September might seem early to plan for 2018 marketing efforts, but it really isn’t. Think about it:  You need to establish your marketing budget for next year if you haven’t already. You also need to take a look at what you did, what worked, and what you’ll do differently in 2018. It’s not too early to think about your 2018 marketing efforts. Here’s what you need to consider.

Your marketing strategy

If you’ve never created a marketing strategy, make 2018 the year you follow one! Marketing strategy creation isn’t difficult, but it is somewhat time-consuming. Here’s a few key items to consider if you’re putting together a strategy for the first time:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What’s your unique value proposition?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • How will you measure success?

While there is a whole lot more to a strategy than those five points, it’s a good start to get you headed in the right direction. Already have a marketing strategy?  Now is the time to take a look and see how well you followed it, and what the outcomes were. What worked?  What didn’t?  Why did you fall short?  Really go through your strategy and fine-tune it for 2018.

Marketing is always changing

Yes, the marketing trends for 2018 articles are already starting to appear and with good reason: you need to get ready. Are you keeping up with the trends in marketing, including digital marketing and content marketing?  There appears to be a few trends you as a small business owner should be aware of. First, social channels will serve as publishing outlets, not just sharing platforms. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have been making the move toward becoming publishers in their own right, rather than platforms for sharing links from traditional media outlets. Are you ready to embrace that?  Better have a plan.

video marketingIf you aren’t leveraging images and videos in your marketing, 2018 is your year. With a video, people tend to accept and attach on a much deeper level due to the usage of visually-rich and interactive elements depicting a proper message or story. And as a consequence, the audience is tempted to take considerable action in terms of likes, sharing, etc.

In 2018, personalized marketing is becoming even more important. It no longer makes sense to push the same message out to everyone, no matter what their needs are. Start with segmenting your email marketing list. Understand who wants what kind of marketing message from you and when they want it. Segment by where the recipient is in the buying cycle. Personalize your marketing as much as possible.

2018 marketing efforts should include a support system. Find some brand evangelists to help you promote your company and build your community. In the past, building a community around a brand or product involved setting up forums and asking people to share news with family and friends. However, Internet users are making more content than ever before, and their words, pictures, videos, and other content can go a long way toward building your brand and increasing sales. People might make content without any prodding or encouragement, but a bit of support can go a long way toward building a team of influencers.

Think about handing marketing over to an expert

As a business owner, there are things you do better than anyone you know, and so you continue to do them yourself and procrastinate hiring someone to help you. However, this is flawed thinking that doesn’t allow your business to grow. Unless you own a marketing company, it’s time to think about bringing in some marketing help. You can hire someone as an employee to do your marketing, or you can outsource. Here’s why small businesses should outsource their marketing. A small business marketing professional will be able to guide you on which tactics will be best for your company in particular, and will likely start by creating a marketing strategy for you. A marketing strategy helps to understand your target audience, ideal client, your unique value proposition, your competitors and much more. This can lay the foundation for your entire marketing effort and should be done by someone who understands all aspects of marketing to get the best results. Of course, hiring the right person takes time; waiting until Q1 2018 won’t likely help Q1 numbers. Plan now to get you the help you need in 2018.

These are just a few items to think about as 2018 approaches. To be ready for the new year, it’s not too early to think about your 2018 marketing efforts. Get ready to rock 2018!

Patty Hughes
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