SME business guide: planning your digital marketing for 2016

Sophie Hardbattle By Sophie Hardbattle

For many SME owners, planning your marketing activities for 2016 may not be top priority. However, with some simple tools and tips, we can help take you through the necessary steps of coming up with your yearly plan, from setting goals and KPIs to deciding monthly social media topics.

To get started, we strongly recommend reviewing previous activities and results.

What are you currently doing?

To determine next years approach, begin analysing what you have done so far- what worked, what didn’t. The below checklist will help you get started.

Social media:

  • The type of posts that received the highest and lowest engagement rates (i.e. photos, offers, videos, links etc)
  • The topic of the posts
  • The type of language used in the posts
  • The events your users reacted to (i.e. are they more interested in Valentines Day, Euro League or The Great British Bake Off?)
  • Did you ever receive a big boost in followers? Why?
  • Did you ever lose a substantial amount of followers? Why?
  • What is the month on month increase of followers?

Email marketing:

  • Which emails received the highest and lowest open rates
  • What subject lines worked the best
  • If you used personalisation
  • What length they were
  • What tone of voice was used
  • Which emails received the highest click through rates
  • How the CTAs were displayed
  • If any emails got marked as spam or made a large amount of users unsubscribe
  • The type of email worked the best i.e. newsletters, offers etc


  • How many blogs were you writing a month?
  • What were the most popular ones about?
  • What were the least popular ones about?
  • Did any blogs receive a high amount of social sharing?
  • Did any get featured on another domain?
  • What topics did you write about?

The above checklists should hopefully give you an indication on what you need to be analysing. That being said, always include reviews of all marketing channels and efforts. For example, did you network at any industry related events? Release any press releases? Take part in any interviews? The list goes on. If you did take part in any other marketing events- how did this effect your brand? Did your website traffic increase? Did the amount of sales increase? Did your social media following increase? Ask yourself these questions and with honest analysis, your future marketing plans will become much clearer.

What are THEY currently doing?

Time to get your Sherlock Holmes style cap on and do some investigating. Review your competitors to see what they are doing and how they are doing it

  • What platforms they are using
  • How they are using them
  • The tone of voice they are using on each platform
  • What posts work for them
  • What other techniques they use to market their brand
  • Reviewing your competitors may highlight new channels for you to explore next year.

Getting down to business

Get your magnifying glass out, you need take a long hard look at your business.

This section is all about your digital marketing goals. In order to determine what your digital marketing focus should be, you need to first ensure that they are in-line with your business wide objectives. Whether it be increased sales, more web traffic, higher store footfall, they should always remain the core focus when planning. Once objectives have been defined, set KPIs to encourage and track performance throughout the year.

KPIs can range from target CTRs on emails through to total downloads. Each KPI should support a business objective, for example, if you wish to increase footfall to your store, sending an email with a target open and click-through rate will help you achieve this. We recommend three or four goals per marketing platform but this will depend on your business and what you want to achieve. You need to make sure these goals are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic.

When deciding these goals make sure you keep your target audience in mind. This is an extreme example but there would be no point in wanting to achieve 10,000 LinkedIn followers when your target demographic is still in school.

The plan of action

What tactics will you deploy? This includes deciding the social media platforms that you think your business will be best represented on, a brief outline of the type of content that should be posted, what SEM (search engine marketing) techniques you will use and any other techniques that can help you achieve your goals. Strategically, have a clear, segmented focus. A scatter-gun approach to your marketing will make it harder for you to review the following year.

Is it doable?

It’s all good and well saying that you’re going to throw a million pound event on a hundred pound budget but you need to go through your plan and check it’s doable. Do you have the resources, budget and time to be able to do everything that you set out to do? If the answer is no then you probably have to go through and refine the idea.

And now it’s time…

Now that all of the previous points have been considered and agreed, it’s time to start building the actual year’s plan. When we create a yearly plan, we like to do it in a spreadsheet, with each column being broken up into each week in each month of the year. The rows are then broken up into:

1. Key dates

This isn’t the first row on the spreadsheet but it is the first one we like to work on. Going through all of the key dates in the year often helps decide the content for the other rows.

For many B2C companies, these will be big holidays like Christmas, Halloween, Valentines day, etcetera. Depending on your target audience, you can also add popular events in sports, the TV industry or music industry.

B2B companies can also add in the above dates but may be more inclined to look into the popular industry related events that happen throughout the year. These could be conferences, workshops or showcases, for example. You may also want to look into the dates of various industry awards and mark them down too.

2. Monthly topics

These can (and probably will) be loosely based on one or two of the key dates in that month. So the monthly topic for March may be as simple as ‘Easter’. This monthly topic will then help guide the month’s digital marketing content.

3. Sub topics

These will be related to the monthly topic somehow. For example the monthly topic may be ‘Loyalty apps’, the sub topics could then be ‘Digital loyalty schemes’ (week 1), ‘Loyalty apps we like’ (week 2), ‘Small business apps’ (week 3), etcetera etcetera!

4. Objectives

Aka what you want to achieve that week, relating to the sub topic. So what we mean is, in week 2 we have the subtopic ‘Loyalty apps we like’, our objective may be to up-sell our loyalty app development capabilities or to send traffic to the app development part of our site.

5. Tools

How you will achieve your objective that week… In other words, the marketing methods you will use… Newsletters, blogs & guest blogs, attending events, case studies, infographics- these are a few examples of the techniques you may jot down in the ‘Tools’ section.

We recommend also including some basic information, so what the blog is about, who you will guest blog for, what events you will actually attend.

6. Use of social

How you will use social media that week to support your marketing methods and as a stand alone marketing method too. For example, sharing your blog posts, interacting with other event goers and sharing facts from the infographic.

You will then fill this out for every week and month in 2016. We recommend reviewing it every few months or so to check it is still in line with what your brand wants to achieve. You can then use this plan when creating your marketing content each month. Using this means that everyone in your marketing team and business is on the same page and everyone understands what needs to be completed.

Want a free digital marketing plan template?

We have a free digital marketing plan template that we are happy for you to use! Just drop us a line, send us an email on


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