"What's our next marketing campaign and how will it be done?" Even credit unions with comprehensive marketing plans can sometimes find themselves scratching their heads with this question at times. After that question is finally answered, the challenge then becomes putting together a marketing campaign on time and within budget.
As a marketing supplier to credit unions, I see it quite often. Credit unions are often unsure what their next marketing promotion will be. Will it be loans or deposits, online banking or credit cards? It can all depend on how the credit union performed last quarter or what the boss feels is the top priority. Once the decision is made, the next questions are usually "What kind of marketing campaign will we use?" and "Do we have enough left in the budget to do it?"
Good marketing plans include a promotions calendar that establishes which products will be promoted at what time of the year. But as we all know, plans are made to be changed. As new products come out and priorities change, the calendar can look very different very quickly. This usually has the effect of eating into the budget too. It's not uncommon for many marketing departments to be out of money before year end because they spent their money on unplanned promotions. The promotions calendar is an important part of the plan but the budget needs to be planned too.
This is where a technique called marketing resource planning can be a big help to credit union marketers. Marketing resource planning can give you the flexibility to quickly adjust to the uncertainty of changing marketing promotions without blowing your budget. It can also help define the scope of your campaign as you begin planning it.
Marketing resources are the products and services used to create marketing campaigns. They can be things such as statement inserts, lobby posters, radio advertising, print ads, on-hold messages, you get the idea. They are also people and, obviously, budget items that you use to conduct marketing campaigns.
A good marketing resource plan can quickly show what resources remain for the quarter that can be used without going over budget. Marketing resource planning looks not at what products and services will be promoted but what resources will be available to conduct the marketing campaigns. If you know that your budget contains a certain number of direct mail campaigns for the year and suddenly you need to add one, the marketing resources plan can quickly help you decide if you will drop one of the other planned mailings or eliminate another resource so as not to go over budget. As the year continues and planned campaigns are run and unforeseen campaigns are inserted the marketing resource plan can be a valuable guide for the marketing department. Some credit unions don't use a promotions calendar, the marketing resource plan can be a very useful tool for them too. The resources of the campaign are already planned. When the promotion is decided upon all they need to do is order it according to the plan.
The real beauty of a marketing resource plan is in its flexibility and built-in budget monitoring. As campaigns are put together and resources used, it becomes apparent when a resource needs to be shifted from one month or quarter for particular campaign. But it also helps avoid overspending the budget and running out of money before the end of the year.
There are four basic steps to developing a marketing resource plan.
Step 1. Determine the scope of three or four levels of basic marketing campaigns based on the regular marketing components available to you. For example;
Level 1. Is a basic print campaign with statement inserts, newsletter, web graphic, lobby signage, and local print media.
Level 2. Has the same components as level 1 but also includes direct mail postcards or letters.
Level 3. Adds outdoor media advertising. (Billboards, bus stop shelters, etc.)
Level 4. Adds radio and/or TV advertising.
(Each credit union, of course, has to decide for itself what is within its means. Smaller credit unions might only want to consider the components of levels one and two and divide them into more levels.)
Step 2. Collect the costs of each component. It's easier than you think. Most marketing companies can give you estimates based on quantities.
Step 3. Build in some extra capacity. You're not locked into using just the components you came up with in step 1. You will want the ability to occasionally add in other ideas such as sponsoring community events, buying gift cards to give away, buttons for tellers to wear, balloons for car sales, and whatever else might come up during the year.
Step 4. Decide how many campaigns you will run each quarter and at what level. This part can also keep you from spreading your department too thin at times. Don't forget regularly scheduled events. If you normally sponsor and advertise at an annual event you will want to be sure to include it in your schedule.
Marketing resource planning offers many advantages.
It can be a valuable tool in developing and justifying a marketing budget during the annual planning process.
It simplifies the planning of individual marketing campaigns by having campaign levels and expenses pre-planned.
It serves as a convenient way to monitor the budget throughout the year.
It can serve to control costs. By knowing how many inserts, radio ads or direct mail pieces you will use for the year, you can negotiate your annual pricing with your marketing company, radio stations or mail house up front.
It sounds a bit complicated but it really isn't. Some campaign planning and a little research are all that's needed to make a usable marketing resource plan that can help you track your budget and make your marketing promotions run smoothly all year long.
Jim Nazario is director of marketing with Nationwide Marketing Solutions, Redlands, Calif. and can be reached at jnazario<at>nationwms.com.