October 2015

7 Steps To Build Your Annual Plan Like A Pro

2015-10-21T16:18:01-04:00 Categories: create, Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , |

It is the time of year again when we start thinking about next year… The plans, programs, and activities that will allow us to meet and exceed our 2016 goals.

We at Idea Sandbox like to approach nearly any type of planning as if it were a road trip. Like a road trip, you need to figure out:

  • Where you are,
  • Where you want to go, and
  • What you need to get there.

We’ll break it down into these bite-sized chunks:

  1. Goals, Goals, Goals
  2. Focus / Business Themes
  3. Seasonal Objectives
  4. Seasonal News
  5. Budgeting
  6. Consumer Promotion
  7. Localized Goals

Now a little more detail on each area:

1. Goals, Goals, Goals

How easy or hard are your sales goals for next year?

How well did you meet this year’s goals? Do you need to be super aggressive? Or can you relax a bit?

Break your sales goals down by quarter and month. Then, concretize goals by converting them to understandable quantities.

Instead of asking store teams to increase sales by $45,000 per location, it is much easier to grasp if they can:

  • Add 10 more customers per store per day,
  • Increase ticket by 50-cents more per customer, or
  • Try to get 3 more dessert orders per shift.

So, once you figure out what sales goals need to be met, you can then plan to add non-sales specific initiatives in the “easier” months. Conversely, you’ll want to plan marketing initiatives when it seems making goals will be a challenge.

Beyond sales goals, what about your performance with Customer Service scores? Local Review Sites? Number of hours of community service or donation amounts? How is your customer database of newsletter subscribers?

What goals do you have for Customer Experience or the Brand for this upcoming year? Are you continuing existing initiatives? Need to start new ones?

Keep all these goals in mind. They may drive a key focus, messaging themes, promotions, and need to be incorporated into your planning calendar.

2. Focus / Business Themes

A business focus or theme represents overarching sentiment, messaging, program or experience for a time period. It may center on a customer facing initiative such as customer experience, new products or services. Or it may be internal focused supporting competitive issues, strategic weaknesses, etc.

Their duration could be for years, or for a quarter, or a season. Like anything you want groups to rally behind, a business focus often has its own tagline, a rallying cry! Here are a few faux-examples:

  • “100 in 3!” – A goal to increase sales per location by $100k during a fixed period of time. “Grow $100k in 3 (months)”
  • “5 Star Success!” – Service goal to get locations to score 5-stars on their secret shopper reports.
  • “Light Bright” – Competitive goal to increase sales during your slower evening daypart.

Sales Goals + Business Theme → Seasonal Objectives + Seasonal News

Typically your sales goals and business theme will drive your seasonal objectives and news. Sometimes you’ll use your seasonal goals to determine the focus.

3. Seasonal Objectives

Use your Goals from above and split them appropriately through the year. Break them down by season, quarter, or promotional period. For example, at Starbucks the Christmas holiday season was a very intense sales period that lasted from mid-November to just after the New Year. There were sales and service goals set solely this 7 or 8 week period.

4. Seasonal News

What do you have planned to meet or exceed your seasonal objectives? These may include:

  • products,
  • services,
  • programs, or
  • initiatives.

Back to the Starbucks example. For the Christmas season the “news” is intense. Back in the day, for a limited-time in-store would feature:

  • Holiday beverages (Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, Peppermint Mocha Latte),
  • Christmas Blend coffee,
  • Tazo Joy tea,
  • Special food items (Cranberry Bliss Bar – that tastes awesome paired with Christmas Blend),
  • Holiday themed serveware for home – coffee mugs, plastic tumbler cups, etc.,
  • Coffee Brewer / Espresso Machine sale,
  • Christmas music CDs,
  • Product Bundle Giftpacks and gift tins (created specifically for the holiday season),
  • Community Give-Back Coat, Toy or Book Drives,
  • At one point Garry Trudeau “Doonesbury” merchandise (profit went to charity), and
  • Pushing heavily, Starbucks Gift Cards!

Whoosh!

This promotional period had the highest number of featured and new products, and the shortest number of weeks. But, we knew a great Christmas season would roll into a great new year!

All these new, limited time items create news for customers. In fact, during the Holiday season Starbucks turns their white cup with green logo red. Some customers start to salivate just seeing the red cup. For them Christmastime starts when Santa is in view during the Macy’s Parade and the red cups arrive at Starbucks.

