For most small business owners, marketing their business is a bit of a conundrum. With the multitude of both digital and offline channels, how do you know which ones to choose? You can’t afford to put time and money into a method that ends up being ineffective, yet you can’t afford to put the time into learning or trying every channel.
If you’re overwhelmed at the prospect of marketing your business, let alone coming up with a marketing plan for your business, read this section for some peace of mind.
Many business owners feel stuck because they think they need to know what to do in order to have a marketing plan. Actually, a marketing plan is designed to help you figure out what to do. It will help you find the most effective marketing strategies for your business.
Marketing plans are not set in stone. They are meant to keep you on track with marketing activities that align with your business and marketing goals and will evolve as your business grows. You will also make adjustments to your plan along the way as you see results and your goals change.
Don’t get discouraged if one method doesn’t yield the results you had hoped for. Some methods need to be repeated over time to see results. Other methods will simply need a slight tweak. Your marketing plan is a learning tool as much as it is a growth tool, and sometimes it takes doing something the wrong way to figure out the right way.
Replace pressure with patience. Your marketing plan is designed to grow your business—but at a steady pace and according to the time and money you have. With a marketing plan, you can set goals that are reached over time and through consistent effort. These will yield the most satisfying and sustainable results.
A good marketing plan is one that you can rely on, like a compass. Use the following guidelines to create a custom marketing plan that will guide your business to success.
Your marketing budget is essential to forming the proper timelines and expectations of your marketing plan. It is important to create a separate budget for marketing, even if that budget is minimal. After all, there are plenty of marketing activities you can do for free, and you can invest more than just money (time, for example) into your marketing. Your marketing budget will enable you to plan out the financial aspects of your marketing activities, and will help you determine the most feasible ways of achieving your goals.
For help setting up a marketing budget, use these posts:
Marketing challenges form the backbone of your marketing plan. Marketing challenges include existing areas that need improvement as well as areas that you lack entirely. By identifying and listing out all of your marketing challenges, you can organize and prioritize so as to maximize the effectiveness of your plan.
Common marketing challenges include being found by more customers, building an online presence, getting more social media shares, or getting more interested people to actually purchase. Be as specific as possible with your challenges, so that you can tackle each one effectively.
Your goals are the means by which you will overcome each of your challenges. Goals focus on the results you want, not the problems you have. Each goal should have actionable and quantifiable objectives. For example:
If your challenge is with getting visitors to your site, your goal can be to improve website traffic. Objectives for that goal can be to publish three blog posts per month and to register your business on three online directories.
Keep in mind that you will have both long-term and short-term goals.
Examples of long-term goals include:
Short-term goals can be completed in a shorter period of time, such as:
If you are just starting out, you might want to focus on short-term goals so that you can form realistic long-term goals.
Your marketing plan is designed to keep you working toward each of your goals concurrently so they can facilitate one anothers’ success. However, don’t start every component of your plan at once. Prioritize your challenges and stagger your starting points for each one. Once you get into a rhythm with tackling the most important and immediate challenge, you can then add on the next one, and so on. This way you can kick each activity with a thorough and focused start, and ensure it runs smoothly while you’re focusing on your newest addition.
To gauge whether the resources you’re spending on each marketing challenge are helping you reach your goals, you need a detailed view of the results. In today’s digital world, results are no longer just purchases, but also all of the behaviors that lead up to purchases, such as opening emails and clicking links.
Tracked links, tracked phone numbers, and analytics platforms (like Google Analytics) enable you to monitor the performance of each of your activities, better understand your target audience, and identify your marketing strengths and weaknesses. Based on your results, you may want to adjust how you’re allocating your marketing resources so that you are reaching your goals. You may even need to adjust the goals and objectives in your marketing plan.
Marketing is an investment of time, effort, and money. With a marketing plan, you can rest assured that you are allocating the right resources to the right areas, in the manner most conducive to your business growth.