At Switchback Creative, we know small business owners can’t always plan that far out. Things are always changing, and entrepreneurs like to stay agile by not setting their plans in stone too far ahead.

Although it takes a bit of time, having a marketing plan with specific, measurable goals and a budget set aside for the year means you can dedicate strategic resources to growing your business. You can also create more impact with your marketing than you would by doing it on the fly.

As this article states, “Proactive marketing is an analytical approach that allows marketers to be agile, real-time, data-driven, and adaptable to the ever-changing needs and wants of both current and future customers. It encompasses all forms of marketing, and focuses on building strategies with a detailed understanding of a campaign’s audience, impact, and metrics for success — before executing the actual campaign.”

Strategy will ultimately save you time and money. We recommend setting a year-long marketing plan with several goals to work toward. You can align these with your fiscal year and business goals if you like.

Goal setting allows you to see your marketing in a big picture sense. Planning helps you ensure you’re using an integrated approach to reach your target audience (a mix of online, offline and community-based activities). You simply can’t get this overhead view when you’re just reacting to situations as they occur.

Your marketing plan should include a defined target audience, and every time you undertake a marketing activity, whether it’s hosting an event or placing an ad in a publication, you should be able to refer to your plan and your audience profile and know how your activities will support your goals.

That aside, it’s inevitable that sometimes your marketing will need to be reactive. A good marketing partner will recognize this and ensure you still make a great impression on your audience with everything you do. If you need to act on something that wasn’t in your plan, look at your goals and audience—you can usually still make it all fit together. Stay true to your brand and it will feel cohesive.

“Marketing in real-time isn’t easy – an ill-conceived tweet can spark a social media firestorm… The best brands using reactive content marketing are reaping the rewards of their bravery and innovation,” states this article, with five examples of great real-time marketing.

Whether you’re working with a marketing partner or you have an in-house team, make sure strategy and adaptability are both part of the mix.