The last couple of years have been an era of entrepreneurial spirit with small and medium businesses cropping up all over the place.
With social media and the evolving online landscape it has been easier than ever for business ideas to get off the ground. Things that previously would have been significant barriers to entry – significant advertising costs and the challenge of introducing your product or service to the right audience – have been made easier with social media platforms that have been free to use and let you reach large numbers of people with relative ease.
But the marketing landscape is changing every day, and many people have experienced the pain and frustration of declining organic reach and return on their social media activity. By building their marketing voice on “rented land”, they are now experiencing the added challenge of moving that audience onto their own database before their reach declines even further.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to have a clearly defined, detailed marketing strategy for your small business.
THE ELEMENTS OF A SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING PLAN
(1) KNOW YOUR IDEAL TARGET AUDIENCE
Before you start developing your marketing strategy, it’s important to know exactly to whom you are marketing. A vague target such as “women” or “Brisbane families” will only make it harder to market your business and your plan less effective.
Get as specific as you can when identifying your target audience. Who are your ideal client? What problems does your product/service solve for them? What are their interests / passions? What are their greatest challenges?
If possible, take the time to create your customer avatar – a detailed description of a precise person – name, age, occupation, what they do, who they spend time with, where they hang out – so that you can keep this person in mind when you are creating your marketing and communications activity.
(2) HAVE A CLEAR BRAND STRATEGY
When you know who you are talking to, consider how you will talk to them. What is the personality of your business? Are you conservative and trustworthy? Or creative and inspirational? What language do you use? What colours represent your personality? What emotions do you wish to evoke in your customers?
When you have a clear understanding of your brand and personality, this can be translated into visual elements that can be used throughout your marketing.
(3) KNOW YOUR BUSINESS GOALS
Your marketing plan isn’t just about more “likes” or the number of people on your database. It should drive you business towards your overall goals. So a clear understanding of your business goals, and where you are right now in relation to those goals, is vital.
(4) KNOW YOUR MARKETING OBJECTIVES
Once you know your business goals, set marketing objectives that take you closer to those goals. Will the greatest results come from increasing awareness, increasing leads, increasing repeat sales, increasing the average value of each sale, increasing conversion? Make the objectives measurable, achievable and with deadlines so that you can assess your progress.
(5) IDENTIFY THE BEST MEDIA / PLATFORMS TO REACH YOUR AUDIENCE.
Once you know your exact target client, you can determine the best platforms to reach them. Are they more active on Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn? What frame of mind are they in on each platform – eg on Facebook they might not be keen to be distracted from catching up with friends and family, but on Pinterest they might be browsing to buy).
Do they follow certain blogs? Read certain magazines? Travel in a certain way? Respond well to direct mail? Convert better from email marketing? Do they go to certain events or expos? Listen to podcasts?
Identify the top ways to reach and communicate with them, and make those the priority for your activities.
(6) IDENTIFY THE BEST TACTICS (WAYS TO COMMUNICATE) TO INSPIRE YOUR IDEAL AUDIENCE TO TAKE ACTION.
Once you know where, it’s time to develop the how. How will you communicate via these platforms to inspire your potential customers to take action (the action that aligns with your marketing objectives)? Is it via competitions, educational posts, advertising, guest blogging, partnerships, giveaways, special offers? Get creative, but make sure each tactic aligns with your marketing objectives and is measurable.
Then it’s down to the detail – work out how much the tactics will cost, and whether the results you expect will deliver a return on that investment. Also work out a calendar of activity – don’t try and do everything at once, but schedule your tactics so they receive the focus they need to be successful.
(7) HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR MARKETING RESULTS.
Set up a monthly reporting template that lets you track the success (or otherwise) of your marketing activity. Measure the impact of each activity on your business, and determine whether it is worth repeating or pursuing, or tweaking to achieve better results.
With a marketing plan in place, it is easier to focus your attention and resources, and ignore any distractions that don’t take you closer to your overall goals. Reactive, haphazard marketing activity is difficult to measure, and may end up costing you more money than it generates for your business. But taking the time to create a strategy means your valuable time and resources are invested in the activities that give you the best chance for success.