In order to do anything meaningful, you have to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. You need a plan.
Having a marketing plan is imperative for the success of your business. Here’s how to develop and implement a marketing plan of your own.
1. Create a strategy before tactics
Small business owners often quickly fall for the hot, new marketing tactic of the week. This is usually because they have no strategy.
The key element to making your marketing effective? A strategy-first approach.
You need to build your strategy before you even think about the tactics. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you trying to sell to anyone and everyone?
- Are you struggling to stand out from your competition?
- Are you unsure of what tactics even make sense for you right now?
These are strategy problems and can only be addressed with strategy solutions.
You need to know your big picture business goals. Once you have those defined, then you put together the tactics it will take to make that strategy come to life.
2. Research your current customers
Talk to your current customers.
Your customers are an invaluable resource you can learn from to help shape your entire business, your core messages, your products or services, and so much more.
Knowing your customers can uncover the best ways on how to attract, reach, and better serve the right people.
3. Research your competitors
Conducting competitive research is a way to grow and evolve your business. It’s so much more than researching companies you consider to be your direct competitors—it’s taking a look at your entire digital competition.
Take a look at what terms your competitors are ranking for that you should be, what content they’re putting out on their blog, or what kind of ads they’re creating. This kind of research helps you:
- Learn new ways to serve your customers
- Understand why other sites are ranking higher than yours
- Uncover the type of content you need to be creating
- Use data to spot new opportunities
- Seize new opportunities to gain customers
4. Promise to solve a problem
Nobody wants what you sell. People want their problems solved.
People buy better versions of themselves, not things. They want what they believe will help them feel good about themselves, achieve something higher, get relief from some level of pain or discomfort, avoid a sticky situation, or prepare themselves for the future.
It’s your job as a business owner to understand the problems people are trying to solve and match your offers to those very specific problems. Very few people in the world want the things, the services, and the solutions businesses sell.
You need to have an approach that is focused on a very specific type of customer, with a very specific need or problem, and a promise to solve that problem in a very specific way.
5. Map out the customer journey
The customer journey isn’t linear. It’s our job to help guide buyers as they travel down the often-crooked path. The way that people buy today has changed so dramatically that instead of creating demand, we need to organize behavior.
A traditional marketing funnel might have the stages such as Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase. But the thing that the traditional marketing funnel neglects to address is that when it comes to lead and referral generation, a happy customer is your most powerful asset.
This is why we follow the Marketing Hourglass approach. It consists of seven connected stages:
- Know—one of the best ways to become known is through organic search. Start using content to spark interest.
- Like—once someone knows your business, you need to nurture your leads during this phase by demonstrating your expertise, sharing knowledge, and giving them useful resources.
- Trust—people buy from organizations they trust. Get your customers involved in content creation. This is where customer generated videos, case studies, stories, and social media are a major playing piece.
- Try—this stage is where the audition happens. It’s where you need to really deliver more than anyone. Consider doing a free or low-cost version of what you sell.
- Buy—time to show real results and keep the experience high in this stage. Think about how you orient new customers, exceed their expectations, and surprise them. The complete customer experience is measured by the end result, not what you did to get the sale.
- Repeat—the best way to get repeat business is to make sure your clients receive and understand the value of doing business with you.
- Refer—turn happy customers into referral customers. Create a remarkable experience with your customers that exceeds their expectations so they are compelled to share your business with others.
Every business has these stages, but many aren’t addressing them all. You need to figure out what the journey is like for your ideal customer or people who are looking for the solutions you offer.
Use the Marketing Hourglass framework to map your customer journey. Then, the next step in the marketing action plan is to strategically use different types of content at the various stages of the hourglass.
6. Use content as the voice of strategy
Content creation is the hardest job a marketer has to do, but when you plan your content with your hourglass in mind, it’s the highest payoff work you can do.
Content has grown beyond just being a tactic—it touches all aspects of your marketing and your business. It powers the entire customer journey.
Your audience expects to be able to find information about any product, service, or challenge they face simply by doing a Google search. And if you aren’t showing up, you won’t be found. There’s a pretty good change they won’t move forward with you because you lack credibility in their eyes. People go with solutions they feel they can trust.
You must use content as your voice of strategy, and the best way to do this is to produce content that focuses on education and building trust at every stage of the customer journey.
7. Develop a list of quarterly priorities and live by the calendar
As a small business owner, you know there’s always plenty to do and never enough time in the day. But marketing needs to be viewed as a habit that’s ingrained in your daily routine.
Planning for what needs to be done and when—is how you can stay focused on the activities that will give you the highest ROI. Start by creating a list of the highest impact items you need to fix or implement for each quarter.
Then, live by the calendar. If you don’t schedule it, odds are it won’t happen.
Something that has worked extremely well for many business owners is adding monthly themes around your foundational marketing projects, breaking them up, and spreading them out over the course of the year. If you commit to an annual calendar, you’re more likely to follow it on a consistent basis.
8. Measure what matters
There are so many things you can measure: sales metrics, social metrics, content metrics, conversion metrics, growth metrics, the list goes on. And one of the hardest things is determining what you should be measuring.
But you can’t measure what’s easy—you have to measure what matters. You can start by doing these 4 things:
- Create metrics that serve your priority objectives—whether it’s your goal to increase customers by X or grow your audience by X, you need to define what metrics make sense for the goals that you’ve set.
- Establish target goals for each objective—figure out how you’re going to gather the data you need to gauge whether or not you are on the right track.
- Select the tools you’ll use to track your progress—dashboards are an everyday reality for marketers. As a business owner, you need to be able to see what’s happening day to day.
- Use your results to make improvements—when you’re measuring the right things, you’ll start to see trends, why something happened, and what you might be able to do to make improvements.
Running your business without a fully fleshed out marketing plan is like driving without a map. Maybe you make it to your destination, but you might find yourself taking quite a few detours along the way. You can save yourself a lot of trial and error by developing and implementing a marketing action plan.