2012 Marketing: Five Ways to Power It Up

By: Guest | January 2, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Mana Ionescu

During the holidays I prepared two days of meals, made three grocery trips, and cooked for about 12 hours straight.

In the end, we ate for 45 minutes each day, and the mashed potatoes were the most popular food item.

This reminded me of the lesser-known, and rarely-discussed side of marketing.

Behind the public side of marketing there are fundamental mechanisms that take place. And, just like cooking, marketing is a process that culminates in a quickly-consumed output.

Much too much conversation happens around the output so I decided to put together a list of the “secret sauce” ingredients that will help you improve your marketing efforts, starting with the foundation.

1.  Make a commitment to invest in promoting your business.

This investment can take many forms – it can be time, money, meeting new people, or stepping outside of your comfort zone. You don’t have to decide today how much you’ll spend or how much time you’ll dedicate to any activity. Just make a commitment to shed skepticism and cynicism and accept the value of promotional work.

Here’s an example: In early 2011, a business owner asked me, “Do we really need a website? I don’t know if we’re getting anything from it.” It turns out the website was getting a high volume of visitors and thousands of new email subscribers each month. Not knowing and not “getting” are two different things. The site was “getting,” but the business owner didn’t know it.

Every business needs a website, marketing (old and new), SEO, and PR. No excuses. Your business won’t magically promote itself.  Remember Groupon? Their sales and marketing investment was just as big as they grew to be.

Decide today you will grab every opportunity you can to promote your business. The longer you delay starting your efforts in any of the essential areas the longer you will delay seeing results. I’m not proposing overspending. I’m proposing you accept the fact that “becoming famous” doesn’t come for free. So decide today you will not sweat every penny and every hour that needs to be spent on promoting your business. Just focus on investing on what will get you results.

2.  Start a (collaborative) simple marketing calendar. 

About 80 percent of the businesses we worked with in the past year did not have a useable marketing calendar. Some had a marketing calendar that only one person could see and no one used. We saw whiteboard calendars and paper organizers. We’ve heard every reason you can imagine for why that is so – “we have too many calendars already,” “who will update the calendar?” “I like paper.”

Isn’t it much harder to navigate to a destination with hand-written directions only, and much easier with a map or a GPS? A marketing calendar is your map. You may choose to take a different path, but you still have the guide there.

A useful marketing calendar should be:

  • Accessible
  • Current
  • Simple
  • Clear

Here’s how to accomplish that:

  1. Set up a Google calendar.
  2. Give access to all those who help you with promotional work.
  3. Email your contributors (your PR people, marketing and social media, SEO and customer service) and ask them to add the main promotional milestones of the year (in your industry). From holidays to major national conferences; list them all in there. Don’t allow this calendar to become a brainstorm document. It’s just a calendar.  Keep it simple!

3. Think three months ahead.

Generally in December we think of the holidays but in fact, in December we need to start planning our Valentine’s Day campaigns. Now that you have the major marketing milestones plotted on you calendar, subtract 3 months and plot your kick-offs. If your project life-cycle is 6 months then subtract 6 months.

Don’t over-think this. This is not your marketing plan. Just pencil in a few milestones that will act as a guide, or as a compass for you throughout the year. You’ll keep adjusting directions but the ship feels much more in control if you have a compass.

It will never be too early to start, but it can get too late. In marketing, just like in life, it’s best to get there early.

4. Ask “why” five times.

For every marketing idea you or your team will come up with ask “why” should we do this. If you really want to select through ideas fast, put them through the obnoxious test of the five whys. It is the most effective annoyance exercise you will ever do.

Idea: We should be on Twitter.

Q: Why?

A: So we can have more of a presence online.

Q: Why?

A: So we can reach more people.

Q: Why?

A: So more people know of us.

And so on…

You can see how you get more clarity the more you ask. The reason we want to be on Twitter is to get more people to become aware of us. And there are many ways to do that, not just Twitter. So now we can look into all the ways to get there. We also just killed an assumption that may have limited our marketing.

