The first three steps to developing a successful marketing plan.
Businesses that tend to “wing it” when it comes to marketing often find that their efforts aren’t delivering, and that the occasional press release or Facebook post isn’t ramping up sales as they’d hoped.
Take Jean and Avery, who started a small nonprofit to inspire active lifestyles and healthy living. Like many people running a business with a limited budget, they planned to do the marketing themselves even though neither of them had experience. With the intention of covering as many bases as possible, they chose a dizzying array of social media platforms and tools. But key branding elements were missing. It was if they were trying to use hammers and saws to build a house without a blueprint.
What they needed was a marketing plan, or what we call the “foundational documents,” to establish attainable goals and select the appropriate tools to reach them.
Before those tools can be selected, three key elements of the business have to be defined or identified: marketing objectives; the target market; and competitors.
Marketing Objectives. What do you hope to accomplish through marketing? More Facebook likes? More website visits? More sales volume? Whatever the goals, they must be quantified so you’ll know if your marketing efforts are succeeding. How many Facebook likes and by what date? How many website visits per month? What are your sales goals in dollars, in number of transactions, in repeat visits, or whatever? Write these goals down as part of your foundational document.
After defining their most pressing business goals, Jean and Avery were surprised to realize that for their first year, fundraising had to be at the top of their goals list rather than selling online classes and products. Knowing that, they shifted their priorities and began building a more targeted marketing plan.
Target Market. If you think “everyone is my target market,” you’re wrong. There is not a single product or service that everyone wants – and even if there were, it wouldn’t make sense to address your marketing to everyone. First, you couldn’t afford to. Second, there is some segment of the population that is more likely to buy more of whatever you’re selling, and targeting that segment will produce the most bang for your marketing buck.
Who are they? How old are they? Where do they live? What is their gender? What are their, tastes, hobbies and shopping habits?
Above all, what are their needs or problems that your business or product can satisfy or solve? For maximum return, your marketing plan must focus on these “pain points” of your ideal customer.
Once Jean and Avery began making these lists, it became more apparent who their ideal customer was, which informed how they were going to reach them (i.e., through which media?) and what the marketing pitch would be (i.e., the content strategy).
Identifying Competitors. Focus on your key products or services and come up with a list of keywords that best defines or describes them. Then Google those keywords with your business’s location and see who else in your area is offering them. Dig into their websites and social media to discover what media they’re using, how they’re addressing their customers, and what their Unique Selling Proposition is. You may not be able to compete head-to-head with established companies, but you may be able to find an angle they haven’t addressed, a way to make your pitch to the customer that offers its own unique appeal.
Expand your research nationally or internationally to discover other approaches. Your local competitor’s Unique Selling Proposition may be unique only in your particular city, and seeing how others are doing it elsewhere may provide the competitive key.
Jean and Avery’s organization didn’t offer a truly unique service, but by seeing how others outside of their region were marketing themselves, they were able to create a locally unique brand and marketing message that appealed strongly to their audience.
Once you have filled in these three key elements of your foundational document, you will be able select the best media to deliver your message to your target audience and tailor your content accordingly. There are too many media options to use them all (e.g., blogs, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit, etc., and advertising on any or all of the above), so you have to choose the ones that will be the most cost-effective in achieving your marketing goals.
To see more of the large picture on how to create these foundational documents and measure the results, download our HoneyBadger Guide to Creating a Marketing Plan.