While a last-minute campaign can certainly get results, you usually can’t do marketing by the seat of your pants. Flexibility is a virtue, but it’s best to plan your marketing campaigns in advance — especially if you want to take advantage of the benefits of promotional products.
If you can sit down with your promo team and plan out your marketing for an entire year, you’ll be able to:
- Make the most of your budget: You pay a “procrastination tax” every time you order your branded merchandise at the last minute. From rush shipping to higher manufacturing fees, it’s better to order promo products with plenty of time to spare, so you pay less.
- Be in the right place at the right time: Mapping out your promotions for the entire year helps you take advantage of better timing — and all the opportunities that come with it. You’ll never miss Cyber Monday again!
- Create more complex campaigns: Sometimes, complexity is a good thing. You need to plan ahead of time if you want to do multiple campaigns at once or if you want to complete really detailed omnichannel campaigns.
You can do so many creative things with promotional products, but they require upfront planning for the year. If you’re trying to wrap your head around planning campaigns for an entire year in one go, here’s how you can map out your promotions on an annual basis.
1. Learn from last year’s campaigns
Before you plan this year’s campaigns, look at how you performed last year. Did anything take you by surprise? Did you miss an important date or event? What went well?
Looking at past campaigns will tell you what you should continue this year as well as the mistakes you don’t want to repeat. And hey, everybody makes mistakes — as long as you figure out what went wrong, you’ll design better promos every year.
2. Create SMART goals
What are your goals this year? How will promotional products help you achieve those goals?
Instead of saying, “We need more customers,” try setting a SMART goal that’s backed up by quantifiable metrics, like:
- 50% more web traffic in 2023 Q4 compared to 2022 Q4
- 20% boost in year-over-year employee retention
- 10% increase in sales within 60 days of a big national conference
SMART goals are essential because they make it way easier to see what went well and what needs improvement. Plus, when you have a SMART goal in hand, it’s easy to work backward from that goal to create a campaign.
For example, if you want to increase employee engagement by 20%, that might mean launching an employee recognition program. From there, you can take steps to create the program itself and start measuring your progress — but it all requires a solid goal from the start.
3. Set a fair budget
Now that you know your goals, you need to set a fair budget for each goal. But this isn’t as simple as taking your annual budget and dividing it by 12. For example, Q4 tends to be the last hurrah for the year, so you might need more money in Q4 than in Q2.
Every business has seasonality, and your promo product budget needs to account for that. You can break up the budget by month, event, campaign, or task. You get to decide how to spend your budget, but make sure your team tracks expenses as you go. That might mean partnering with accounting to ensure that all of your promo campaigns for the year stay on budget.
4. Mark important dates on your calendar
Don’t miss National Talk Like A Pirate Day ever again (it’s Sept. 19, btw) — mark both important national holidays as well as silly informal holidays on your calendar. This includes important dates like:
- Your company’s anniversary
- Conferences you’re attending
- Events you’re hosting
It’s helpful knowing important dates right off the bat so you plan your campaigns with enough lead time. Your marketing team also needs to know these dates for the next step, where you’ll plug everything into a campaign calendar.
5. Use a campaign calendar plus a PM solution
Since you’re planning multiple campaigns at once, you need some way of tracking everything. Smaller teams can get by with an Excel sheet for each month of the year, but this can feel disorganized and messy if you’re scaling your campaigns.
Try software like Monday.com, Hive, Trello, or Asana to build your content calendar for the year. You’ll see a sky-high view of all of your campaigns in one place and keep everyone on your team accountable for staying on task, so campaigns go out hassle-free.
6. Set up an omnichannel plan
Promo products, by themselves, are an effective way to get a lot of airtime with your audience. But if you’re planning for the entire year anyway, why not get more mileage out of your promo swag?
Take an omnichannel approach so you can continue the conversation long after an in-person connection. Integrate your promotional products with:
- Social media
- An online game
- A VR experience in the metaverse
Create a unique URL, convert it to a QR, and add it to your business card or directly onto the promotional product. This will help you bring physical marketing into the digital realm while deepening your audience relationships.
Save your sanity: Plan all of your promos at once
Promotional campaigns generate a ton of buzz for brands. By planning all of your campaigns for the year, you’ll be able to delight your audience at every turn. Make sure you:
- Learn from past campaigns
- Set SMART goals
- Budget carefully
- Account for important dates
- Plug everything into a campaign calendar
- Create an omnichannel experience
You don’t have to go at it alone, either. Boundless’s team of Brand Consultants will help you craft an annual promo product plan that’s sure to turn heads. See how we help companies like yours Inspire Brand Love™.