Well, you blinked and it's nearly 2011! Hard to believe. So here is my suggestion for planning your marketing for the coming year. Ask yourself the following questions.
1) What is your annual marketing budget? Include graphics, printing, advertising, photography, direct mail, promotions, trade shows, consultant's fees, etc. As a rule of thumb, consider putting 3 - 7% of gross sales into this budget for 2011. And yes, you should budget this and set aside the money and not do it on the fly, you are more likely to make a commitment and stick with it if you set this money aside now.
2) Who is your target audience? And don't say "everyone." It is much harder and much more expensive to target "everyone." Finetune your target, 'single women in a specific age range and income level in the Westchester area' will help you identify how to reach those people much eaiser than just saying everyone. And you may have secondary audiences as well, but who is your "best customer?" Identify that group of people and then you can determine how to best reach them.
3) This will sound silly, but what is your business description? If you own a retail store, don't just identify yourself as "a gift shop." Be more specific and interesting, what are you really selling, gifts or status symbols or economical choices for the budget conscious consumer, etc. What do you really sell? Understanding that point and conveying it succinctly will help you to refine your sales message and better target your audience.
4) What are you quantifiable goals for 2011? Increase sales... by how much? Resell to past customers? What are reselling? Upselling to existing customers? How much do you want to sell? Are you planning to increase overall gross sales by 20% or perhaps just increase gross profits by 15% which would make for a different plan that just increasing gross sales....? If you own a service business, perhaps you goal is to "add 3 more clients per month in a target sales range of $1,500 - $2,000 per month." Be very specific, that will help you quantify success and set a path to get there.
5) How are you going to best convey your message to the best audience? Newspaper ads? On-line marketing? Pay per click? Twittter? Direct mail? Blogging? All will gain you visiblity, but not all will work optimally. Take a look at what you have done in the past and determine if it worked, why it did or didn't work and how you can adjust it going forward. What new tools haven't you tried? Who can you ask about new tools and what will work for you? Don't discount older methods of marketing and don't just on newer ones just because they are trendy. Determine how they each will work for you particular business and then go about implmenting them.
And before I forget, be sure to prepare a calendar of activities so that you know not only when you will do something, but when you will need to get it ready so you don't miss deadlines, for example if you know that advertising in a special issue of Westchester Magazine is something you want to do, you need to plan that out 3 months in advance!
Preparing this information now will help you be organized for January so you can get moving quickly in the new year and start seeing success sooner rather than later!