Developing a marketing strategy as part of your overall business plan helps you focus on how you will sell your products or services. However, your goals, and how you intend to reach them, may change as your business grows. For that reason, your marketing plan should be reviewed annually or more frequently to update your implementation strategy. The beginning of a new calendar year or your company's fiscal year is a good time for this undertaking.
It may seem like an extra step that takes time, funds, and focus away from your sales funnel, but a marketing strategy will help amplify your message and increase sales. However, that doesn’t mean your startup should market itself the same way a large corporation would. You don’t need millions of dollars or a large team to build an effective strategy.
The purpose of your marketing plan is to outline how you will reach your target audience and sales goals. To do this, you must develop a strategy to advertise your products or services. Placing details in your marketing plan helps you analyze its success at a later date and update it as needed.
Determine your new business goals, including total sales revenue and net profits, prior to creating a strategy for advertising. Once you've established where you want your company to be in the coming year, figure out how you'll get there through your marketing plan. Focus on seasonal sales and how to improve during lulls and busy times. Repeat the strategies that were most effective, and include the cost estimates for each one.
Once you understand what you need to accomplish to grow your business, implement your strategy by matching the strengths and talents of your employees or look to outsource the different segments of your plan. For example, if a goal is to increase your online presence, the staff member who has the most experience and success with web content, advertising and social media can take the lead. Explaining your annual marketing plan to your employees and those involved with your business helps them understand why they are assigned to certain tasks and how their efforts benefit them and the company through increased sales.
Once your annual marketing plan is updated, it must be reviewed periodically throughout the year. Look at your goals and the strategy you developed to achieve them, and determine if you are on track for reaching them. Ensure that you are accomplishing the strategic plan, and you do not need to make any changes to it due to unforeseen circumstances, such as an increase in cost of goods sold or a new competitor. This process is ongoing, so your new-year marketing plan and strategic goals must be revisited regularly, such as every quarter, to help you analyze its success before the year is over.
Here are some marketing tips find helpful and ones that have been proven to work for a small business or a solo entrepreneur:
1. Determine your objective:Before I start any project, I confirm my objectives. Some call them conditions of satisfaction, i.e. a documented list of every expectation that must be met in order for me to deem the project a success. Mine have been the same for decades: make money, learn something new and have fun doing it.
Whether you are working on creating a marketing plan, on-boarding a new client or starting a new project, start by defining the conditions of satisfaction and have all parties approve them. This helps keep projects on track, ensures that you’re meeting expectations, and mitigates politics.
Here are a few general questions you should ask before building a new strategy:
Who is my target audience?
What are the specific outcomes I’d like to achieve? For instance, increasing the company’s Twitter followers by 1,000 or increasing revenue by 20%.
What is my strategy for achieving these outcomes?
If you want to increase social media followers, there are a variety of tools such as audience development platforms or social brand advocacy platforms that can be used to find target audience. Start by deciding whether you’ll pay for social media and advertising, or whether you’ll focus on creating engaging content in-house. A clear strategy will help you stay focused, within budget, and achieve your goal.
2. Create and document your strategy
Once you have clearly outlined your conditions of satisfaction, it’s time to spell out the steps you need to take to achieve them. Having a clearly outlined plan in place will help erase miscommunication and keep the entire team on the same page. By sharing one document, employees know their role and what they’re expected to bring to the table. It may seem simple, but in the end, it will help save you time and money. I use a Worldwide Marketing Calendar divided by months and categories that are relevant for my business.
3. Get personal
Now that you have a goal and a plan, it’s time to think about tactics. If you want to acquire and retain loyal customers, and keep your followers engaged, personalized one-to-one marketing is no longer optional, but a requirement.
There are easy ways to make your business a little more personal. There are ways you can personally address your consumers. A retail owner can send exclusive discounts to their most loyal shoppers or an airline can respond via social media to stranded travelers with tips for entertaining themselves in the airport. Getting personal with consumers equates to more emotionally connected customers who will help drive word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews.
4. Remember: Content is (still) king
I’ve said this a number of times in the past and I have yet to be proven wrong: Developing quality content should be the rule, not the exception, regardless of industry. Content marketing sometimes scares startups, and for good reason: It can be time consuming when done in-house; meanwhile, if you outsource it, it can cost between $2,000-$20,000 per month. It’s important to determine what your team can manage and when you need to hire a specialist. Have a team member with graphic design experience? Keep that in-house. Need someone to write copy? Hire a copywriter.
Whenever possible, use strategies that will save you time. If you don’t have the resources, don’t try and build everything from scratch. When done right, producing quality content marketing contains original research, is well written and provides value to your audience.
In other words, good content marketing is time consuming to produce. However, there are a few strategies that help speed up the process. Delegating the writing or research to competent team members, running regular columns that share the same basic format, and creating new content that supports or enhances existing content can save you time.
5. AI & ML- What it is & How to use it
While AI isn’t the magical solution to every marketing challenge you’ve ever encountered, it can help you make significantly more informed decisions and save you a ton of time.
Lucky for you, I’m here to show you what it can actually do for you as a marketer, right now. With a little knowledge about AI and machine learning (ML), as well as some research into which AI solutions could meet your particular needs, your data could quickly be turned into actionable insight.
To ease you into the search, I’ve collected as many marketing-specific tools as I could find that offer artificially intelligent technology as the core of their value proposition. The tools are grouped by the tasks that they support and listed alphabetically within their respective categories.
6. Micro-Influencer Marketing:
Micro-influencers are social media users unlike typical celebrities, experts, or public figures. They're individuals who work or specialize in a particular vertical and frequently share social media content about their interests. Unlike traditional "influencers," micro-influencers have a more modest number of followers -- typically in the thousands or tens of thousands -- but they boast hyper-engaged audiences.
Using micro-influencers may seem counterintuitive. Why would you seek out someone with a smaller following to promote your brand?
There are several reasons to believe micro-influencers might get better results for your brand.
7. Ride the Livestreaming Wave to Marketing Success
Live video marketing has become a must-do trend in the digital marketing community. Thanks to Snapchat, Facebook Live and other competing social media that connect users to brands in real-time, there's been a surge in content creation that boosts social presence and builds brand loyalty while live streaming.
One of the most valuable byproducts of livestreaming is that it bridges the gap between clients and brands and allows for a much more intimate interaction. In essence, it's a video marketing strategy that brings us back to a time when we could physically and emotionally interact with other people who represented the brand we were crazy about.
It’s a perfect example of work smarter, not harder, a philosophy that should apply to all your marketing efforts.
Once you have a few brand-new marketing ideas to try in your small business, get started on creating or fine tuning your marketing plan.