Fun fact: January thru March – the First Fiscal Quarter of the year and typically slower time for restaurant and retailers is Starbucks second fiscal quarter. Starbucks decided Q1 takes place from October thru December – a busy time of the year. This ensures Starbucks starts off the year strong with a great Q1. Clever, huh?!

What do you already have planned that is “news worthy?”

If you don’t have news, you may need to create it. This is where – during the Sales Goal portion of your planning – having an honest understanding of how hard or easy it is to make your goals is important.

5. Budgeting

If you haven’t already, you need to determine the investment needed for funding the programming to meet or exceed your goals and objectives. This may range from training, to advertising / marketing budget, product or service development, and more. There are two ways to look at this funding…as an expense or an investment. We always feel money spent to improve the experience for customers is an investment that delivers return.

6. Consumer Promotion

I’ve always thought of a promotional theme as the bow that ties together all the programming and activity in a way that is relevant and meaningful to the customer. This is where we build the communication and marketing programs to communicate the themes and news to our customers. Since you know what you’ll be featuring, what your “news” will be – what will be the theme to tell the story?

7. Localized Goals

If you aren’t a single-location organization, you’ll want to consider how you’ll split the sales responsibilities among your leaders, departments, and locations. And you’ll want those teams to break goals into those concrete, understandable measures.

Yes, we know we’ve simplified the steps, but hopefully this will serve as a nice guide for you and your team in prepping for an amazing 2016.

Happy Planning!

Paul's Name
Paul (and the Idea Sandbox Team)
Twitter:@IdeaSandbox

April 2015

Great Leaders Think Dirty Thoughts

2015-04-21T14:40:30-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , |

As we climb the corporate ladder, we catch on that people on the lower rungs do the tactical, heavy work. Further up the ladder, they get to sit at desks and focus on strategy.

So, we set our sights on the upper rungs, work hard to get promoted to a job where we can stop getting our hands dirty, and use our minds instead.

To be in the role of big shot, we focus on big picture strategy and try not to even think about the details.

This is where the mistake happens.

If you dismiss the detail work associated with your strategy, there is a chance those details may never be thought through. Those small, dirty, details are what your strategy is constructed from. Bad details = failed strategy.

Maybe you have earned the right “not to get your hands dirty,” but you’ve got to at least think dirty.

Great leaders have to think dirty thoughts.

October 2012

A "Complete Sentence" Creates A Complete Strategy

2017-08-21T16:19:31-04:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

To obtain the best results from our marketing plans, we need to make sure our approach is well-thought and complete.

This is especially true of trending marketing tactics, (i.e., social media and discount coupon sites).

 We feel pressure to use these because they are popular and we’re worried about missing out. But, how do you determine what tactics best suit your needs?

An approach I have successfully used to test marketing strategy is to form a “complete marketing sentence.” Below I provide details and a ready-made template. Enjoy!

Similar to the way English grammar requires you to pair a subject and verb for a complete thought, marketing grammar requires its parts of speech for a thought to be complete.

The marketing plan was successful diagram

To ensure your marketing tactics make sense, you’ll need:

  • The Strategy – what existing company strategy supports the idea, making it worth pursuing?
  • Your Audience – with whom do you wish to connect.
  • The Tactic – the activity you’re planning.
  • Timing – when you plan to do the activity.
  • Why this Audience Cares – the pain in their life you are solving.
  • The Benefit of the Benefit – the effect this has on the quality of life of the audience.

Once you have all the parts identified, plug them into the structure – to form the complete idea.

The Structure:

Sentence Structure
Here, let me give you a “complete” sentence.

[Build awareness of our “Lower Employee Churn” program] among [CEOs]

thru [Direct Mail postcards] implemented [the first week of October 2012].

The audience cares because [it can significantly lower training costs and increase morale]

thus [allowing them to reaffirm their leadership role].
Here’s the background for that sentence.

You offer company leaders a training program. It teaches them how to keep their employees happier and, therefore, reduces the number of employees that quit. You want to let these leaders know about this program through a direct mailing.