5. Have a champion? Keep her a champion!

What is the one thing that worked really well last year? Consider a repeat. You may have to re-tool it but don’t be afraid to re-do. Think of Coca-Cola and their Santa commercials. Coca-Cola started the Santa campaign in 1931. The illustrations were so popular Coca-Cola continued to work with Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom until 1964 and the concept remained until today.

As a marketer I’m used to being asked for “new ideas” frequently. New ideas are great, but they’re not champions until they defeat a champion. So I prefer to focus on winning ideas rather than “new ideas.”

In conclusion, commit to making no excuses, get organized, watch the compass, simplify and stick to your winner.  Now you can start your marketing planning. Ready? Go!

What are your “behind-the-scenes” marketing tips?

Mana Ionescu is the president and founder of Lighspan Digital, where digital marketing is done with purpose. Follow her blog here


  • BestVirtualHelp

    Good article. @SpinSucks

  • kafilutz

    Nice insights. I appreciate that you recognized, that simplicity is valuable and that new is not always better.

    • @kafilutz thanks! Yes, “simple” works for everyone. Complicated… well, it’s complicated ;). Do you have a tip you’d like to share?

      • kafilutz

        @manamica The one thing to ask before doing anything (not just in marketing) is: Does the added value cover the added cost?

        Unfortunatley a lot of times the evaluation seems to be overlooking the added complexity. Despite the fact that complexity is a huge costdriver and is coming along with a rattail of risks and coordinationefforts…

        • @kafilutz we should look for MORE value than the added cost. Right?

        • kafilutz

          @manamica exactly. Don’t forget to be aware that often the valuation depends on the person who looks at it. In a lot of cases people are strongly biased.

          As an example: In respect to advice #5 this can lead to a marketing manager changing a lot of things because he feels, that if he would “just” optimize and adapt an existing strategy it wouldn’t be enough to excite his boss.

  • I love this post because it is simple, direct and makes sense. It is helpful and will be easy for people to drop in, read, understand and take away. Good start for 2012. Excellent points/reminders for all of us. Thanks.

    • @allenmireles thanks fo the kind words. Everyone deserves a good start to 2012, even our marketing planning does :).

  • manamica

    @ginidietrich Gini, thanks so much for the opportunity to guest post!

  • manamica

    @jenny_parker1 thanks for resharing my post. What’s ur #1 marketing tip for 2012? 🙂

  • manamica

    @Event360 thanks for resharing my post. What’s ur #1 marketing tip? 🙂 @ginidietrich

    • Event360

      @manamica @ginidietrich Don’t be too obsessed by technique

  • manamica

    @misterrjones thanks for resharing. What’s ur #1 tip for 2012? 🙂

    • misterrjones

      @manamica My #1 Tip for 2012 is to make it to 2013

  • manamica

    @JenMcGahan Hi Jen, thanks for resharing. What’s ur #1 marketing tip for 2012? 🙂

  • manamica

    @jasonkonopinski thanks Jason. Do you agree?

    • jasonkonopinski

      @manamica Typing a comment on the post right now. 🙂

      • manamica

        @jasonkonopinski ok, I’ll be patient then 😉

        • jasonkonopinski

          @manamica A patient Romanian? Pffft. 😉

  • manamica

    @M_Laing thanks Michelle! Asking why 5 times helps avoid making bad assumptions 🙂 What do u think of that method? @spinsucks

  • I love what you’ve done here, Mana! The collaborative marketing calendar is such a powerful concept because it really breaks down the silos that plague so many organizations. It always amazing me that even the smallest teams suffer from the silo-effect to the detriment of their own success.

    Point #4 is one that I use again and again, both personally and professionally. It really helps me organize my thought process when presenting an option.

    • @jasonkonopinski Jason, I have a question about that. I like #4 but I fail at it sometimes. Do you mix up the questions ever? I’m curious what other Ws should be thrown in there to make that method more effective?

