Marketing planning and routes to market

Most small business owners know how important it is to have a business plan as a plan outlines your company’s course for success. However, one crucial element of that plan which is sometimes missing or hidden is the marketing strategy.

Marketing strategy can quite often be buried within the larger business plan and, as such, many small business owners may not give marketing the time, research and attention it deserves, assuming that they know their customer base and how to reach them. But an in-depth and detailed approach to laying out your marketing strategy can reveal opportunities from a new audience or potential product line, pitfalls in pricing, competition reaction, and potential reach.

In my previous post, I outlined 4 core tasks to consider when developing a marketing plan, but you need to figure out how you are going to reach that target customer. You need to identify a suspect, turn them into a prospect and then a client and quite often, your marketing strategy can just be to “sell” a meeting.

Anyway, aside from the 4 core tasks I touched on in June, there is also traditional print and broadcast media, but there are also two tech-driven marketing channels that many of today’s business owners utilise and hence, should be considered.

Social media
Social media has become an essential part of businesses’ marketing plans because every type of customer is on some type of platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other networks. Small business owners can feel overwhelmed at the possibilities but should focus on the ones that can benefit them the most.
Brett Farmiloe, founder of internet marketing company Markitors, advised companies that are
just getting started in social media to get to know their customers and what platforms they are using.
“Figure out where your customers are spending their time, and set up shop on those platforms,” Farmiloe told Business News Daily. “Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms. While all three steps are key, the biggest one is really determining if your customers are on these platforms.”

Email
Though email marketing may not be a new concept like social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for many small business owners. In fact, recent statistics show that 89% of millennial customers STILL prefer email as a communication route.
Companies can implement email-marketing techniques in a number of ways, including using newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails. Companies such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy for companies to manage their email campaigns.

With so many marketing routes to market, you’ll have to decipher the best ones to use via testing, but don’t discount anything until you’ve tried it and make sure that these routes are part of the larger marketing plan.

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How do I develop a small business marketing plan?

When developing a marketing plan, there are roughly 4 core tasks to consider:

1. Develop a very clear and focused insight into why a potential customer would use your business. More specifically, figure out the core need that your product or service will meet. Is it to help your customers get through the day more easily? Do their job more efficiently? Be respected and admired by friends? Your offering should be designed to solve client problems or meet customer needs better than the competition can.

2. Identify your target customers. Most markets and sectors have numerous potential customers to communicate with, but to succeed faster and better, a small business must study the market and determine the characteristics of its best target customers. The target customer should be described in detail. Create a fictional person who has all of your target-customer attributes, and examine what that person would say, do, feel and think in the course of a day.

3. Identify competitors that would also want your target customers. No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s pound. Small businesses seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth, or determine competition that may be outside their industry but just as capable of luring the customer away. Preparing to know who that is, what their core competitive advantage is and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) will help you figure out strategies to combat such losses.

4. Write down your brand-positioning statement for your target customers. Ultimately, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers will be your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write down a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are single-minded and focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.

Now that you know the elements of the plan, you need to figure out how you are going to reach that target customer………………………………………………….

10 ways to make your advertising budget work harder

No matter how big (or small) your ad budget is, most organisations struggle with making the most of their advertising budget….if they have a budget at all!

While outspending your competition would be a nice things to be able to do, not every business has the resources to match competitors’ budgets. In addition, getting into some sort of spending competition could mean spending your marketing pounds sporadically without the proper planning these pounds need to do their job.

There are so many platforms when it comes to advertising. Do I advertise online or offline? Do I advertise locally in the generalist press or do I go with trade and/or lifestyle press? The questions and dilemma’s continue….

Advertising has its pros and cons and I wouldn’t advocate using advertising as a marketing medium without the proper planning. Neither would I say that advertising alone will fast track imminent retirement. However, advertising allows you to get your message out in bulk to your prospects as well as reinforce your brand message. It can be expensive so……….what can you do to stretch your advertising pounds?

