Identifying and engaging new customers is one of the greatest challenges that small businesses face on an ongoing basis, and a marketing plan is key to this endeavor. Join us as we walk through the steps of creating a killer marketing plan to help you target and attract more profitable and loyal customers.
1. Develop buyer personas.
Buyer personas are a valuable tool for understanding your customers and what they value about your business. These generalized profiles of your target customers are based on research as well as what you already know about your current customers. Personas are comprised of demographic information like age, gender, and familial status, as well as things like hobbies and interests.
In developing your buyer personas, begin by doing general market research. Who is interested in your business’s products and services? How old are they? Where do they live? If you can you get an idea of their occupation, education level, occupation, and income, you’ll have even more to work with. Once you have this information, dig a little deeper to discover other things that influence your customers’ buying decisions.
One of the best places to find this information is from your current customers. Find out what brought them to your business in the first place. What sales channels do they use to research new products and services? Ask some of your best customers if you can interview them or ask complete a short survey. All of this information can help you create your buyer personas.
2. Determine your budget.
Once you have your buyer personas and before you decide how which marketing tactics you will use, consider your marketing budget. How much have you allocated to marketing and is it sufficient to meet your goals? If your budget is lean (say 1-2 percent of your revenue), focus on simple tools and strategies that are affordable yet effective. If you have a larger budget to work with, you can incorporate more comprehensive marketing strategies.
Once you begin your marketing campaign, give it enough time to see what's working and what's not. Six months is a good rule of thumb to test out a campaign before making any changes.
3. Choose effective tactics.
The marketing tactics that you implement will ultimately depend on your audience. You can use the tactics listed below as a starting point, but be sure to refer to your buyer personas throughout the process. The tactics that will work best for your business depends on your unique audience.
Content marketing is the process of reaching and engaging consumers through quality content that is compelling, relevant, and valuable. Content takes a variety of forms including blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, infographics, and videos, to name a few.
When creating content, make sure that you are providing value for your customers. Each piece of content should have a clear call-to-action. You should also have a plan in place to promote your content. If you do not have an in-house marketing team to handle your content plan, you may want to outsource this important task to an outside marketing firm or professional writer.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest provide a great way for your small business to engage current customers and reach out to new customers. When developing a social media strategy, use your buyer personas to determine which social media sites are worth investing in.
For instance, if you find that many of your best customers are on Instagram but not Twitter, then you may want to focus more of your time and budget on marketing your business on Instagram. You can also test your posting schedule and use paid social campaigns to gain insights into the types of messaging that resonate with your customers.
Email is another great tool for reaching and engaging current and prospective customers. But be sure to ask before you send and always include an opt out message in all emails. Keep your messaging friendly and useful, and offer interesting and important news about new products or services you’re offering. You can also include special promotions or coupons in your emails to keep subscribers engaged.
Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a website and content for internet search engines. A good SEO plan can bring more organic (or free) traffic to your website from search engines like Google.
We won’t get into the complexities of SEO here. But, it’s important to note that your online content should emphasize keywords and phrases your target audience uses when searching the internet. To get started with keyword research, use the Google Keyword Planner tool.
Organic traffic to your site is the ideal way to bring in relevant leads, but there may be times when you need to supplement your inbound marketing efforts with paid advertising. To reach potential customers on the search engines, you can create pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google AdWords. Pay-per-click shows your ad content on the search engine results page when users search for relevant terms.
You can also make use of social media ads to reach relevant users on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Both of these paid ad platforms allow you to target the consumers who are most likely to be interested in your brand.
4. Set measurable goals.
Before you implement marketing tactics, you need to set goals for your campaigns. Use the SMART approach to goal setting when developing your marketing goals. This means that your goals should be:
- Specific – Clear goals are the key to successful implementation and tracking. Make sure that your goals are not too broad so that you can effectively monitor and analyze results. For example, your goal may be to “increase sales,” but this alone is too broad to be effective.
- Measurable – You also need to be able to effectively measure your goals. This is the only way that you can determine whether or not your campaigns are successful. Using the example above, you might say that your goal is to “increase sales by 10 percent.”
- Attainable – Make sure that you set goals that you can reasonably attain through the campaign. Though you may want to increase sales by 100 percent over time, one marketing campaign is not going to accomplish this goal. Instead, aim for a goal that is attainable given your constraints.
- Realistic – It’s also important to set goals that are realistic for your company based on the campaign and your chosen time frame. Aim for a number that is realistic for the campaign. Pulling from past successes or failures and doing a small increase is a great place to start.
- Timely – Your goals should also have a time constraint. Think about how long you want to run the campaign and when you will analyze the results. To use the example above, your SMART goal might be to “increase sales by 10 percent by November 21.”
In addition to being SMART, you also want to ensure your goals align with your sales and overall business goals.
5. Establish a tracking system.
Analyzing campaign results is essential to determining its success. Once you have set SMART goals, you should establish how you will track the results of your campaigns over time.
There are many different methods of tracking campaigns, and the system that you use will depend on which tactics you use. For instance, if you are using social media sites like Facebook for lead generation, you will want to consider which social media metrics are. Then, you’ll track these metrics over time, using the Facebook manager dashboard.
Google Analytics will be one of your biggest assets when tracking the success of your marketing campaigns. For instance, if the goal of your social media campaign is to drive traffic to your site or a specific landing page, you can use the Google Analytics dashboard to better understand how many visitors are coming to your site from social media campaigns. Google Analytics will also be vital in tracking any SEO efforts that you implement.
After you’ve established a system for tracking results, it’s important to be consistent with your analytics and use the information to improve future campaigns. For example, you might find that most of your site traffic from search engines is coming from a blog or whitepaper on a particular topic. You can use this information to develop future campaigns that focus on the topics your audience is most interested in.
Putting it all together
These five steps will help you get started on your killer marketing plan to help you reach and convert more customers. Remember, it’s important to do the work ahead of time to set yourself up for success. By researching your audience and different marketing tactics before you launch your campaigns, you can make smarter decisions and make better use of your budget.
There's no magic formula for success and marketing requires continuous improvement. But as your business grows and changes, these guidelines will help you create a process you can track and improve upon.