      • @manamica I think Why is the most powerful question to ask because it really forces us to examine every step of the decision-making process. It might be uncomfortable and we might not like the answers, but that’s kind of the point.

  • manamica

    @deliberateink @ShakirahDawud 🙂 maybe a new idea for Gini, a “ask Gini” column… @ginidietrich

  • We have been planning the 2012 calendar for some time and Google Docs and Calendars dont seem to work for us because they require us to all look in a different spot. I am constantly asking people for things just to realize they put the docs in the Google folder and I didnt check my gmail. I totally agree that this is a must-have but wish there was an easier way. Any ideas?

    I also love #4 but unless people know what you are doing and why, then I can see some angry glances exchanged over the 5 questions 🙂

    • @C_Pappas hi! what is this “different spot.” Is it a different calendar system, like outlook? I know some large companies block gmail altogether. If you’re not blocked from gcal you can easily import and synch with pretty much any email/calendar system. If you’re blocked from gmail outlook also has its own “team” calendar function. I know Lotus Notes has that option as well. Ask your tech support people. When there’s a will there’s a way 🙂 Re: #4 yes, it’s best to set expectations and then ask the questions. I usually preface with, “I’m going to ask a few tough questions but I promise there’s a reason behind the madness [insert smile].”

  • I think the first point hit home the most. It might be because I’m starting a new business. I have to address the other four ideas, too, although sharing a calendar isn’t a huge hassle. I’m the only person at my business. Maybe some day I will have to worry about sharing a calendar. I think that would be a nice worry to have. Since it is only me at the business, I spend a lot of time with number four. I have to be very conscientious about my aims for and purposes with using certain tools.

    • @Erin F. congrats on your new business Erin! This is the year for it, go get’em! You can’t start marketing too early, honestly. Start getting the word out there as soon as you can :).

  • Hi there, Mana! And a Happy New Year to you! I really like this post a lot. I love the collaborative calendar and you’ve given me some really great tips to make it work. I’ve used Google Calendar for a variation of this with my social media manager, as a way to project out content and reminders throughout the month for different client accounts. In the past, I would use a pdf calendar and send it as an attachment to our graphic designer, and the client, but because it was ‘set’ so to speak, it didn’t allow for easy updates. This is a perfect way to do it!

    I also really like your final point about not being afraid to use something again when it works! So often, the temptation is to change just for change sake or to be perceived as ‘fresh’ or cutting edge. I’d much rather be perceived as being on target and generating results, regardless of it’s an old idea or a new one!

    • @EricaAllison Hi and Happy New Year to you too! Yes, no more pdfs :). I often think of it as crowdsourcing. I’m surrounded by all these smart, wonderful people, why not let them make the updates and notes on the calendar? Re: reusing a champion – exactly, let’s stay focused on results, right?

      • @manamica@EricaAllison Of course the difference in this context is that we’re all willing and able to do the work and see what is effective in meeting those marketing and promotional objectives.

        Empowering the team to make updates and notes is the first step to really taking ownership of their roles within the organization, IMO. And that’s a good thing.

  • @manamica what a powerful and useful post! I LOVE the collaborative calendar suggestion…I really need to get that organized. I have such a huge project in front of me and sometimes (like today) I feel like I am approaching it with a “by the seat of my pants” system and you and I both know that is not sustainable. I am going to try to organize a calendar and think three months in advance (love that too) and get my team to…well…work as a team! I often feel like the team leader of a team that isn’t a team (if that makes sense) They are by no means saboteurs but they have always relied on me to get everything done (and I have) It’s time to work together as a team…that is one of my actionable goals for 2012 and you have provided me with a lot of food for thought. Thank you manamica and…..Happy New Year!



    • @SocialMediaDDS Hi Claudia, hugs back! Getting organized is a never-ending process 🙂 m_laing reminds me to be more organized. And I feel like that’s the trick, if I can surround myself by people who are better than me, I’ll become better than this “me” too heh. So give it a try, ask your team to organize the calendar and think 3 months in advance. Only after they add their pieces do a read-through and add your touches. And I’d love to learn what other solutions you find in the process. Please send back your wisdom :).

