Developing a Year-Long Marketing Plan

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Dec 2017 Reach

Bill Johnson has spent the majority of his professional career—38 years, to be exact—working in radio marketing. Yet, he quickly became well tuned to the requirements for marketing success at dealerships.

After moving on to work for Harper Auto Square in Tennessee in 2008, Johnson has helped spur eight straight years of sales growth. The biggest key to Johnson’s marketing impact? He’s extremely organized, especially when it comes to laying out year-long marketing plans.

Johnson, the marketing manager for six dealership stores, says his obsession with structure and efficiency has left him “in a very enviable position” professionally.

He’s the type of marketer who often measures the impact of past marketing campaigns well after they’re rolled out, and then plans future campaigns accordingly. With similar planning and foresight, other marketers can enjoy the success Johnson has in Knoxville. You don’t even need to be an expert about email blasts, or have a large staff (Johnson’s department features three employees).

Really, you just need to listen to the advice of savvy marketers like Johnson, who shares the keys to putting together a successful, year-long marketing plan below.


I’ve always had a slogan: Plan your work, and then work your plan. That seems to be the best way to handle it. You can’t just go by the seat of your pants and be successful. You’ve got to plan what you’re going to do.

The most important thing is to find out who your customer is. And the first thing to do is market toward them.

Everybody has their own responsibilities on staff. Michael takes care of the digital media, Connor takes care of the social media, and I take care of everything else. We usually have two or three meetings per week; most are less than 15 minutes. We find that if we sit down and everybody has their ideas right out on the table, it’s easy to come up with a very workable solution in a minimum amount of time.

We have incentives sent out regularly. Like, if you’re a Volkswagen owner, you might get a flier in the mail that says, “Get 10 percent off on your next oil change, or 20 percent off any major service.”

We do three “coffee and cars” events every year. And they’re so big that we have to have them at a local mall, because we will attract thousands of people. We have a local merchant who provides coffee, water and donuts.

Vehicle launch events are very successful, because we’re not only inviting our existing customer base, but conquest customers, as well. Sometimes we have a DJ and a band. We may go off site, like downtown at a social event place. We make sure that the beverages and food are unique.

Black Friday specials have worked really well because everybody’s out shopping. It would be like oil and filter, tire rotation, a complete fluid inspection, and wash and vacuum out your car. And it would be a price that’s about half of what we normally charge.

Fluidity and flexibility are paramount. We always have an open window in the marketing schedule, where we can go from one idea to another, depending on what the needs of a particular brand are. If you say, “I’m not going to make any changes—this is it,” that’s a recipe for trouble. Let’s face it, the automobile industry is in a constant state of flux, and as soon as you think, “It’s going to be like this for the next five years,” you’re in for a rude awakening.

I send marketing plans to the people directly involved, like the sales managers, the general managers. And then I let them filter that down to their employees. If they want a copy of the plan digitally, I’ll email it to them, but I’ll also print out a hard copy and place it in their hands personally. Usually, two or three days before a month begins, I give managers their plan for the coming month.

Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try some different and unique things, and make sure that you follow up on everything that you planned. We make sure we get as much out of objectives as we can, from point A to point Z. We don’t just make out a plan and say that’s it. I follow up on a consistent basis, to make sure it’s being successful.  

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