Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face – Boxing Quote
Why do military leaders spend an unbelievable amount of time planning for a battle when they know 80% of their plan will go out the window as soon as the fighting starts?
It's because the discipline of planning every detail will allow them to make smart and accurate decisions on the fly, which would not be possible if you did not take the time to plan beforehand.
Same goes with marketing. If you don't plan out your marketing strategy, you'll always be on uneven footing as you did not take the time to really analyze your business, your competitors, and your customers. Every hour you spend planning will save you two hours of headaches and mistakes later on.
Thorough planning gives you a deeper understanding of how your marketing will work and will make it easier to spot potential dangers and pitfalls along the way.
Most entrepreneurs want to take action, which is great, you just need a good plan to take action on. So if you are serious about creating a rock solid marketing plan for your business, set aside some time and use the steps below to get started.
Conduct a Marketing Audit For Your Business
Before you start planning, you'll need to take an inventory of your current marketing situation and how effective it is for your business.
Make a list of where you are spending your advertising dollars and where you are spending your time marketing your business. Once you know where your time and money is going, you want to analyze each activity and marketing channel to see what kind of impact it had on your business.
If you spot areas where you are spending a lot of time or money but is not bringing in the results you want, you'll need to ask yourself a few questions:
1 – Am I putting enough time/effort or money into this activity to make it work effectively for my business?
2 – Is this the right channel to find customers and grow my business?
3 – Should I commit to improving this marketing channel or should I focus elsewhere?
Many business owners fall into the trap of spending time on marketing activities that they are familiar with and ones that feel safe for them. These activities are often not the best ones to grow your business, but they are “comfortable” to the business owner so they continue to spend time on it despite seeing little in the way of results. Look at networking, go to any Meetup.com group in your area related to business and you'll see tons of people asking for referrals week after week (with little results) when they should really be spending their time doing outreach and cold calling to drum up business. But networking is much safer than putting yourself out there with real potential clients.
Take a hard look at how you spend your time and money and cut out anything that isn't helping you grow your business in terms of leads, sales, and customers.
How effective were you in the following areas:
- Partnerships/Joint Ventures
- Customer Retention
- Email Marketing
- Online Advertising
- Offline Advertising
- Social Media
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You don't need to be doing all of these, you just need to analyze the effectiveness of the channels you are using and measure the results you got compared to the time/money spent on them. As a small business owner, you can't do everything, you need to focus on the few marketing channels that will bring you the most results.
Look at where your sales are coming from. Look at your web analytics to see where your traffic and leads are coming from (If you don't have Google Analytics setup, do it now!). Dive into your sales data and try to connect the dots so you can trace your sales back to its origins. If you can figure this out, then you'll have a good idea where you need to spend more of your time and money going forward.
Define Your Audience
Do you really know who your customers are? If you say everyone is your customer, I can say with confidence that your marketing is mediocre at best.
Being able to market to people effectively starts with having a deep understanding of your customer and what their likes, fears, and concerns are and being able to address them.
Creating universal marketing messages that try and appeal to everyone rarely works. The reason why the 35-year-old mom of four buys from you will be different from the 65 yr old retiree who has a passion for travel. You need to segment your different buyers into “buyer personas” and then to find out as much as you can about them and why they would buy from you.
Once you have this information, then you can start crafting compelling messages that resonate with them. That's how you create highly effective marketing campaigns, by understanding your customers, then doing your best to give them the message and offers that most resonate with them.
Yes, it's more work that creating a generic ad that you send to everyone, but you're probably reading this because you're not happy with your current marketing results. The better you plan, the more effective you'll be.
Once you have these “buyer personas” created and have a better understanding of what's important to them, you can start reaching these personas as a group, with specific messaging. You may do this by running multiple, targeted ad campaigns targeting each persona. You may segment your website where each persona has its own page with its own message, the idea is to segment your potential customers and tell them what they want to hear so they will become your customer.
Conduct a Competitor Analysis
Now that you have a solid understanding of your current marketing situation, you can start analyzing some of your top competitors. If most of your leads and sales come from online, then focus on your top 3 online competitors. If most of your leads and sales come offline, then focus on the competitors you go up against offline. Better yet, do both!
Once you have your list of competitors, ask and answer these questions:
1 – Where are they spending their marketing time and money?
2 – How visible online are they in the organic search results (Google.com, Bing.com) and are they doing online advertising? How effective is it compared to my business?
3 – Are they using any marketing channels that I'm not? Should I investigate these channels as well?
4 – What is their main message on their website and in their advertising, does it resonate with potential customers better than my message?
5 – Are they doing anything new that I was not aware of?
6 – Are they missing a crucial marketing channel that will give me the opportunity to exploit this gap?
7 – How can I do take what they are doing and do it even better?
There may be more questions you want to ask, but you get the point. Compare your efforts to theirs, look for opportunities and weaknesses, and strive to beat them by doing things smarter and better.
Set Your Marketing Goals
At this point you should know:
1 – The state of your current marketing effectiveness, what is doing well and what is not
2 – Who your customers are, broken down into different “personas”, each with their own message that resonates most with them
3 – Who your competitors are, what they are doing marketing wise, and opportunities for you to beat them
Now you need to set your marketing goals in place, the more specific the better. Your goals should be set on measurable KBI's (Key Business Indicators) and not outcomes. A poor goal would be to hit 1 million in revenue by the end of the year. Why? Because it's an outcome, the end result of many different things you do in your business to generate revenue. You can't tell your employees to “make more revenue”, but you can set goals on activities that will ultimately produce the revenue goals you want.
Examples of specific marketing goals would be:
- Generate 10 new leads per week. You may set this because you want to acquire 2 new clients per week and your typical conversion rate is 20%. You achieve by determining the right, marketing mix to reach your lead goals each week, which could be advertising, cold calling, email marketing, etc.
- Create, publish and promote 2 targeted blog posts per week. You may set this goal as part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy where you create targeted blog posts aimed at the personas you have created.
- Create an online course to educate potential customers. You may create this because it will become part of your lead magnet strategy to bring in more leads through your website.
So you get the point, focus your goals on things that will ultimately produce you the end result you are looking for.
Here's a tip. Don't just set annual goals for your business, set goals throughout the year. Break your goals down into weekly or monthly targets so they don't seem so distant or unattainable because they are so large. Set goals for the year, for the quarter and for the month, once you hit them, create new goals. You don't have to create goals once a year in January. Make hitting your goals fun, have prizes for your employees for reaching goals or reward yourself with a weekend trip for hitting your goals, the point is to keep everyone positive and motivated throughout the year.
Once you have your goals in place, you can start planning your marketing with the intent of reaching the goals you have set.
Decide On Your Marketing Channels
Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, you just need to decide on the best way to reach your potential customers with you message/offer. This may be online or offline, and most likely a combination of the two split between paying with advertising or paying with your time.
Here are my favorites and what works for me as well as our clients.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & creating content on your website
- Google Adwords
- Facebook Ads
- Email marketing
- Email and cold call outreach
- Joint ventures with other businesses
You may also use other marketing strategies like social media or networking, I personally like to choose marketing strategies that tend to lead to a direct conversion, like a sale or contact form submission. Strategies like social media and networking do work, they are just more difficult to quantify and the path to a conversion tends to be long and winding. I like to take the shortest path possible.
Now that you have everything you need to create a killer marketing strategy, it's time to put it into action. You can read this article on putting your marketing plan in action, it includes some free download worksheets to help get you on your way.
Have questions about creating a highly effective online marketing strategy or want someone to help create it for you? You can contact us here.