review it? Ideally, every month. But I’m a realist and know many business owners can’t make that commitment. So aim for every quarter.

1. Review all activities from the last quarter. Think online, offline, print, newsletters, advertising. You get the idea. If you have a formal, written plan, simply refer to it and go through each item. If you don’t have a formal plan, don’t panic. Call up a Word doc and create a month-by-month list. Refer to your calendar and business credit card/checking statements to help jog your memory as to what you spent your marketing dollars on. As you review each marketing activity, indicate the results. The more specific and scientific, the better. For example, if you did a direct mail campaign to 1000 people and got 20 sales, you know you had a two percent conversion rate. If you don’t have these details, make an educated guess.

2. What are the top business-producing marketing activities? Which marketing activities produced the most leads? Which marketing activities produced the best lead conversions? Are the lists the same, different, or is there overlap? Note: I define leads as anyone who takes action: the person fills out a form, mails in a reply card, calls you about an offer, etc. I define conversions as leads that turn into paying customers.

3. What marketing activities did you and your employees enjoy doing the most? Do any of those activities match the ones on the top marketing activities list? If yes, note those.

4. What marketing activities did you and your employees hate doing? This is not the place to be coy or to think, “Well, we don’t like doing X, but we’ll get better at it.” Be honest. Do any of those activities match those on the top marketing activities list? If yes, make note.

Now, I’m not suggesting you should get rid of all activities you don’t like doing. But let’s say your company has a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You and your employees are active on Facebook and you’re starting to build a community. You also use LinkedIn consistently. But then there’s Twitter. You haven’t tweeted in months. You hardly have any followers. You and your employees don’t particularly like it. I’m a big fan of the “do one thing well” philosophy, and the truth is that adding Twitter to the mix might be overwhelming you and your employees, at least right now. So perhaps it makes sense to refocus the time you had earmarked for Twitter and put it towards Facebook and LinkedIn instead. You can always add in Twitter later, and you should keep it on your marketing radar. But the enthusiasm and effort you and your employees are showing towards Facebook and LinkedIn will make up for the fact you’re not on Twitter (at least in the short term).

Sometimes you’ll be in a situation where you hate a particular activity, but you recognize its value. Should you sacrifice your sanity for leads? No. Instead, this would be the time to outsource. For example, I have a client who has a blog, but she has no time — or interest — in writing posts. At the same time, she knows the blog is a “must-have” from an industry perspective and SEO perspective. So she outsources the activity to me. Every month, she knows I’ll be writing 8 to 10 blog posts. (This would be something you’d note on your marketing plan.)

5. What marketing activities do you wish you did (or did more of)? Make sure you can explain why. It’s perfectly fine to say, “We should be on Twitter” or “We should create a Facebook group,” if you have good reasons behind your proclamations.

6. Now look at the next four months. Take a hard look. What you want to do is make adjustments based on what you noted above. You want to weed out the activities that you know aren’t working and re-focus on the activities that are yielding good results.

For the activities that are yielding good results and that you and your employees like doing, would it make sense to devote more time and dollars to these activities? Would the investment yield more leads and increase conversions? While you can’t know for sure, you can make educated guesses. For example, if you ran a contest on Facebook during, say, April and it resulted in increased leads and more conversions that month, it might make sense to run a contest in September and December and see if the results are the same, better, or worse. This sort of experimenting will help you build an even stronger quarterly marketing plan.

Remember: avoid making rash judgments. If you’re thinking of eliminating an activity, ask yourself this question first and then drill down: What’s the problem with this particular marketing activity?

  • Is it the execution?
  • Is it the copy?
  • Are your metrics faulty (or non-existent)?
  • Is it some other reason?
  • Is it something you can fix?

If you go through this checklist and feel you’ve done everything right and that it’s not fixable, then it might make sense to eliminate it from the plan, at least for now. You can always add it back in at some point, should conditions change.

If you think the problem isn’t the marketing activity itself, but rather something else, such as the execution, then adjust your marketing plan to address the issue. For example, let’s say you’re thinking about eliminating email marketing because your open rate is low and you’re not seeing any direct business coming from the newsletter. As you consider the checklist above, you wonder if the problem isn’t email marketing itself but rather if you’re delivering the right message and including the best offers. And you’re wondering about the health of your list and the overall design of your newsletter.