1. NARROW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
2. HONE YOUR MESSAGE
3. CREATE A COMPELLING OFFER
4. MAKE AN IMPACT WITH AD BURSTS (weekly or monthly for a set period of time)
5. SUPER SIZE THE AD (run fewer ads at larger sizes)
6. MAKE THE MOST OF MOMENTS (limited time offers etc)
7. REPEAT YOURSELF (often called re targeting when used online, in print 6-9 exposures is statistically the optimum ad campaign)
8. COMBINE MEDIA TO GET BETTER REACH AND FREQUENCY
9. USE SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
10. NEVER STOP TESTING

None of these strategies for marketing in the moment require large ad budgets, they just require smart planning, strong messaging and creativity.

Elements of a Marketing Plan

Every organisation would love to enjoy the success of a viral marketing campaign such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but these types of campaigns intentionally follow a plan that was laid out in advance. Likewise, think of your marketing plan as a roadmap that’s going to guide you to a chosen destination.

As with any journey, you begin with your destination in mind, and then start by charting your route from your starting point.  There is no sense in beginning unless you know where you want to finish.
Before you start to create a marketing plan, put your communications into perspective. Frame your perspective on your overall communications strategy with a simple statement.

For example:
• Our goal is increasing sales. Our marketing communications will relay our USPs
• Our goal is fundraising. Our marketing communications are donor communications.
• Our goal is member services. Our marketing communications are intended to nurture member engagement.
• Our goal is recruitment. Our marketing communications help manage volunteer experience.
• Our goal is trust. Our marketing communications will contribute to building trust between us and our constituents.
• How Do You Attract, Inform, Inspire, and Engage Your Intended Audience?

Imagine that your goal is more than marketing. Instead, imagine that your goal is to build relationships through engagement, ultimately arriving at engagement. Marketing becomes a means to that end.

Marketing is too often a one-way, short-term, transactional exercise; relationships are built through conversations and interactions to engage your audience. Marketing may tend to drive one-time interaction; relationship-building encourages long-term engagement. Marketing has the potential to be superficial; engaging your intended audience over the long run helps to develop deep affinity and meaningful relationships.

Marketing is just one component of your comprehensive communications strategy. The most successful organisations focus on nurturing relationships; employing a marketing plan and applying it to specific campaigns helps you attract, inform, inspire, and engage potential customers.
It is likely that as you implement your plan, you will find what you consider to be “marketing” will actually decrease, while your relationship-building will increase.

But….how Much Will my marketing Cost?
The “cost” of any marketing plan must be measured in personnel time, creative investment, print, online and media expenses. How much will vary depending on the extent of your marketing plan.  Do not forget to consider the value of your investment as you evaluate your ROI (return on investment) and ROE (return on engagement) as marketing is very much an investment.

Whatever you decide and whatever your marketing objectives, one option could be that before you get overwhelmed with creating a comprehensive marketing plan for your organisation, consider the establishment of micro-plans that help you focus on specific goals to achieve. These micro-plans can be campaign-specific or audience-specific; together they will form a complete marketing plan.

Hope this helps.

Think before you post!

Do not approach your social media strategy without serious thought! Yes, the accessibility of most social media networks makes entering the world of social media easy and quick. However, just because the likes of Twitter are free to configure, it doesn’t mean it is the right platform for you to use!

So how do you know which social media platform to use? Well, my answer when posed this question is always “what is it you want to accomplish with social media?” Are you looking to generate more leads? Do you plan to use social media for customer outreach? Or maybe you plan to use it to increase brand awareness?

Whatever you want to achieve, you need to set aside time to truly figure out exactly what it is that your business needs and how social media can help fill that need.
One of the best things you can do before getting started is to sit down and really map it out. It is incredibly easy to get lost in the number of social platforms and you want to be sure you use your time and efforts wisely.

