You probably know that you should have some kind of marketing plan for your business. However, if you’ve never put one together before, it can be difficult to know where to start. To help small business owners who are serious about putting together a marketing plan, we’ve created a 7-step process that will help you achieve results.
What is the current situation of your business?
These factors will help determine which type of marketing strategy is most appropriate for your business. Every situation is unique, so it is important to know yours to know which type of marketing activities will go into your plan.
If you have a stable business that you are trying to take to the next level, you probably want to focus on leveraging your existing customer base, and you may have stable enough cash flows to also invest significant money in marketing.
On the other hand, if you are just getting your business started, you will probably need to be a little more patient and invest in some lower cost marketing techniques.
Whatever the situation of your business, take an honest assessment, and based on that try to come up with some reasonable marketing goals. Saying that you want to take a brand new business to $10 million in revenue in the first year with no marketing budget is pretty unrealistic and unhelpful, unless you are in a business that is inherently viral. It can be challenging (particularly if you are new to your business) to come up with reasonable goals and you might want to consider either speaking with a trusted advisor in your network, or contacting an expert.
Related eBook: Marketing Goals Pocket Guide
Once you have taken stock of where your business is, and created some reasonable marketing goals, the next step is to figure out what you are able to invest. You needed to have a vague idea of the assets you had available to you in order to complete the first step, but now you need to get a little more specific.
Set a budget for both time and money. Do this specifically, particularly on the time front. How much time are you able to invest per week in marketing? It’s really easy to let your marketing slide as you focus on running your business, but having a specific goal will help you keep track of how you are doing relative to your plan. And even if you have no budget, there are things you can do that don’t cost money.
Related eBook: Marketing Without a Budget
In terms of how far out you should plan, a year is not a bad place to start. If this is the first time you’ve put together a marketing plan, you should understand that you may need to do some course correction over time. Don’t completely flip your marketing plan every month, but you also don’t want to go an entire year without taking stock of what is working and what is not.
Think of your marketing as a giant freight ship. It takes a lot of effort to get it moving, it doesn’t turn too quickly, but once it is up and running it has a ton of momentum to keep going. You can call in tugboats every so often if you need to change course dramatically, but those tugboats cost money. Most of all you need to have the patience that it takes to get the freight ship moving in the first place.
Now that you know where you are trying to go and which assets you have to help you get there, it’s time to figure out where your biggest problem lies. This is the most difficult step to accomplish without outside help, because a lot of the ability to do this comes from having the perspective of seeing multiple businesses that are similar to your own. Now is a good time to reach out to other small business owners you know or to give someone who works with small businesses a call.
When it comes to determining where your biggest marketing challenge lies, there are 3 key areas that you want to consider; reach, engagement, and conversion. The first thing to do is understand each of these metrics without thinking about numbers.
Reach is all about the number of people you can touch with a marketing message. Reach can be generated from just about anything:
Reach is critical because by definition, the maximum number of customers that you can have can never be more than the number of people that you reach. It doesn’t really matter how good your product is, if only 10 people ever hear about it (unless of course you have a business that only ever needs 10 or fewer customers).
Engagement is all about the quality of the marketing that you’re producing. Assuming that you’re reaching people, are they engaging with the marketing that you are producing?
The way to determine this is different for each type of marketing. For Facebook, people liking and commenting on your posts is a straightforward indication of engagement. For your website, the bounce rate will give you an indication of how well you’re engaging your online visitors. For email, looking at open rates is a great indicator of engagement.
Conversion is the final step in your marketing. This is where you take a person who you reached and who engaged with you, and then you get them to take the action that you want them to take, such as:
For marketing purposes, the way to define this conversion is where the hand-off from marketing to sales occurs. You may or may not have a sales process per se, but you can still measure how well you are converting an engaged person to a lead or sale.
Now that we’ve defined Reach, Engagement, and Conversion, the hard step is to figure out where your biggest problem lies. This is where it really helps to talk to someone who can bring a little bit of perspective to help you find your problem. With your trusted advisor, take a close look at your numbers.
At this point you have hopefully identified where your problem lies, so now the task is to identify the low hanging fruit when it comes to marketing channels that can solve the particular problem that you are facing.
The first thing to look for here is unused marketing assets.
These are just few ways to improve your reach. Hopefully this list helps you start thinking about the easiest wins to generate reach for your business.
If you have identified engagement as your primary issue, this means that you feel as though you are waving your arms a lot, but nobody is listening. Knowing how to market your business to your customers will help you learn how to engage them.
Wherever your engagement problem lies, a lot can be learned by studying how the competition is marketing themselves.
If your problem is conversion, there are a couple of very common mistakes that small businesses make in this department that can be fixed.
No matter what your conversion problem is, the solution is to make adjustments and then measure the before and after to make steady improvements.
You now have all the pieces to put together a marketing plan. The next task is to simply write down the tasks that you want to accomplish and prioritize them. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but nothing could be further from the truth. You want to have a nice to-do list that you can reference any time you have a spare moment to work on marketing.
Creating the prioritized list will make your marketing far more approachable and it will make you far more likely to get started and stick with it. Once you have created the prioritized list, put it in a highly visible spot for quick reference.
Although you have technically already created a marketing plan at this point, the final step is to ensure that you are measuring your results and adjusting your plan accordingly. As you make progress on some fronts, your priorities may shift, and you need to be open to making those shifts. You also want to be sure that you are maximizing the effectiveness of your investments of time and money. Measuring and adjusting will ensure exactly that.
We hope this was a helpful guide to help you get started. If you would like some additional help with marketing your business, download our free sample marketing plans below. You can also set up a free consult with any of our Marketing Specialists here or by using the live chat in this window.