The start of a new year is the perfect time to commit to marketing your dog business. In part 1 of this series, we explored projects for a balanced, and doable, marketing plan.
Now it’s time to get your marketing projects scheduled. The number one rule in marketing is to do it, and without a schedule, it’s too easy to skimp on marketing time or, worse yet, skip it altogether.
The trick is to create a marketing calendar for the year, then schedule your marketing tasks into actual slots in your schedule. Breaking projects down and scheduling their steps keeps you moving forward, and soon you’ll be reinforced for your efforts with new clients.
Create your marketing schedule
Take a look at the marketing projects you’ve chosen, and start with the big picture, scheduling projects into each month of the year. You can do this on an online calendar, in a spreadsheet or document, or go old school and write it down – whatever option best fits your organizational style. The aim is simply to get all your projects listed so that you’re ready to organize and prioritize.
Keep your plan balanced with projects to reach each of your three marketing audiences: the public (your potential clients), referral sources (those who refer to you), and your existing clients (retention). And aim to reach each audience at least once per quarter, so your efforts are strong and steady throughout the year. An easy way to track this is to color code your projects by audience. (At dogbiz we use green for referral source projects, blue for public marketing, and red for retention.)
Some projects, like social media and blog posts, might need attention every month. Other projects may span across an entire calendar quarter. For example, if you’re doing a print newsletter, the first quarter of your calendar might look like this: Month 1: Plan content; Month 2: Prep content; Month 3: Distribute newsletter to referral sources. The next quarter the cycle just repeats.
Consider which projects require some start up time. For example, if you’ve chosen wellness folders, you’ll need to slot some time to get your materials organized and ready to deliver. Same goes for other marketing pieces like rack cards or flyers – you’ll need time for organizing content and the design process. So the first month or quarter of your plan should include necessary start up time. (Take heart. While some projects will feel time intensive at first, once you’ve accomplished the initial creation, you’ll switch into an easier maintenance mode, requiring less time and creative energy.)
Anticipate slow times in your business and tailor your plans to ease them. If you offer training, for example, you may experience a lull over the holidays, so think about boosting your marketing for training in the fall, before clients get too busy. Remind potential clients the benefits of training, maybe offer a topics class on polite greetings before the grandparents arrive. If you offer boarding, start marketing in the first quarter to encourage bookings for summer vacation. A little strategic scheduling can help to reduce seasonal slumps.
Calendar it out
With your projects sorted out and marketing calendar in hand, it’s time to get the work into your schedule to make sure it all gets done! This step is critical. Setting aside specific days and times to work on your marketing sets you up to succeed.
Set ‘do’ dates and ‘due’ dates to stay on track. For example, if you’re working on an email newsletter, set a ‘do’ date for creating content, and a ‘due’ date for when you’ll send the email.
Give yourself some time each week to work on your marketing projects. Treat this time as you would a client appointment, it’s a commitment not to be canceled. Trust that you will not only feel good when you stick to your marketing plans, but you will also reap the benefits.
Be sure to roll in time for future planning, too. For example, in the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year, you’ll want to carve out time to assess how well your projects are working and create your plans for next year.
Keep it front of mind
Just as we talk about keeping our business front of mind for our target audiences, you want to keep your marketing projects front of your mind. If you’re like most dog pros, your head probably swims with ideas, say while you’re walking dogs, or driving between training clients. But by the time you sit down to do some marketing, that great idea is gone, or pushed off for another day when there aren’t emails to answer or phone calls to return – a day that never seems to occur.
Protect your great ideas by taking a proactive approach to capturing and scheduling them. When a topic for a Facebook post or blog hits you, or inspiration for a new project hits, jot it down in a small notebook you keep with you, or dictate it into your phone. At the start of your next scheduled marketing session, add any new ideas to your marketing plan and then add them to your calendar and schedule. This ensures that your ideas make it past the idea stage into actual implementation – and that ensures your business continues to grow.
Steady as she grows
When your marketing projects kick in and you’re gaining lots of new clients, you’ll probably feel busy. You may be tempted to let up on your marketing, but don’t! We hear from clients all the time who, happy with their client load, let up on their marketing only to find that load subsequently dwindle.
Marketing takes time. Projects can easily take six to eighteen months or more to have an impact. Plan on giving any new project at least a year to work before assessing its effectiveness. And new habits take time to form. Once you’re in the habit of devoting time and energy to your marketing, don’t lose that momentum.
Keep track of where people hear about you. Ask every inquiry, whether via your contact form, or when you first speak or meet. And keep a log of their answers. This will help when you assess your marketing. You’ll be able to see how each of your projects are performing and make adjustments as needed. Also, be attentive to which referral sources are generating inquiries for you, and how many of those convert to become clients. This will help you determine where and how best to focus your efforts going forward.
A cool collateral benefit over time is that your marketing projects, which may have initially been targeted to a specific audience, tend to start to overlap. Soon you’ll find that your marketing is reaching across audiences, effectively networking your business for you. You’ll start to see connections among clients and referral sources, and soon you’ll be picking up new clients everywhere you turn.
So fire up Google Calendar or pull out a fresh sheet of doodle paper and start sketching out your marketing calendar for the year. Then sit back and imagine where this year will take you!
Want some help or guidance building a balanced and doable marketing plan for your dog training or dog walking business? Join us for Marketing Made Easy—an online dogbiz University course.