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As we approached Y2K, we MacIntosh people had a joke about Microsoft. "Everyone's in a panic, because Microsoft didn't plan on 2000 following 1999." Ha-Ha-HA.

Anyhow, the whole panic of the Y2K "virus" created a short-term bubble in the demand for software developers (and consequently in the earning capacity of software developers). Everyone was in a race to find and fix all of the date sensitive bits and pieces of all the software in ... the ... WORLD! It had to be done, and it had to be done now, before the clock struck twelve and who-knows-what-will-happen.
So, for about three years, everyone overpaid (by a double digit percentage) for routine entry-level software development, just because poor planning created a demand for more routine entry-level software developers than actually existed. All because...somebody forgot to plan on the arrival of the next millenium.

This is a big example of something that haunts budges across the advertising world. Lack of planning inflates the price of ... mostly everything.

Here's why. Say your product is handbells (just for fun). You know, the kind they use in bell choirs. You probably know that your product cycle is something like this:

- School starts. Bell Choir starts. Need to buy handbells.
- After Thanksgiving, Bell Choir begins to practice for Christmas concert. Need to buy bells. Need to repair and do maintenance on bells.
- Spring break, followed by a big push for new players in next year's bell choir. Need to boy bells. Need to repair bells. Need to buy instructional materials.
- End of school year, time to store bells. Need to do end of year repairs and maintenance on bells.

Now, please don't get all mad at me if this is not exactly your cycle. I am speculating for the sake of giving an example.

So, if you're marketing this, you'll probably want to send out mailers, maybe even with a promotional discount, right after the July 4, as a reminder to all the bell-ringer-decision-makers.

Then, you'll probably want to send a "last chance to get this hum-dinger of a deal" reminder post card and email, sometime around Labor Day.

Maybe around the beginning of November, you want to communicate, "There's a holiday season coming up; does that ring a bell?" And then, follow up with a post card right after Thanksgiving. Maybe do a promotional special involving Santa hats.

Maybe sometime around March 1, you send out the Spring-ringa-ding promotion. You know, "Football teams aren't the only ones who ring bells at spring training." Maybe include a promotion that includes a "Getting Started with Hand Bells" instructional book and video.

And then, around the middle of may, do the "Get your ringers in order" communication.

All tolled, you have:

1. Four major promotional direct mail pieces
2. Four reminder postcards
3. Maybe eight HTML eBlasts, each with a landing page
4. A stock of promotional Santa hats
5. A stock of instructional packets (including a book and a video)

This is not rocket science. It's just a matter of knowing what is knowable. Just by taking the time to know what is knowable, you put yourself in a position to:

1. Negotiate up to a year in advance for your agency to develop the printed pieces as they have time available. By doing so, you can avoid errors and revisions that come from rushing around. And, you can almost always negotiate a favorable rate, because you're not asking the agency to put other clients on hold to turn your project in a week.
2. You can have all four promotional pieces and all four post cards bid and printed as one, large job. Gaining the economies of scale.
3. By planning ahead, you can work your purchasing system to shop the world, during down times, to purchase things like Santa hats and instructional materials. I'm betting (although I have never tested this) that a Santa hat is much cheaper in June than it is in October. Especially if you have the time to look around and find the one guy who is stuck with a warehouse full of them and who is behind on his rent.

Sorry to sound like a broken record. But it's really true. You really need a strategy. And there's no better reason than that if you have a strategy, it's easier to create and manage a realistic budget.

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