This article originally appeared on the Prime Design Solutions website.

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(The audio for this podcast is no longer available, but it is summarized below.)

January is a not only a time for personal reflections and resolutions — for many businesses, it is the start of a new fiscal year. This means budgets are reset, goals are redefined and projections are made.

Whether you have a dedicated marketing department or are of the Do-It-Yourself variety, these efforts include taking a critical look at the upcoming year’s advertising plans.

Before we discuss the steps that you can follow to help improve upon the success of your advertising investments, let’s take a moment to look at some trends in the industry.

Current Marketing Trends

Content Marketing

Content Marketing refers to producing content for customers and potential customers to consume. This can be anything from white papers and blog posts to videos, interactive media and podcasts. The overlying theme is to provide the public with something of value, while showcasing your business as experts in your field. Content Marketing provides a means for a business to engage with customers both intellectually and emotionally through things like how-tos, testimonials and other industry-related news and data.

By educating your customers through Content Marketing, you are helping them bond with your brand. “You want your customers to feel like they have a one-on-one relationship with you,” said Diana Shark, Marketing Specialist at Prime Design Solutions. “So when they’re looking for a product or service, you’ve positioned yourself as the one they should turn to.”

Producing quality content also provides additional avenues for new customers to find your business—whether that is due to publishing keyword-rich content on your website or through other active channels, such as social media outlets or email marketing.

Mobile Marketing

In 2014, the number of mobile users is predicted to surpass the number of desktop users. This means the number of people with access to digital content is a significant factor when addressing a company’s marketing—and a lot of that access is through alternative devices.

In the late 1990s, having a website was a novel way to show your company was cutting-edge and modern. By the early 2000s, a website was no longer something for the major players, but became an essential business tool for companies of all sizes. This is essentially what is playing out with mobile devices in the current marketplace. Instead of being a nicety for visitors to websites of forward-thinking companies, it is becoming critical to deliver your information in a way that is compatible with smartphones and tablets, as well as desktop machines.

Other Mobile Marketing tactics include geo-targeting, bar codes, SMS messaging and Augmented Reality Advertising—all of which provide creative avenues for businesses to reach a wider customer base.

Forecasting Your Annual Marketing Plan


Begin by taking a look at what you’ve done in the previous year or years to see what worked and what didn’t. “Evaluate the results you saw over your advertising campaigns,” said Diana. A lot of this analysis doesn’t have to be complex — in many cases,  a bit of common sense is enough. Determining what has historically worked for reaching your specific customers goes a long way towards charting your current annual plan.


Determining what your message or messages will be is a major part of helping you create effective campaigns. For example, if you are introducing a new product or can see predictable growth within your company, this will be a key part of your messaging. In that same way, changes within your industry or customer demographic will mean changes to your message.

Looking at things like local state legislative initiatives can also highlight growth within your local geographic region and can help determine if there are ways your messaging can be crafted to reach emerging industry needs.


While there is no set formula for determining an annual marketing budget, the Small Business Administration does recommend 7-8% of gross revenue being allocated to marketing and advertising. Every business is unique, but at least that gives us a starting point.

However, according to  survey by online marketing company Yodle, over 60% of companies spent less than $3,000 annually on advertising in 2013, far less than the SBA recommendation.

When determining a budget, it helps to define when and how the dollars will be spent. Some businesses have budgets that can be divided evenly across the year, either monthly or quarterly. Other businesses will need to ramp up efforts during key periods—such as “Back to School” or holiday shopping season.


Revisiting your website should be an early task in addressing annual marketing needs. Is it clear who you are, what you do and who you serve? Is your contact information up to date and easily accessible? Is the content published on your pages relevant? What are you learning by viewing your traffic statistics?

This analysis may uncover tasking that will require a major effort, but you can prioritize what needs to be addressed, if necessary. Making sure your phone number is readily available is an easy item to correct, whereas reworking the content of your website might be a more formidable task.


“Mobile technology is not a fad,” said Diana. “It is not just for your ‘well-to-do’ consumer.” In a study by Latitude, 61% of people claim to have a better opinion of brands when they offer a good mobile experience. Your customers have these devices, have them on and in their pockets, and can literally do business with you at any moment. Making their experience a positive as possible will give your business a competitive advantage.

Social Media

Committing to a weekly schedule for your various Social Media channels is a good way to stay on top of the challenge of keeping these items active. Active channels result in more interactivity, which is a primary goal of Social Media Marketing.

Social Media provides a direct line connecting a business to a customer and does so in a very public way. Businesses need to be responsive to inquiries and comments, which will help to build that critical relationship between them and their customers.


Where are leads coming from? What advertising avenues are delivering the most results? Simply asking “how did you hear of us” when speaking to new customers will go a long way towards determining what is working. Also, adding an area of checkboxes to the contact form on your website can help you acquire this information.

Tracking the results of your marketing efforts helps to determine how qualified the leads are. Better results aren’t always measured in the volume of calls. Quality campaigns deliver quality leads that are suited for your business’ offerings.