We’ve all heard the saying about those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
Clearly the suggestion is that winging it is not the best option if you want to succeed, although I know plenty of people who seem to get by just fine with a “go with the flow” philosophy.
Personally, I love making a good plan and I spend hours with my bullet journal and pencil getting everything down in black and white.
However, I’m learning that running your own business can also involve quite a bit of winging it, as you react to the different challenges you face each day and rush from one thing to the next trying to juggle all the different balls.
Which probably makes it even more important to plan the things you can control, such as your business’s marketing.
Sitting down and planning a marketing strategy will give you a clearer picture of where you are now and where you need to focus your energy in the future to have the biggest impact on raising the profile of your business and securing new customers.
And, if you include measurable targets in your plan, you can then bask in the warm glow of reaching those targets as a reward for the hard work you put in.
Here’s Plan B’s guide to creating a marketing strategy that works for you and your business.
1.Identify your target audience.
Spend a bit of time thinking about who you are trying to reach with your marketing efforts. Write down as much information as you can about them. Consider their age, where they live, their income bracket, their interests and hobbies.
If your business provides a range of products or services, you may need to look at the demographic of the potential audience for each. Consider creating a distinct buyer persona – give them a name, a job, decide where they live and how they spend their time.
Every time you undertake any type of marketing, talk to that person directly, as though you were selling to them face to face. It makes your approach more personal and friendly, which will build trust and rapport.
2. Analyse your current situation
Where is your business right now? What marketing have you done recently or in the past and what worked and what didn’t? Can you learn any lessons from that?
Also, carry out a SWOT analysis. What are your business’s strengths, eg your unique selling point and how are you better or different to the competition?
What about weaknesses? Is there something you need to do to plug the gaps?
What opportunities are available for your business? Is there a current trend or event you can take advantage of?
Finally, what are the biggest threats to your business and what can you do to mitigate them?
3. Set your marketing goals
This is where you set down on paper what you want to achieve from your marketing, such as greater awareness or more sales (or both!).
But, don’t stop there, make sure your goals are measurable.
There’s no better feeling than achieving a milestone or hitting a target you have set yourself and it means you know your time investment in setting a marketing strategy was worth it!
And, if your strategy does not achieve the results you want, you can tweak it in the future for a better chance of success.
4. Define your marketing strategies and tactics
What actions are you going to take to reach your marketing goals? Look at all the different options open to you.
- Do you need to tweak your website to make it easier for customers to find you and see what you offer?
- Could a leaflet dropped through people’s doors in a certain area bring be a cost-effective way of reaching the right people?
- Could you be doing something more or different on social media which would increase your audience?
- Would a run of adverts in the local paper be more suitable to reach your goals?
This is the backbone of your marketing strategy, so spend time looking at the target audience you identified in Step 1 and think about the best way of reaching the highest number of them for minimum outlay. Not every customer can be reached in the same way, so how are you going to spread your marketing efforts to each as many as possible?
5. Set your marketing budget.
This is obviously the bottom line of your marketing strategy and many of the tactics and actions you have identified in step four will be determined by how much you have to spend.
Your budget will need to be high enough to make an impact, but low enough that you can afford it, obviously, and that you can be sure of receiving a fair return on investment.
Gather the costs of the strategies you have identified. Get some quotes for adverts in the local paper or printing a leaflet or work out how much would you need to spend on a Facebook ad to reach your audience? Once you have the data you can decide where your money will be best spent to achieve your goals.
6. Set your marketing strategy timeframe
Now you know what and how you intend to market your business, set yourself a schedule. But remember, good things take time. Give your marketing time to work and don’t be disheartened if you don’t see immediate results. Repetition builds results, so you may need to do things several times for your target audience to become aware of you, come to trust you and then buy from you.
I’d suggest setting a timeframe of three months for your first marketing plan. It’s long enough to see results, while short enough for you to keep up the momentum and not forget about it. It also buys into my new 12-week planning philosophy – see my blog post Planning for a successful year in business – 12 weeks at a time.
At the end of that time, honestly assess how successful it has been and use what you have learned to set your next marketing strategy.
Marketing Strategy tie-up
If done well, your marketing strategy can be a blueprint for growing your business – one you can look to for inspiration if you hit a wall and don’t know what to do next.