So, by defining your audience and truly understanding who you are creating your content for, it will help determine where you should be promoting your business and on which platform.
Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself about your ideal customer include:

How old are they?
Where do they work? What do they do?
What social media platforms do they use?
What kinds of interests do they have? Personal and business?
What are some of their struggles or pain points?
What kinds of obstacles or objections might they have?
What are their habits, likes, and dislikes?
What motivates them?

The clearer you can be with the answers, the more you will be able to fine-tune a social media marketing strategy that perfectly suits their (and your) needs.

Be careful though committing to a social media platform and then not updating it. I have lost count of the number of organisations we see who have a Twitter or Facebook page which hasn’t been updated for 6 months! Digital or online marketing is immediate so Tweets about an event you attended 3 weeks ago won’t get the exposure or interaction you’re after!

Burn baby burn

I saw this quote many years ago from the marketing director at leading advertising agency, Young & Rubicam and I have never really forgotten it.

“Marketing is rather like building a darn good fire. You need to start off slowly, gently nurturing it and not expect results immediately. With constant care and attention, the fire will grow and grow and the investment of logs rather than kindling will produce even greater results. The fire can now burn freely and produce the rewards. But beware, if it is left unattended for any length of time, you can be left trying to resurrect the ashes.”

For many organisations, marketing is viewed as some sort of magic switch – “business is slow so we need to do some quick marketing” – which can be flicked on and off during tricky times. This is NOT the case! Marketing is a never ending process, not an event or a knee jerk reaction to something that is happening in your market.

We always advise people to take baby steps with their marketing; test new initiatives, implement new ideas and set aside time each day for marketing rather than do “marketing” one morning a month. Little and often is the key and make sure your message stays “on brand” and consistent. After all, it is highly unlikely that your prospects are only looking for what you offer at the exact time you offer it. You need to remain on radars so that your name is at the top of the list for when the prospects are looking.

To help you, most social media platforms can be automated, emarketing can be done very easily, you are very likely to be spoilt for choice with networking opportunities and print is now much cheaper than it used to be.

My advice to every business out there is to continually market their companies even when business is booming as this lays the foundations. Don’t fall into the trap of delaying your marketing until you’ve finished the latest project as, you will very likely raise your head at the end and wonder where the next project is coming from. Then is is too late to kick start the marketing process. The fire needs attention or it goes out!

Marketing (and sales) should be run continuously regardless of your current successes, failures or situation. Put a plan together and use as many platforms to get your message out there!

Training. Do you offer it?

If you have the capacity to offer it, training can be a great form of PR. I say capacity as I know only too well the demands running training can make on a business! However, many of your clients will wish to keep in touch with your specialisms and/or possibly use you to bring new staff up to speed with something like knowing how to update the website you designed.

Whatever the plan and the subject matter for your training, the materials have to be prepared, peoples’ requirements checked off against your agenda, venue booked, marketing collateral sorted…..the list is endless. There is also the possible issue as to who should give the training. Not everyone is a good trainer or presenter and your organisation’s website design guru may have to be forced to hand over his/her lovingly prepared material to a more charismatic speaker!

The rewards of successful training are high. Your attendees will be grateful. Their peers will be grateful. Word of mouth will spread and you may have converts for life!

Some of the questions you will have to make a decision on are –

• Do you offer the training / course to a a single client or to whoever has an interest in the subject matter?
• If you do decide to offer to a single company, your place or theirs?
• If you offer training to multiple companies, will any of the attendees clash or conflict – “we didn’t know you worked with them and us.”
• Should you charge and if so, how much?
• Do you limit numbers?
• Do you invite local editors and media?
• Will there be a follow up plan?
• + lots more…………….

Don’t be fooled by the hours of prep and planning you’ll need to dedicate to this type of activity but it can be a very worthwhile marketing initiative.

Personally, I am not a fan of the online training videos and web casts etc and would far prefer being able to physically attend a course of value where I can interact with the presenter and the people around me. To me anyway then, the lure of an actual “live” course which was relevant and local to me would be high!

The style of the training, how it is presented and how it is marketed are subjects for another day!