  • esmeraldaengla1

    @IAmAdamGreen Want to be your own boss? I became mine 3 months ago and now I make 4k a month working fro home mymoneyjournalsite .com

  • Mana – I love the five why’s. I’d never heard of that before but it’s so simple. Love it! Happy New year my friend!

    • @Sean McGinnis Happy New Year! Let me know what happens when you ask them. It’s my version of an idea I got from “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. Simon says, “any organization can explain “what” it does; some can explain “how” they do it; but very few can clearly articulate “why.”” And what I learned is that even when asked few can clearly articulate why. That’s why sometimes we have to ask 5 times.

      • Yep – big fan of Sinek’s Why-based approach – just hadn’t thought about it in a project or tactical context. Great stuff. @manamica

        • @Sean McGinnis @manamica how many boys are in your house, Sean? Don’t you have a why-based approach at home? I bet you’d be great at this!

        • @Lisa Gerber@sean or perhaps the boys are asking why the most?

  • John_Trader1

    Excellent post, thank you for the tips and motivation (love the Google calendar idea)! I particularly liked the idea of reusing campaigns that worked before. I often feel that in the rush to be creative and come up with new ideas, I often lose sight if this and try to make everything “new” and “shiny.” Recycled campaigns with a new twist have proven to be effective and there is something to be said about familiar looks and feels with your community.

    I also want to add that marketers just can’t be afraid to fail with their efforts. The pressure to hit home runs with every campaign often masks the value of learning through failure in order to polish an idea into something that resonates. If something doesn’t work, don’t go back to the drawing board so quickly. Fine tuning can often bring more success faster than going back to square one.

    • @John_Trader1 Hi John! Isn’t it funny that we “rush” to be creative, when it doesn’t take a rush to reuse. I think @kafilutz was also referring of the fear of failing below. But “polishing” (I really love your term here) should lower the risk of failure right?

      • John_Trader1

        @manamica You’re absolutely right. Rushing to polish isn’t as inherent as it may seem. We often look to lower the risk of failure by wowing everyone with our new ideas rather than retooling something that is creative but just didn’t hit the mark on the first time around.

  • ChrisMurphy1

    Mana, I love your post. The marketing calendar resonated with me. This past year, we began using Basecamp to help encourage team collaboration and improve communication within our organization. You inspired me to create a marketing calendar project using our Basecamp software. This way the entire team can see it and get involved!

    • @ChrisMurphy1 Hi Chris! Yes, we use Basecamp too! I synch the Basecamp calendars with the Google Calendar. Great idea to use Basecamp to organize the calendar! Sounds like you’re more than set! Have a fantastic 2012! 🙂

  • aliciamarie112

    @manamica I got a problem loading page…did you have another link for me? 🙂

    • manamica

      @aliciamarie112 maybe this will work 🙂

      • aliciamarie112

        @manamica it worked. Thanks for sharing with me 🙂

  • manamica

    @careersherpa thanks for resharing the marketing tips article. would love to hear your tips 🙂

  • manamica

    @NotEasyToForget thanks. Not easy to ask why 5 times, but it works great 🙂

    • NotEasyToForget

      @manamica made perfect sense to me!

  • Hi mana! You’re so right about re-using a successful campaign. Why reinvent? I thought we all knew that?! But no, I’ve spent a great deal of time in tourism marketing and every year, everyone wants to “refresh the brand” usually because it’s a new group of individuals. It doesn’t matter; even if you don’t “like” it. Let it do it’s thing. Give it time to show results or not. Measure it. THEN make an educated decision.

    Thanks for the very smart post!!! 🙂

    • @Lisa Gerber Hi Lisa! Ah, refreshing the brand… maybe asking why 5 times would change their minds? 😉

      • @manamica@Lisa Gerber That is such a great idea. I wish I had known this new little trick in one particular instance. Instead of stomping and screaming about longevity, I could have sat there calmly and say “why?” five times. Brilliant.

