When clients hire me to help them with their marketing, they usually have a pretty good idea of what they want to do and what channels they want to use. The trouble is, most of them have skipped a couple of steps on their way to those conclusions…
Effective marketing requires strategy, and strategy requires not just knowing what you want to do but why.
Before you launch any campaigns or outsource any of your marketing initiatives, it’s important to clearly understand what your goals and challenges are, or you could end up wasting time and money on tactics that will never help you reach your objectives.
That’s where a marketing plan comes in.
The purpose of a marketing plan is not to create a pretty document that you would have gotten an A for at school (FYI the same goes for your business plan). The purpose of this document — in whatever shape or from you decide to create it — is to guide your marketing activities to ensure you’re doing the right things for your business.
In a world where the vast majority of start-ups fail, that seems pretty important, right?
Ok, so how does it work?
Step 1: Define Your Objective
In this context, your objective isn’t about where you want to be in five years (although they may be related); it’s about what specifically you want to achieve with your marketing efforts in the short- and long-term.
Defining your objective is all about understanding the marketing funnel, where you’re at now, and what you need to do to achieve your wider business goals.
Every potential customer will need to move through the stages of the funnel — from awareness of your business to education about what you do, consideration of your value proposition and finally conversion.
So what does that mean for you?
If you’ve just launched and no one knows about your business, although your ultimate objective will of course be sales, you first need to tackle the top of the funnel by raising awareness. In terms of channels and activities, this means you will choose those that are optimized to maximize outreach and reach your target customer and your core KPIs will focus on Impressions, Reach and Frequency — not necessarily Sales.
Think about it: if no one knows about you, how can they choose to buy from you? If no one knows what you stand for and why you’re better than the competition, why would they buy from you?
Once you have achieved a certain level of awareness, you can move your core focus towards the bottom of the funnel and target Sales.
Depending on the stage of your business, your challenges in the funnel may be different. It’s important to understand what these are to make sure you’re doing the right things for your company.
Step 2: Understand Your Target Audience
There may be nothing more powerful in marketing than understanding how your audience goes about their day-to-day!
Think about this example: if you sell a product for busy working moms, you know their mornings are consumed with getting kids ready for school and getting themselves to work, but during lunch they have some downtime and might scroll through their phone as they queue up to grab lunch. Would that not be the ideal moment to post your content?
Clearly, knowing where your target audience spends its time, what they typically do, how they consume media, and how they might go about looking for your product or service, is invaluable to make sure your communications are targeted and relevant!
If you don’t know your audience at all, it’s time to stop.
Before you spend another dime or minute of your time, design a little mini persona thinking about their age, profession, interests etc. or you could end up pouring all of your marketing efforts into campaigns that will never reach the people who are most likely to become your customers.
Step 3: Choose Your Channels
If you’ve done a good job in steps 1 and 2, choosing the right channels should be fairly simple.
Every channel has its pros and cons, and each one requires a different set of tactics, so the key is to play to your strengths, pick your battles and only invest in the ones that will give you the results you want. For example, whilst being present across every social media platform could be good for SEO, ask yourself if you can really maintain that and how far you want to go; that will tell you how much of a focus each channel should be.
Social media is the most obvious place for most businesses to start, but keep in mind that each platform serves a different purpose. For example, if you’re a fashion company, Instagram is probably an ideal place to start, whilst on the other hand, if you’re in B2B selling software it may simply be a waste of time and effort, which would be better spent on LinkedIn to develop your thought leadership.
On the other hand, just because social media is relatively cheap and easy to set up, doesn’t mean it’s the best or the only answer for your business! Depending on your product or service, attending industry events, running your own events, driving PR etc. can be much more powerful to connect with your market.
This isn’t as easy as running Social Media ads, but hey, if no one is looking to buy your type of product or service on Facebook, what’s the point?
Step 4: Set Up KPI’s and Tools for Measurement
How will you know if your marketing is successful? Measurement!
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are benchmarks that will tell you whether or not your marketing efforts are getting you closer to your objective.
There are tons of tools out there that can help your measure your results, but the important thing is that you really understand what your analytics are telling you, and whether the numbers you see actually translate into value for your business.
Don’t get caught up in vanity metrics that don’t actually serve a purpose! For example, really, it’s not that important how many people liked your Facebook page today! Sure, it feels great to have fans, but with how Facebook works these days, it really serves no purpose.
Now that you’ve read this post, you should have a good idea of what steps you can take to create your marketing plan. Working through these steps on your own is another challenge entirely though. If you need some help, why not join my next Marketing Strategy Workshop with WeWork? To find out more and sign up, click here.
See you there! :)