You decide you might not be ready to lose email marketing just yet, but you know you need to do something different. This is where your marketing plan comes in. As you adjust your plan for the next four months, you add in these activities:

  • Research email marketing best practices
  • Research email marketing consultants
  • Have email consultants review email campaigns, make recommendations, and provide a proposal for implementing recommendations
  • Review proposals and make a decision

From there, the email marketing consultant will likely have a plan for re-launching the e-newsletter. His or her plan will flow into your plan. And six months from now when you’re evaluating your marketing plan again, you might be thinking very differently about your email newsletter.

But let’s pretend for a moment that it is six months later and your email marketing results are the same or even a little worse. It might be time to reallocate those marketing dollars elsewhere.

This is why it’s essential to review your plan regularly.

Need help? That’s what I’m here for.

Do You Write Peek-a-Boo Headlines?

You should.

What’s a peek-a-boo headline? Let’s brush up on what peek-a-boo is, first. You, no doubt, know the game of entertaining a baby by covering your face and (in a really high-pitched, silly voice) saying “Peek…peek…peek-a-boo!” and then revealing your face on the word “boo.”

Think about what happens next: What baby doesn’t stop what he or she is doing (yes, including the one wailing in the seat in front of you on the plane), stare, laugh, giggle, and then–this is important–looks for more.

That’s what a peek-a-boo headline does to a reader. The headline stops the reader in his or her tracks. It startles the reader, in a good way. The reader then looks for “more” by reading what follows next (e.g. the blog post, the ad, the email, etc.).

My post from the other day–Apples, Peaches & George Clooney Naked–is one example. And every time I work on copy, that’s my goal: to create a peek-a-boo headline.

Of course, what follows AFTER the headline is almost as important. I say “almost,” only because you could have the most brilliant body copy on the planet, but if that headline doesn’t get the reader craving what comes next, then it won’t matter.

Case Study: Simple Steps to Better Blog Promotion

Dear Copy Bitch: As my favorite bitch when it comes to critiquing copy and writing style, would you take a peek at my blog? I’m interested in any feedback on writing style, length, readability, etc. If it’s boring shit that nobody would want to read, please let me know. http://www.viewfromsection29.com

—DJK, Wellesley, Mass.

Answer: Here’s what I tell my clients: the key to a blog is passion and consistency. You need to be passionate about your topic, and you need to blog at least 3 times a week. Since yours is a personal blog, rather than a business blog, the rules regarding consistency might not need to be strictly enforced, but the passion part is a must. And you got that! Baseball and radio are two of your biggest passions. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. They’re informative and entertaining. So write what you’d want to read. The fans of both will enjoy reading the posts…if they can find your blog.

Which brings me to the issue that may be plaguing your blog: promotion. Here are some simple things you can do to promote your blog…and to keep fans coming back: [Editor’s Note: Some of these suggestions were implemented right away, so if you look at the blog listed above, you might actually be viewing some of the solutions as opposed to the “problems.”]

1. Add an RSS feed at the top of the upper-right hand sidebar. You’ll need to claim your feed through something like Feed Burner (it’s free)

2. Add a “Subscribe via email” option right below it. Think of both of these things like the pre-program buttons on your car radio. Let fans of your blog have an easy way to find you and be reminded of you (the email subscription will send an email to your subscribers whenever a new post shows up…I believe you subscribe to my blog, so you probably know how this works).

3. Claim your blog on Technorati, if you haven’t already done so. This post will tell you why and how to do it. (Takes just a few minutes, and it’s free.)

4. Consider rebroadcasting your posts automatically to Facebook and Twitter through Twitterfeed (again, this is free). The reasons why you should opt for this as opposed to doing manual updates are 1) it saves time 2) it automatically shortens the permalink to bit.ly and 3) you can see how many people click on the link. Oh, and it’s my favorite price: free.

5. Add a “share button” of some sort to each post. Blogger probably has a plugin. Or if you google “add share button to Blogger,” I’m sure you’ll find tutorials and info. I’m on WordPress, which, unfortunately, has some limitations. I use a free service called Get Social. After I publish a post, I immediately create the “share button” through Get Social. I add the HTML to the end of the post and then update the post. It takes maybe a minute. The purpose of the share button is you want to make it super simple for readers to share your posts with others through Twitter and Facebook etc. This will get you more exposure and more readers.