        • @Lisa Gerber I have trouble sitting there calmly, that’s how I came up with the 5 whys :). And since I’m naturally a big talker, it also reminds me to slow down and give the other person time to talk.

  • DTCchicago

    @manamica love the article, especially #3 Thinking three months ahead is crucial for all us marketing/pr/internet folk. ^jh

    • @DTCchicago Thanks ^JH! Any tips you DTC guys want to share?

      • DTCchicago

        @manamica Hmmm, let’s see – I would say using web analytics software to jump start your marketing would be a great idea for the new year. Tracking your goals in Google Analytics allows you to analyze how effective/valuable your different online lead generation streams. If you are not actively tracking how people are using and exploring your website, there is no time like the present to install Analytics on your site. George Zlatin (one of our co-founders) just wrote a blog post on goal tracking in Analytics for anyone looking to get in the know:

  • jennimacdonald

    Think Three Months Ahead! That is my favorite point. I sometimes forget this but try to remember due to the fact that it is crucial when it comes to pulling off well connected campaigns, especially those that are centered around a niche audience.

    • @jennimacdonald Hi Jenni! If you put the “kickoff” on the calendar you won’t forget :). So I think it goes beyond thinking 3 months ahead, it’s think and act 3 months ahead.

  • ShakirahDawud

    @cristerdelacruz Hi, Crister, how are you?

  • So glad that kathysteele shared your post with our team. We’re using the Google shared calendar/documents for our editorial content and love that everyone can access and view. Another tip is to share the love – we’ve been dividing and conquering so that content development is shared among different contributors – sharing the workload, voice and perspective.

    • @Nichole Santoro Hi Nichole! I love the idea of “sharing the love.” There’s power in numbers, isn’t there? kathysteele

      • kathysteele

        @manamica@Nichole Santoro I absolutely loved this post! We felt so relieved when we determined that the Google calendar would house our 2012 content and marketing plan. So much easier than updating an excel matrix and redistributing! I also feel it is our duty to ask why when working with clients. Why do you need a moblie app, a rebranding, a QR code campaign? Clients like to latch on to trendy marketing tactics and just like telling a friend that micro-mini does not work on her you have to have that same candid conversation with clients.

        • @kathysteele@Nichole Santoro sounds like you’re off to a really great start to the year!

  • belllindsay

    There is just so much in here that I *love* that I don’t know where to start! “I love paper” made me laugh out loud!! 🙂 And the Five Whys test is so simple yet so effective! But even the 45 minute dinners of champion mashed potatoes delivered visceral impact (though that could be because I friggin’ DIE for mash). This one is bookmarked. Absolutely chock full of info. Cheers, Lindsay

    • @belllindsay ha! I am glad you got a few chuckles out of this. You know, the mash potato story has a hidden marketing story in it too. My BF says, “make more mash potatoes” (he was peeling them you see), and I said “no, I’m making this and that.” He says, “but you can never have too much mash potatoes!” Do I listen? No. Marketing lesson – listen to the eaters (your customers), they know what they want to eat better than the cook (the marketer).

  • manamica

    @MichaelBowers thanks Michael! Got a #marketing tip we should add? @spinsucks

  • Awesome tips Mana 🙂 Happy New Year.

  • ricksarver

    @ginidietrich @manamica The fourth tip was great but I like the third one better.

  • feliciahudson

    Mana, well done. I LOVE these tips–especially number 4! I launched a freelance writing business last year and the biggest challenge has been learning to juggle all marketing on my own, along with client work. Managing all the marketing (new and old) is extremely time consuming as a solopreneur (no matter how much I try to streamline or automate). I already use Google calendar, but will create one strictly for marketing. I plan to also implement the editorial calendar @Lisa Gerber shared a couple of months ago to revive my already dying blog and other social media content. Okay, I feel energized. Ready, set, go! 🙂

  • nathperrotin

    @marketngtidbits Thanks for the RT 🙂

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