- What do you need to do for your business to succeed? What are the guidelines of your business' marketing efforts? Of course, your marketing plan.
- Creating a marketing plan for your business is the first step in ensuring your marketing efforts do not go in vain.
- And having a structured strategy is the only thing that will help those efforts turn your business in the right direction.
“Okay, I need a logo, a website and a Facebook page and, presto I have my marketing!”
For many small business owners, this is the reality of their marketing efforts. Some slightly savvier startups might even use some neat tools to assist in their promotion. But marketing is not a silo, and even if your business benefits from flashy tools, real value comes from stopping to address how your marketing efforts solve business problems.
For example, why do you need a website? Is it for lead generation or as a portfolio? If it is for lead generation how competitive is your space from an online marketing perspective? Do your customers and audience make purchase decisions on or offline? How can you target them and what type of investment will that require? Do you have that funding? If not, what is the appropriate scaled back version of your online marketing?
Having worked with hundreds of small businesses at my agency, Tastic Marketing, I see the greatest disservice of modern digital marketing agencies is their lack of attention to planning and strategy before executing on marketing campaigns. So how do you decide what your marketing plan needs to look like? Well, let’s define the problem!
Define Marketing Objectives
Take the time to brainstorm what you want to focus on improving. What marketing objectives do you have? What specific outcomes do you want to create? What variables need to be considered?
Most businesses will come up with a list that looks something like this:
- Customer Retention,
- Lead Generation,
- Qualifying Leads,
- Brand Perception,
- Communicating Values,
- Differentiating Brand,
- Demonstrating USPs,
- Customer Journey Visibility.
While these goals sound great on paper, they aren’t specific and will not help you clearly define your business problems are how to structure your marketing efforts to address them.
- Instead of saying “Customer Retention,” you might propose something like “Improve customer retention for service X. Currently, audience(s) from demographics A and B churn within 90 days because of ______ this results in______.”
- Instead of “Lead Generation,” you might write “Store traffic is doing well but our highest-paying customers come from online channels, and our visibility isn’t great online. We want to increase generated leads by 50% from online channels while maintaining a x% contact to customer conversion ratio.
This kind of problem-defining helps your business tailor your marketing activities towards solving those problems.
Perhaps you want to tailor your brand to attract larger businesses. Many agencies might just recommend you dump money into paid ads. While investing in a PPC campaign might help generate more leads, it won’t help address your real problem, which is one of positioning and exposure.
This kind of marketing problem involves strategy and communication with all branches of your organisation. For example, working with your sales team to get valuable insights about audience targeting that can enable you to target publications that your ideal customer might frequent. From there you can develop a strategy to secure bylines, promoted content, or speaking opportunities – activities that get you in front of your ideal audience. This strategic, problem-solving approach to marketing is how businesses succeed in their promotional efforts.
As you try this exercise for yourself, what you will likely realise is that solving marketing problems actually requires a good understanding of your business. That is why marketing plans should integrate with your business plan. The next few sections demonstrate how the two are connected.
Your Business Plan Is Key
Hopefully you have put together a well thought out business plan that includes your SWOT analysis. But if not, use the template below to start now:
- Description of your Business
- Target Audience
- Trends in the Industry
- Market Segment
- Market Positioning (Including Pricing and Distribution)
- Types of Competitors
- Competitors' Strengths and Weaknesses
- Competitive Advantage / Unique Service Points (USPs)
Define Your Audience: Value in Details
Depending on your industry, early stage promotion might require you to experiment with who your target audience is. A good source of information is often your competitors. If your competitors have good marketing, you should be able to identify what audiences to target and how. Learn from your competitors, they’re giving you valuable data for free.
It’s important to be nimble in the early stages so if things don’t go as planned, that’s not a bad thing. As your business grows, you gain valuable insights and a more mature view of the direction your business is heading and the goals you want to achieve. With a larger client base, revisit this problem and apply the three steps below:
Step 1 – Who are your current customers
Targeting and segmentation are the lifeblood of any marketing campaign. Understanding what type of customer is interested in your products or services is a critical step in identifying what other segments can generate revenue. When you understand your existing customers and their pain points it can bring a lot of clarity to your positioning and value in the market.
During this exercise, be very specific and consider the details. Don’t just look at the business, consider who the decision makers are and who is looking for you. For many businesses, the decision maker and the individual identifying potential suppliers are often not the same person. Be specific about their demographics:
- Economic status,
- Marital status, etc.
Furthermore, consider their psychographics:
- Social views,
- Lifestyle, etc.
Step 2 – Define Similar Audiences
Combine the data from step one with your competitive and market research to identify what other audiences have similar needs.
Whether it’s targeting specific industries, filling gaps you’ve identified, or simply having success with a specific demographic, there is a lot of value in niches! Niches allow small businesses to become a big fish in a small pond and often make more money in the process. Once you’ve found a niche (or, more commonly, a niche has found you), it is easier to build your reputation and gain referrals.
Step 3 – Identify where and how those audiences consume content and research products
Once you’ve defined your audience you need to become inherently familiar with their needs, behaviors and purchase journey.
- Where do they consume their content?
- Is there a huge industry or trade publication that caters to them?
- Are their forums, or social media channels that they frequent to learn about or engage in topics relevant to your line of business?
- What about influencers; are there personalities that influence purchasing behavior in that industry?
When you understand how your potential customers make their purchase decisions it will allow you to effectively target them in your marketing efforts.
Step 4 – Plan and develop a promotion strategy
With the information from step 3 in mind this is where marketing gets fun! If you’ve identified your target market and marketing objectives, then you can begin working on how to best promote your marketing. You’ll want to choose what type of promotion makes sense for your campaign. For example, you might be deciding to use some of the following promotional tactics:
- Content marketing
- Social Media
- Paid Social
- Paid Advertising
- Traditional out of home (newspaper, radio, billboards, etc.)
No marketing strategy benefits from doing it all, even multi-million-dollar mass campaigns. It just doesn’t make sense.
For example, if you’re focusing on selling a specific product and increasing sales, you would want to have a promotional strategy that focuses on hard conversions, such as paid Facebook or AdWords where people will be seeing an ad, clicking through, and hopefully purchasing.
If you’re looking to increase visibility and awareness, then content marketing and SEO paired with social media would make sense. You have to decide what your goal is, which you hopefully did in step 3, and then you can decide how to best spend your dollars.
You also want to consider your target market and what you’re trying to sell. For example, if you’re selling a product to millennials, paid Facebook is 100% the way to go. However, if you’re selling a service that has a longer sales funnel, you want to invest in building awareness and trust, which is why content and SEO will be your best friend. If your target age is over 45 years of age, you might want to pump the breaks on spending money on social ads.
This is all important because you will want to invest your marketing budget where you will actually get a return on investment. You don’t want to spread your dollars to thin, just as you don’t want to spread them too thick in one area and miss out on another.
One other thing to consider is measurement. The great thing about paid digital advertising is that you can accurately measure the success of campaigns and adjust them on the fly if you have to. You can better watch your spend, and you can change the messaging to see what really works. Offline ads may be effective, but it’s almost impossible to know what the reach and impact of them are.
You want to make sure that your promotional tactics are complimentary and work together. Don’t link through to your website if you have crappy content or a finicky website – you’ll be wasting your money because everyone will drop off as soon as they land on your page. Make sure you have the right foundation before investing in any promotional strategy. Have a solid website, a strong call to action, proper tracking, and then dive into promotion. The more data you have, the better, so make sure every single thing you do is trackable – even if it’s an email newsletter.
Insights are what will allow you to better optimise your campaigns, making you more and more effective every time.