Why do I need a marketing plan? The answer is simple really – if you don’t have an effective marketing strategy, nobody knows about your business, and you don’t get new customers
You’d be surprised by how many companies don’t have a marketing strategy, and just do marketing on an ad-hoc basis as they go along. This might work for some small businesses, but for the majority, ad-hoc marketing is never going to be successful. Or it might feel like it’s working because you’re getting inquiries, but this isn’t sustainable and you’ll never know how much more successful you could be with a proper strategy in place.
Okay, rant over. We’ve established that you do need an effective marketing strategy – you really do – so here are our top tips for creating one.
Understand your target audience
It’s not enough to have a rough idea of the age and gender of your target market – you need to create buyer personas to make sure you have a really in-depth understanding of who your customers are. How they consume media, which social platforms they use, their pain points and goals. By doing so, you’ll be able to target your marketing much more effectively. We’ve already discussed buyer personas on the blog, so we won’t go into too much detail about how to create them. Just do it, okay?
Create a physical strategy
People underestimate the power of a written down, physical document for your strategy. Keeping it in your head can be risky. If it’s written down, you’re more likely to stick to it, and you won’t forget any part of it or adjust your goals in your head. It’s also much easier to share with your employees, as you can give them a physical copy or keep a digital copy in a shared folder. Reviewing your progress will also be easier with a physical copy of your strategy, as you can include financial information and statistics that you might otherwise forget.
Keep your targets S.M.A.R.T
Coming up with targets that don’t have any thought behind them is counter-productive to all involved. It’s a waste of your time, they’re likely to be forgotten about, and if they’re unrealistic then it’s detrimental to employee morale. Keep your targets S.M.A.R.T –
Specific: Make sure your targets are clear, concise, and easily understandable. What area do they relate to?
Measurable: The desired outcome needs to be measurable – otherwise how will you know if it’s been met?
Attainable: Your targets need to be realistic and achievable. Setting targets that are wildly unrealistic are detrimental to all involved.
Relevant: It should go without saying, but make sure your targets are relevant to your business and your long-term goals.
Timely: Put a time frame on all of your targets to make sure you keep focus. Create a set of targets for 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, etc.
Understand your USP
“We’re friendly, professional, and reliable.” We hear this all the time when asking clients about their unique selling point. Yes, these are great qualities to have, but trust us – it’s not a USP. This is what every business strives to be. Your USP is what sets you apart from your competitors. Why do customers choose you over a different company? It might be a service you offer, it might be your location, your pricing, your processes, your values – whatever it is, you need to know. Without a clear understanding of what sets you apart from your competition, you can’t effectively market your business.
Establish time frames
We’ve already touched on this under S.M.A.R.T targets, but it’s important so we’re going to talk about it again. Setting targets without a time frame means one thing – they won’t get done. If you’ve set yourself a target of 100 new customers, it’s imperative that you specify when you want to achieve that by. Sure, 100 new customers in 10 years sounds easy – so easy in fact, that you’re probably not even going to think about achieving it. However, saying that you want to hit that target within 6 months suddenly makes it much more of a challenge. And because it’s a challenge, you’re going to put more thought and effort into it.
Review and measure regularly
How can you possibly know how effective your marketing is if you don’t measure your results? Put a process in place for regularly reviewing your progress, and stick to it. By doing so, you’ll be able to see what’s working well, and what’s not working so well. This will allow you to continually refine your strategy, improving your tactics to make sure you’re getting results.
Prioritise the plan
Your marketing strategy needs to be the very first thing that you do. It’s astonishing how many people come to us with a website and a brand in place but no strategy. As our SOLAR 7 marketing model explains, the strategy is the first step to creating a strong, integrated marketing system. By creating your brand before writing your strategy, you’re really shooting yourself in the foot – you might discover something when analysing your business or target market that could inform the success of your brand.
Conduct competitor research
In this day and age when every business has some form of online presence, it’s never been easier to discover what your competition is up to. Check out their websites and social media pages, and figure out what you can do to make yours better. You can also take inspiration from your competitors – we’re definitely not saying to copy their content, but if you spot that your competitor regularly posts memes on their Facebook page and gets a good rate of engagement rate from it, try doing something similar.
Assess your resources
You could put together the best marketing plan in the world, but if you don’t have the resources to carry it out – well, it’s just a bit of a waste of time, isn’t it? Make sure you’ve got the finances, man-hours, and ability to carry out the plan you’re putting together. You might plan to build a brand new website, but if you don’t have the skillset within your team or the money to outsource the job, you’ll be putting unnecessary pressure on your business and probably won’t end up with a very good outcome. Start small and plan within your means – there’s time for the big stuff later on.
Use the right channels for your audience
Just because you can use every marketing channel under the sun, doesn’t mean you should. You need to choose the ones that are the most relevant to your audience and put your focus into those. Take your social media. There are hundreds of platforms that you could use, but what’s the point if your audience isn’t going to see your work?
For example, around 70% of Snapchat users are under 34 years old. If you’re targeting people of retirement age, why would you put your time and resources into a Snapchat campaign? You’d be better off utilising a platform like Facebook, where a much larger percentage of users are in a higher age bracket, or even using more traditional forms of advertising, like print or radio. Your buyer personas will help you to figure out which platforms you should be using.
Hopefully, this article will go some way to helping you perfect your marketing strategy, but if you’re still unsure, we’d love to help. Learn more about our marketing strategy service, get in touch with us for a chat, or download your free marketing strategy template.