6. But before you do Twitterfeed or the social button…I just noticed you don’t have permalinks enabled on your blog. You need to do that first. Here’s a post that tells you why and how to do that in Blogger.

7. I’d remove the Google Followers widget, if you can. Wait until you have a healthy number of subscribers, and then you can show it again or show a “feed reader.” [Editor’s Note: This was done immediately by the blog owner, per my suggstion.]

8. You should be able to manipulate the title tag of your blog. Right now in the title tag (the blue bar at the top of your screen), the URL is showing up. Instead, you want it to say something like “View from Section 29: Musings on Baseball, Radio, and Whatever.” That way, if people bookmark it, they’re bookmarking an actual title. Plus, people expect to see words there, not a URL.

9. Create a more robust profile…actually include a little paragraph of info about you (see mine and look at others).

10. Promote complementary blogs by listing them in your blog roll (also, comment on these blogs…that’s the way to get them to potentially comment on yours).

Those are my quick-hitting thoughts. Let me know if you have any questions.

Marketing Advice for Halloween

Dear Copy Bitch: I challenge you to come up with a marketing post involving Halloween.

–The Instigator, Chicago

Answer: No problem. Here’s a great post on marketing from marketing guru Seth Godin: “Why Celebrate Halloween?”

(Note: Mr. Instigator, you didn’t say it had to be an original marketing post involving Halloween.)

Proofreading Strategies: 4 Ways to Do It Online

Dear Copy Bitch: My eyes hurt! I stare at my computer all day and make mistakes left and right–stupid mistakes, too. Do you have any tips for proofreading on a computer monitor?

–Grumpy Proofreader

Answer: Yes, Grumpy, never fear! The Copy Bitch feels your pain and has proofreading strategies when reviewing stuff on the ol’ monitor:

1. Increase/decrease the zoom level on your monitor. When you’ve been staring at a document for hours on end, this one little change is enough to give your precious eyeballs (and brain) a fresh perspective on the words staring back at you. When I’m in Word on my PC, the zoom toggle is in the lower right-hand corner.

2. Highlight the text in yellow. This works especially well for shorter pieces. In Word, the highlight option is usually in the same area as the font face and size options.

3. Read backwards. Start with the last sentence of your document and work your way to the beginning (note: don’t read the sentences themselves backwards). Reading things out of context is a great way to catch mistakes.

4. Do a “find” on your crutch words and problem areas. Do you write “your” when you really mean “you’re”? Do a “find” on “your” and double-check yourself. Do you tend to use fillers like “just,” “very,” “really” or “George Clooney is a god”? Do a search on those words/phrases. Do you type too fast and always use “manger” instead of “manager”? Ditto.

Would love to hear about some other proofreading strategies. Leave yours in the comments thread.

Marketing Tips for Facebook Business Pages & Company Blogs

Dear Copy Bitch: Do you have any resources on how to create a Facebook business page and how to promote my new blog?

—Suffering from Social Media Angst in Annapolis

Answer: Sure do, Social Media Angst (okay, I’m starting to feel like “Dear Abby”). Honestly, HubSpot is my go-to for this stuff. Here’s everything you need regarding setting up and managing a Facebook page.  And check out how to start a successful blog.

Good luck!

[Updated August 2017]

Copy & Marketing Tips: 2 Tools You Can Use

Dear Copy Bitch: I really love all the tidbits of advice you’ve been giving on your blog. Here’s a “weird” question: name three “tools” you use in your business that the rest of us could use in ours.

–Sam, Framingham

Answer: Here are two tools I use a lot.

1. Color Cop: I learned about Color Cop from Constant Contact’s Zak Barron. I sometimes design newsletter templates for my email marketing clients, and this free, downloadable tool makes getting a color’s hex values (also known as RGB) an absolute breeze. (Updated in 2017: I still use Color Cop regularly!)

2. Visual Thesaurus: If you’re a visual person, then Visual Thesaurus is for you. What a great way to discover the perfect word for marketing copy, taglines, you name it.

What are some of your favorite finds? Leave your answers in the comments section.