This is a 3 part series that gives you the fundamentals of a sound, workable and effective business marketing plan. Part 1 covers the essentials of your plan and the necessary steps to get started.?Part 2 is where we get into the meat of your plan and break down each element. Part 3 brings it all together and discusses how to implement the plan for maximum success.
Branding is the promotion of your image. It’s important that you have a logo, mission statement and tag line that are consistent and communicate the right message to consumers. This stuff isn’t hyperbole so try to avoid clichés and over-used hype. It will be an important element in how consumers identify with you over time so try to create a unique and exciting identity.
As an example, most people can picture a Ferrari. They know it’s a super nice, well-built, expensive Italian sports car. They even have a specific image in their head of what one looks like – it’s usually red. They know all about it, but probably couldn’t tell the difference between it and a Testarossa or a Lamborghini when they see them. This is an example of excellent branding. They don’t really know what the car looks like, yet they can picture it.
You want to create a mental image of your brand so consumers can identify you when they hear or see your company name. That mental image should most certainly include quality and service.
By the way, Ferrari is an excellent car, but the image above is of a Lamborghini. Beautiful.
People tend to get too caught up in branding?because it’s the most fun part about creating a business – it’s your identity, your image. Sure, have fun with it, but just realize that even though establishing your image is very important for long-term growth, it is fairly insignificant for short-term success. In my current business, I went two years before creating a business card and permanent logo. I didn’t care about that stuff because I was too busy making sales.
Consumers do not care about your cool looking logo or brand name. And they won’t start caring until you establish yourself in other areas such as quality, service and availability.
Eventually, however, you will need to create a logo, tagline and mission statement that accurately reflect your business principles. These things are important because over the long-term, it will determine how consumers identify your product or service. Make sure business cards, advertising, letter head and other printed material all reflect an accurate and consistent message. I can go on for another ten pages about branding and company image, but you need to start selling so let’s move on.
Putting it All Together
Once you have researched and accumulated all the above information, put it into a written format. You can either do this by writing a 6-10 page report, or you can put it into an outline form. For my business, I do a hybrid of both. Use whatever format works best for you. What matters is that it is easy for you and your team members to understand and review. Make sure it is not difficult to make changes because frequent updates and refinements are a significant part of your marketing strategy.
I take it a step further than most others by incorporating spreadsheets and progress reports, thereby creating a workable plan rather than a static report. The spreadsheets are easily converted into graphs and charts so I can review our progress with team members. It’s beyond the scope of this post to show you how to create graphs in Excel. Assign that task to one of your team members if you don’t know how to do it.
If you have your own system to track progress, by all means use it. And don’t forget your data analysis. I’ll get into that in just a bit.
This is where you will work the plan. Better yet, it’s where you start making money. Once you have your business, customers, market and objectives clearly defined, you can start creating tactics that will help you achieve your objectives.
A very elaborate marketing strategy will have hundreds of pages of very specific implementation procedures that will generate the highest return on investment and if done precisely according to the plan, will deliver very specific results. Again, this is probably overkill for you.
You just need to start working the plan. Make sure the tactics you’ve chosen will help you attain your goals. Are you meeting objectives? Are you meeting deadlines? If not, you need to make some adjustments or perhaps, identify new tactics.
Everything you’ve done so far is useless without execution. Find a way to work your plan every week. Use worksheets, status updates, meetings; whatever you need to keep pushing forward with your plan.
If you need to come up with your own form or procedure to make sure your plan is being implemented correctly, then go ahead and do it. Check lists or to-do lists may come in handy at first. These will remind you of what tactics you need to engage in during the week.
As much as I am embedded in the digital world, I still use a white board for my “to do” list. The board is huge and sits right in front of my desk. There’s nothing quite as effective at keeping me on track as having my to-do list staring me in the face every day. I check off tasks as I complete them. I know, how old school!
Some sales managers meet with their sales people at the end of each week and review goals. This is a good time to learn what tactics the sales people were using to generate business.
It may be a good idea to implement a schedule or timeline to have specific objectives completed or milestones achieved. The schedule should include costs allowed so you know not to go over budget.
Measuring results is the most overlooked part of the marketing strategy. Along with research, it is also the most important. Please do not ignore your data. It is the one activity you do that actually makes you money and saves you money at the same time. Take the time to know what is working and what is not.
As I mentioned earlier in this report, Google analytics is a free tool and the best resource I know to help you evaluate sales data. It’s awesome so I encourage you to learn how it works.
Google Analytics will tell you how many consumers visited your websites, what pages they landed on and how long they stayed. It will tell you where they came from so you know which tactics drive the most customers to your business. You can even set up call tracking so you can measure how many calls were generated from particular tactics. These are the kinds of numbers you need to know in order to refine your marketing campaign. You may need to adjust your pricing, alter your tactics or offer enhanced services if you are not meeting your goals.
Split testing ad campaigns is a good way to squeeze out a little more profit without generating any additional sales. Many businesses lose thousands of dollars running the wrong campaigns, simply because they do not split test ads, landing pages and sales content. If you have an SEO or SEM consultant, make sure they are split testing all your marketing campaigns.
Wash, Rinse and Repeat
Your marketing strategy is a work in progress. You will most likely update your goals and tactics so they work together. Market changing updates often emerge from within industries and these changes can have an impact on your strategy. Your marketing strategy cannot be so rigid that it doesn’t allow for adjustments.
When you review your weekly or monthly sales goals, know which sales were generated by which tactics. What worked and what did not? Be sure to make use of tools that can help you evaluate your sales figures. In addition to Google Analytics, your accounting software can help you do this. If you have a Google Plus business profile – and if you don’t, stop, go no further, and sign up for Google Plus right now – it will have built-in analytical data for you as well.
Now Step Away
Sometimes it makes sense to step back from all this and look at your marketing plan from another perspective. Always try to remember what it is like to be one of your customers. How clear is your message? A big mistake I often see is that marketers and business owners forget that consumers do not know what they know. Stepping away from it all will help you clarify your marketing message to your customers.
Make sure your marketing campaigns have rich offers and clear calls to action. Make it easy for consumers to do business with you. Your contact information and discounts should be visible. Try to create urgency as well with discount deadlines or quotas.
The big picture will also help you clarify things for yourself. Remember why you are in business. Are you moving closer or further away from your long-term goals? What needs to change?
Your Personal Strategy
Keep in mind that this guide is a very basic overview of what a marketing strategy should entail. Consider it a starting point. Yours will be customized to fit your market and industry. Don’t get caught up in the minutia of planning, but don’t ignore it either. Create your plan, start selling and refer back to it regularly. Take the time to work “on” your business each week, stepping back to evaluate your progress. The marketing strategy is your best instrument to ensure your business is on a path for consistent growth. It will serve you well if used properly.
Now, go get ‘em!