Guest Blog: Alan Armstrong's 6-3-6 Marketing Plan!
When first starting out as a pub manager in the early 2000’s I felt constantly let down and frustrated by the head office marketing teams supporting my pubs and bars. POS was always late, Communication and briefs were poor quality, and deadlines were non-existent.
So, when I was giving the opportunity to step into “head office” (a term I hate BTW) and into the marketing department, I set about to build a simple planning model which gave all the major stakeholders who were part of a marketing campaign, the time they needed to maximise the opportunity to drive sales/profit/brand awareness etc.
The model which was born is called 6-3-6, and ever since its conception (over 10 years ago) I’ve taken it everywhere I’ve worked as a tool to aid planning, communication, engagement, and marketing quality.
But before you learn about 6-3-6, it’s important to start with the importance of the annual marketing calendar which you build for your brands and venues. In my opinion, your 12-month plans should be fluid and continuously evolving, rather than the traditional method of building them at the start of the new financial year (normally to keep your CEO and CFO happy) and then “locking them in” without ever challenging the why, the what or the how for the rest of the year. When building out your Marketing calendar, I also recommend a “less is more” approach to building marketing plans. Don’t go chasing every national day (sorry Jack Jolly) and only pick the arbitrary days which matter to you as a brand and (most importantly) matter to your target customer base. Whilst the 4 x bank holidays, Halloween and Christmas are must have items within hospitality, be choosy about chasing the likes of Valentine's day, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Summer holidays or Freshers (sorry, student welcome) unless you think it’s relevant for your target demo. Make “Fewer, bigger, better” be your mantra, and use the extra time this creates amongst your marketing team to ensure you have well-rounded marketing plans for each campaign which covers the whole marketing mix.
Once you have your annual plans built (and approved) with your topline campaign plan for each month, we now start planning them using the famous 5 P’s quote embedded into me as a pub manager apprentice (“perfect planning prevents poor performance”). And this is where 6-3-6 kicks in…..
What is 6-3-6?
- 6 - We kick off all our planning 6 months ahead of the event date.
- 3 - We share our plans with the wider business, Operators, and key stakeholders 3 months out
- 6 - And we go-live with all our activity online and in-venue 6 weeks from the event.
(*Disclaimer: Christmas is an obvious exception to this, which goes live 6 months ahead in most businesses)
This is how 6-3-6 works in theory:
- 6 months:
- Kick off your planning with a meeting with key stakeholders across the business to start brainstorming ideas 6 months ahead of the date (so for Halloween, we start the process in April)
- I personally always find it best to keep your stakeholder planning groups as small and efficient as possible (maximum 6 people) and try to cluster events all happening in the same month into the same meeting
- Ensure you bring a review of last year’s campaign for learners.
- Make sure your meeting attendees all do some prep ahead of the meeting.
- Also ask your key food/drink suppliers to contribute some ideas too.
- Make sure all the marketing touchpoints are discussed within your discussions. i.e., How does the campaign look in-store (food/drink/ents)? On a website? On social? On the app? On your gift card? And of course, on your emails via your CRM system (Airship no doubt)?
- 3 months:
- From the 6-month meeting, use the next 8-10 weeks to get creative and plan exactly what the campaign looks like and get creative assets together etc.
- Aim to get all plans confirmed 3 months ahead so your Operators and venues always know 3 months ahead what is planned and coming from HQ.
- Again, using the Halloween example, this means your GM’s and AMs are seeing your plans for Aug, Sept, and Oct in their July regional or team meeting.
- 6 weeks:
- Data shows that potential customers need to see your marketing message a minimum of 7 times before they are likely to book or purchase a ticket.
- Therefore, the aim is to go fully live with your campaign 6 weeks out from your event date with a multi-faceted campaign to promote it to the max.
- This includes POS in store, merchandising, website, social-media, CRM emails, paid-social and search campaigns etc.
- So, for Halloween this would mean a go-live of mid-September.
- Post event Review:
- The 6-3-6 process ends after the event when we (marketing) swiftly do a 360 review of the campaign to grab all the data we need to make learnings and recommendations for next year. This can be a mixture of data such as sales performance, promotion redemption, email CTR, website CVR etc and verbatim based feedback such as customer feedback, Ops stop/start/continue.
Following this 6-3-6 model for all your key date activity and brand campaigns will help you maximise sales and profit, increase stakeholder engagement and get the competitive advantage over your competition.
PS… keep everyone fueled with sweets and fruit for maximum out-put!
Happy planning everyone!