What is marketing and why is it essential for every business?
I explained what marketing is, 7 different types of marketing, and why marketing is so important for your business in much more detail in this article here.
But in a nutshell:
Marketing is about building awareness of your business to potential new customers, so that they learn to trust your business enough to become a customer.
When it comes to marketing your business, you really have two options. You can make a plan, or you can "wing it".
As the title of this article suggests, I'm much more in favour of creating a plan...
Plans are like following a GPS - they get us to our destination faster. "Following our nose" might also get us there, but it doesn't usually get us there as quickly as a GPS.
I always want to help my clients get to their destination as quickly and as effortlessly as possible. So let's talk marketing planning...
What Is A Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is an outline of your marketing strategy for a given time frame.
Marketing plans can take many forms. They can be made in a document, a spreadsheet, or on a piece of paper.
What type of Marketing Plan is best?
I'm sure there are much more academic answers than mine, but, I believe that the best type of marketing plan is one that you're actually going to use, rather than one you "file and forget". Otherwise there's not much point in creating it in the first place!
So, don't worry about whether your plan is on paper stuck to your wall, or in a complex, multi-page spreadsheet. As long as it has the fundamentals outlined, you actually refer to it when you create your marketing content, and most importantly - you take action to implement it, then it doesn't matter what format it is written in.
What time period should my marketing plan cover?
How far ahead you plan, is also up to you. And some businesses plan their marketing years in advance. But I typically recommend that my clients plan their marketing content and promotional strategies for a minimum of 12 months at a time.
What should my Marketing Plan have in it?
Regardless of the size and scope of your marketing strategy, there are certain elements that should be captured in every marketing plan.
Here are the 5 questions every marketing plan should answer:
Who are your business's target customers?
You may have heard "target customers" be called other things, such as: dream clients, target audience etc. But these all explain the same thing - who are the people that your business serves?
One of the biggest mistakes I see small business owners make, is thinking that their business serves everyone...
It's true, a diverse group of people might have purchased your products in the past. But, what do they all have in common?
If you try to market to everyone, you will have a hard job on your hands.
There's a common saying in marketing:
"Market to everyone and appeal to no one"
This is because it's very hard to write marketing copy, or create appealing content, if you aren't talking to a specific group of people.
But, if you don't market to a specific group of people, then it's not only just harder for you to write the content, it's harder for those people to identify that you're talking to them. Most importantly, it's also harder to know where the best marketing channels to reach those people are.
This is why the very first thing you want to do, in your marketing plan, is to spend time defining exactly who you are trying to attract to your business.
Defining your marketing target audience can feel difficult at first. But, think about who you love to work with and who your business can help the most...
- What are their problems and how can you provide them with a solutions?
- What are their values, interests, demographics?
If you're really having a hard time with this, sometimes it's easier to think about who you wouldn't want as a customer...
Once you have that ideal customer nailed, you can create every piece of your marketing with them in mind.
What is the desired result for your marketing?
The second thing you'll want to include in your marketing plan is to outline your goals for it...
What is it that you want to achieve with this marketing plan? Is it:
- Brand awareness?
- More leads?
- Business growth?
- Repeat business?
Each of these aspects will require a slightly different marketing strategy. So, you need to get clear on your marketing goals.
But, a customer pathway is the journey your customers go on, from the minute they find out about your business, until they stop being a customer.
All businesses with existing customers already have a customer pathway. It happens by default as soon as someone purchases anything from your business.
We can really maximise our business profits when we strategically plan our customer pathway, to meet both our needs, and our customers' needs, as efficiently as possible.
I like to call this process, creating a "sell without selling system". Because it really makes "selling" so much easier when a customer pathway is designed well.
In contrast, if we don't put any thought into our pathway, and stick with the one which is created by default, then it's easy to make things over complicated, or ineffective for our customers. A complicated customer pathway reduces our conversion rate, and can create massive profit leaks.
That's why I recommend that every business puts thought into how they can create the most simple, yet profitable, customer pathway.
What marketing channels and strategies will you use?
It's time to consider which marketing channels and strategies are most appropriate for your unique business.
But the main thing to appreciate is that if you try to do them all, it will just overwhelm you.
It's always best to stick with a few channels, and a few strategies at a time until you've nailed those. Then you can add a few more if you want to.
Here's what I recommend you consider:
- Which marketing platforms are my target audience(s) most active on?
For example, some businesses might find more of their customers likely to most use LinkedIn. Whereas others might respond best to Instagram.
- Within those marketing platforms, which features do your prospective customers most use?
For example, do they most engage with stories, or do they hang out in groups?
- What type of content do they mostly consume?
For example, do they watch short/long video content, or are they more likely to read long articles?
Once you've answered these questions, you should know what type of content you should create, and where you should focus the most on marketing that content.
How will you track and measure the results?
This is probably the part most small businesses are tempted to skip over doing. I know, because I was one of them for years. It's because I was too uncertain and overwhelmed by where to begin to analyse the number. And it bit me - badly.
But then I put time into learning what the numbers all meant, and how to analyse them to work out what was working the best, and it changed my business forever!
Now I absolutely love to help other small business owners understand this too!
Because when you learn to use your past numbers, to do more of what's working, or make future predictions, it's a total game changer for your business.
Here are the steps to take, to track and measure your marketing numbers, so you can use them to improve your results:
- Learn what all the numbers mean:
Here's an explanation of 18 metrics that every small business owner should know in their business. Then you can play this 'Magic Metric' Bingo game to figure out how many of them you know.
- Create a way to track your numbers:
If you're unsure how to do this, I provide a simple to use tracking spreadsheet inside my Profit Formula course, along with so many other helpful calculators and tools.
- Make time to analyse them regularly:
It's best if you diary this in at least once a month
- Use them to make a plan for what to improve on in the following month:
Self explanatory really. This is a lot more effective than guessing what's working and what isn't. The key is to focus on what's working and do more of that.
I hope this has provided you with a simple framework for creating a marketing plan!
Want my help to improve your marketing?
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Flight Club is by far most affordable way to get training and support with Kat long term!
The program includes a 6 Step In-Flight Framework® to follow, providing you with the training and the tools to 'take flight' in your business.
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About the author:
Kat Soper is the Founder and Head Trainer of The Helpful Academy Online Business School.
Kat is passionate about helping start-ups and small businesses succeed and achieve their business goals so that they can achieve the lifestyle they desire (and deserve).