The Parts:

  • Strategy: Build awareness of our “Lower Employee Churn” program
  • Audience: CEOs
  • Tactic: Direct Mail postcards
  • Timing: the first week of October 2012
  • Why They Care: it can significantly lower training costs and increase morale
  • Benefit of the Benefit: allows them to reaffirm their leadership role.

That complete sentence again…

[Build awareness of our “Lower Employee Churn” program] among [CEOs]

thru [Direct Mail postcards] implemented [the first week of October 2012].

The audience cares because [it can significantly lower training costs and increase morale]

thus [allowing them to reaffirm their leadership role].

Next time you’re wondering  if a marketing tactic has been well-thought, try “completing the sentence.”

Handy Template: Download your Complete Marketing Sentence Template. [PDF, 59kb]

 

January 2011

November 2009

Off-Site Meetings: Last Century Technology

2012-05-07T22:30:51-04:00 Categories: Destination, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , |

The most up to date list of locations can be found on the Places page within Brainstorming Tools section.

Did use an abacus or slide rule to build your FY’10 budgets?

To prepare and distribute information about next year’s Marketing Plan did you use a typewriter and make a duplicate with a layer of ink paper?

Or did you hand crank copies on a Ditto (or Verifax) machine?

 

Of course you didn’t. That would be crazy and inefficient. We have invented better and more efficient tools.

With that said.. while we are in the 21st century… there is a tool that is stuck somewhere in the mid-1900s: The Off-Site Meeting.

It is interesting we don’t perceive meetings as a “tool” the same way we do a photocopier, computer, or even the coffee maker.

And, of all meetings, the “off-site” is critically important. So important, it warrants sending a hand-picked group away from the office, sleeping away from their families, huddled in a hotel conference room for three days, not allowed to return with out “the plan.”

Yet we put no thought to the meeting room. It is a “people container.”

Meeting Space = Commodity

Look up commodity in the dictionary, and there will be a picture of a hotel meeting room. Tan. Accordion folding walls. Wall to wall patterned carpeting. Sweaty pitchers of water dripping into black coasters. A small paper pad and hotel logo pen. Sums up 99.9% of the meetings and conferences you’ve attended, right?

And we don’t care… when we book it. We ask the office admin to call around and find a cheap place that can hold the number of people we’re bringing. If there was a preference, it would be something like: “Oh, let’s stay at that place we were last timelikes their Caesar salad.”

Yet, as marketers and business people we intimately understand the importance of environment and ambiance and the affect it has on behavior and action. We create it for our customers everyday. Especially right now, the holiday season is when we pull out the stops! Christmas lights, holiday music, decorations, special programs and themes… All this to create a more pleasant environment mood and environment conducive for purchasing.

Pay Per Stomach

And the hotel doesn’t care… what you do in the room. They just want to know how many stomachs will be present.

Catering Manager:

    “How many?”

Your Assistant:

    “18 maybe 20.”

Catering Manager:

    “Okay, that’ll be $45 per person for breakfast, buffet-style lunch, and an afternoon snack.”

We literally pay “per stomach.”

And, because the rooms are where hotels make their money – book enough rooms and there is no additional charge for use of the room – just the food costs. But, of course that does NOT include all the tools for the meeting itself. Add on fees for renting the projector, a mic, access to the internet, easels, flipcharts…

The room is tan to be generic. To accommodate yesterday’s Bar Mitzvah, your meeting today, and the wedding reception this weekend.

That is the venue that we think will inspire the multi-million dollar strategy and “killer idea?”

Today’s meeting spaces are the equivalent of using the Ditto machine. With hard work you can crank stuff out… But your results will be inconsistent, sloppy, and slightly blurry.

The Solution?

Hire A Better Space – If you’re going to have an off-site where creative thinking, problem solving, and new ideas are involved – get yourself into a space that will inspire you – yet not be distracting for your work.

Below I’ve listed a few places throughout the United States and Europe built to be a creative space for creating thinking. But it doesn’t have to be a ‘meeting space’ either. You could get inspiration from your local art museum, science museum, or zoo. Find a place that works for your particular group.

Hire A Better Lead – If you don’t have someone on your team skilled at leading groups or drawing ideas out of people – hire someone. (This will also allow you to relax and focus on coming up with the “killer idea” instead of running the meeting).

What spaces have you found inspiration for you and your team?

This article originally posted on the Marketing Prof’s Daily Fix Blog.
Image Source: OfficeMuseum.com