“The gap between what’s expected and what you deliver is where the magic happens, in business and in life.” ~ Jay Baer.
Jay is a business and marketing strategist, 6-time New York Times best selling author, keynote speaker and founder of six multi-million dollar organizations. His focus is to “make your marketing and customer experience the elements of your company that customers LOVE and talk about, not just tolerate.” However, if you don’t have a plan, how can you create an experience your customers love? Many startups don’t realize that a marketing plan is just as important as a business plan.
A marketing plan is action-oriented. It is all about connecting and converting customers. Good marketing plans involve research and include facts and objectives. It not only provides a story but also can be broken down into chapters filled with the tools and tactics you will need to achieve sales goals. Marketing plans help you to understand who your target market is and the best channels and methods you can use to bring customers along their journey through the purchase funnel.
Marketing is all about the customer. We all know consumer behavior is dynamic, but the following 7 tips can help you to better position your company for success.
“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows” ~ Ralph Marston
SWOT. This first part of planning is to take a look at who you are today. Write down your products or services, how they benefit your customers and what makes you different from your competitors. Try and stay away from cliche terms like “excellent customer service,” what does that mean anyway? Remember, perception is everything and what one thing means to you likely means something else to someone else. Write, Sit, Edit. Document your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Think of strengths and weaknesses as internal things that you can control (who you hire, how you treat your customers, the processes you implement). While opportunities and threats are external factors that are outside of your control (social, environmental, regulatory, technological, economic); things you must adapt or react to. Keep your SWOT simple, 3-5 bullets for each area and try to limit it to one slide or a half a page.
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Positioning. After you have created a simplified SWOT analysis, you can move to positioning. Positioning involves two steps. First, think about your product’s features and how they set you apart from your competitors. Second, decide what type of buyer is most likely to buy from you. What are you selling? Convenience? Quality? Discount pricing? Choose 1, You can’t do it all. Once you know what type of buyer is likely to buy from you, it’s time to spend a little time learning more about them.
“By studying yesterday, you will understand today” ~ Suzy Kassem
Personas. Spending time upfront learning about your customer will save time later. Based on what you think you know, write a simple, one-paragraph profile of your customer. You can describe prospects in terms of age, sex, family composition, earnings, and geographic location (demographics) and personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles (psychographics). Think about your interactions with your customers or better yet, ask them! Where do they live, how often do they buy from you? How/what channels do they use to contact you? Are they formal or casual in their communications? Quieter and reserved or outgoing? What life stage are they in? After doing a little research, group customers with certain characteristics together and create a persona. Need some inspiration? Vengage offers 20 great examples of personas for additional guidance.
Be SMART. “it is the execution of the SMART goals strategy that separates achievers from the rest of the people.” ~ Anna Stevens
SMART Goals. Now that you’ve spent some time understanding who you are, where you are today, who your customer is and what they like, it’s time to start looking forward. Smart goals can help you do just that. Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. They can provide a clear path to help you reach your intended target, your destination so to speak. From there, you can decide how to apply your time and resources to make progress. After you have established your goals, it’s time to focus on execution.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
Take Action. Unless you take action on your goals, they will remain just that, goals that never happen and that ultimately isn’t very smart if you want success! Tactics are the things that will define and bring your strategy to life. To establish your tactics, reference your marketing strategy, then outline the tactics you’ll use to reach prospects at any point along their journey. Think about the marketing mix (4Ps), product, price, place, and promotion. To identify your ideal marketing mix, find out which media your target audience turns to for information on the type of product or service you sell. The marketing tactics you choose must reach your prospects when they’ll be most receptive to your message. Here you can flip your Ps to consider the 4 Bs and ask yourself: Are your products brandable? All products and services are experiential and must use customer-centered-design to account for the 2-way communication environment that exists today. Are your products bountiful in their placement? Products must be accessible on multiple channels in order to effectively reach and engage multiple target audiences. Are your promotions believable? Customer trust is essential for brand equity. Products must be authentic, verifiable and believable to earn consumer trust. Lastly, Are your products bankable? Have you priced your products competitively, and have attention focused on ease of purchase process? What tools, technologies or processes can you implement to help you implement your marketing mix? Thinking through your tactics, remember a key rule of economics: TANSTAFL, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!” Marketing takes time, resource and money.
“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising” ~ Mark Twain
Do The Math. Business is about dollars and cents and you can’t earn a dollar if you don’t have common sense and spend a few cents along the way. In order to scale or achieve sustainability, you will need to make some investments. Now is the time in the process for you to take a look at the numbers. Determine the percentage of projected gross sales that you will allocate to marketing. As you add up the costs for the marketing tactics you outlined previously, you may find you’ve gone over your budget. It may take a little finessing until you have a mix that’s affordable. The important thing is to never stop marketing, measuring and making adjustments. Once you determine your channels, tactics, and the money it will take, it’s time to focus on your believable message.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories, you tell.” ~ Seth Godin
Storytelling. Havard Business Review published an article about the Irresistible Power of Storytelling As A Strategic Business Tool. In the article, research has shown that regardless of the content, it was the structure of that content that predicted its success, “People are attracted to stories because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.” When you spend time creating your marketing plan, it’s the equivalent of sitting down at the table and spending time listening to and learning about the people around you (your customers). You can learn what they like, where they spend time, what challenges they have, how they talk (their tone) and where they spend their time.
Story Ingredients. To be a great storyteller, you need 4 things. You need to have a character, a plot, some conflict or challenge to overcome, and a moral of the story. By doing a little research about your customers, you have the information you need to create a compelling story. Remember, short is sweeter. The most successful storytellers often focus on a single topic or idea and they spend no more than a 30-second Superbowl ad to forge an emotional connection. In today’s mobile environment, micro-moments are a big part of the storytelling process for brands. But storytelling isn’t just about words, did you know our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than words. So adding a little imagery will help your story to better engage with your audience.
“Learn data, and you can tell stories that more people don’t even know about yet but are eager to hear.” – Nathan Yau
Data is everywhere. People are currently producing an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. But, telling the data visualization story, we’ll save for another day. For your story, creating visuals is like a map to help your customers process what they are hearing and reaching about your business. Think of your story like a picture book, as you go through your story, how can you support your message with a correlating image? Using a tool like Canva helps you with the basics, find inspiration and create great images using their pre-made templates to support your story. Creating images to support your message can help to engage your customers allowing them to quickly skim and still take away bits of information.
Spending time upfront on these 7 areas will pay dividends by helping you to focus the right products with the right messages through the right channels to reach, inform, connect and engage your target audience. Creating a business plan without a marketing plan is like The Emperor’s New Clothes! Marketing is dynamic and the tools and technologies to assist with tactics are even more dynamic, it can be difficult to keep up. Markestry is here to help! Reach out on social or contact us with suggestions.