“Fail to plan… and you plan to fail…”
Look, I hate commercial clichés just as much as the next marketing professional (and you’ll never see one of those motivational posters emblazoned across our office walls).
Yet this phrase holds true time and time again. Success simply cannot be achieved without a strategy.
If you need to generate fresh leads and new customers for your company (and, let’s face it, who doesn’t?), then you need to create a marketing strategy. No ifs, buts or exceptions. Moreover, you need the right strategy. A marketing strategy that provides rock steady focus and guides direction; that identifies your potential customers and how you can communicate with them – and because timing is absolutely crucial – you need a marketing strategy that will also tell you when to communicate and how often.
For the average SME the mere term ‘marketing strategy’ can loom large and seem an almost mythical business beast to do battle with.
How do you start to create a marketing strategy? How do you get people to look and listen to you? What can you do without a humongous budget?
Throw out what you think you know about marketing and forget the fact that you may have little to no knowledge at all – because the concepts behind a marketing strategy are really rather simple. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
First things first: Why most marketing tactics alone won’t work
So, a marketing company approaches you – they’re the specialists, they say – and actually they have the portfolio, testimonials and shiny looking website to prove it. These experts, whether they be experts in website design, email marketing, PR or social media, often miss one vital thing that does businesses such as yours a real disservice: the fact that their service should fit into a wider marketing strategy. After all, what good is an all-singing, all-dancing website with no traffic? How can a sales video possibly convert your customer if they’re not already sold on your brand? And just how effective will your PR campaign be, if you haven’t got a sales funnel in place to move all of those mildly interested consumers onto purchasing customers?
So, let’s start at the beginning…
1. What are your goals?
To enter new markets, expand your business, launch a new product or service?
These are high levels goals – and serve to provide context to the end game (as well as plenty of motivation). Beyond this you must break down the steps that must be taken towards this – the smaller goals that go on to provide daily, monthly and annual goals.
Typical goals may include:
– Improving your profit margin;
– Increasing the average order amount;
– Cross-selling to more customers;
– Growing your customer base.
What’s most important about each of these is that they are measurable – and whilst we’ll refrain from re-hashing the good old pseudonym of S.M.A.R.T* it is worth noting that the success or failure of a strategy is very much defined by setting measurable goals and tracking your results.
*If you’ve so far managed to miss the S.M.A.R.T. pseudonym here’s a great little introduction to get you started.
2. Just who are your target market?
Before you so much as consider the tools you need to create a marketing strategy you must first define who your target market are. After all, how can you know what to say and what language to speak if you don’t know who you’re talking to?
Now you may think you already know these people pretty well, yet there’s very often a gap between the basics you already know, and the behaviours and preferences that are key to both reaching your target market and selling to them.
Creating personas for each of your typical customers can help bridge this divide.
3. Think you know your USP? It may be time to think again.
Your USP should be what sets you apart from the competition. Yet far, far too often companies approach this from their perspective.
When you consider your USP, think about the ways in which you solve your target markets’ pain point like no other.
If you want to boost your leads and leap frog your competition you have to look, sound and act differently from your competition – and you have to communicate with absolute clarity just why you’re the irresistible choice.
4. Eyeing up the competition
Your competition can often be an invaluable source of information and inspiration – especially when you begin to create your marketing strategy.
Here’s a solid overview of the questions you may want answered when you create a marketing strategy – to put you in the picture as to how your competitors are doing, what they’re doing and more over what you can learn from them.
Once done, it’s far from case closed: never, ever, take your eye off of the ball when it comes to your competitors. Follow their social media efforts, regularly review their product range and check-in every now and their on their website.
5. Be remarkable!
Today, being good at what you do isn’t enough.
Amongst a sea of marketing messages and brand overload consumers are deaf to all but the most on-point of offerings. You must go beyond good enough, to being remarkable.
Setting up an irresistible sales proposition
You may know your business inside out, but your customers don’t. What you do, what you stand for and how you are different to other organisations should all be presented in bite size chunks, interspersed within the content that you create that adds value to your customers’ lives.
These questions will also define your brand’s voice – and a consistent voice is essential across every medium you operate – from brochure, to video, to blog and onto status updates.
It’s what humanises your product or service, and after all, people don’t buy from businesses, people buy from people.
As an SME, when you begin to create a marketing strategy, budgets either often falls by the way side, dwindling month after month; or, worse still, massive budgets are funnelled into marketing tactics that simply don’t produce results.
It’s very much a polarised landscape – where neither is helpful to achieving success.
Yet marketing is exactly that – an investment – it does require a budget – and if you’ve set up your goals and measurements properly, you’ll be able to see exactly how much ‘bang for your buck’ you’re getting through each marketing medium. Month after month you can re-assess what’s working, what isn’t and where your budget can be best spent to generate the best return.
I hope this article has provided you with some inspiration and ideas on how to create a marketing plan. If you wish to receive more marketing goodness like this, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter – below.
If you need ‘a fresh pair of eyes and ears’ to have a closer look at how your business markets itself, let’s meet for a coffee and an informal chat – there’s no charge.
Plus, if based in the North East, you may also be eligible for funding to help with the cost of almost any type of marketing support that will help your business to grow – from strategic marketing planning and web design through to social media management.