Seven Steps to a Great Marketing Plan

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. The best part of planning a marketing campaign is the thinking that you do. Asking questions, innovating ideas and brainstorming are valuable investments to make.

Marketing is all about getting people to come to you. That is the goal of marketing. Whereas a sale is typically a single transaction, good marketing massively increases lead generation and can translate into hundreds of sales. As with all things in business, there is ‘no free lunch’, so understanding that marketing is an investment, you need a good marketing plan to get the return on investment you need.

1. Research the Market

Clarity is power, so start by learning as much as you can about your market. Before doing any marketing, make sure you understand the market!

Who is your existing customer base, and who else could be in it? Starting internally (existing customers), ask yourself:

What does your ideal customer look like? Where do they live, work, play and hang out? What are their likes and dislikes? How old are they? Are they men or women? Where do they shop? What are the similarities of your Top 20 customers?

All these questions and more will start giving you a picture of your ideal customer and will also help you to identify strengths and weaknesses you may have in reaching them. For example, imagine your ideal customer is female, between the ages of 27 – 35, university-educated with an annual income greater than $145,000, who owns her property and hikes at least monthly. So, what insights or understanding do you have in each of those attributes of your client that can help you market to her needs?  What weaknesses might you need to address?

2. Set Clear Goals

The key here is to understand the market you are in. Once you’ve done that, you can start setting marketing goals. Use the 5 Ways Business Chassis (give me a call if you haven’t got a copy) to develop a target for the number of new customers each week (or month or year, depending on your business). Let’s say you want ten new customers each month and your Conversion Rate (how many leads you convert to customers) is 50%. That means you need 20 new leads every month.

3. Decide on Your Budget

The simple Leads x Conversion Rate = New Customers algorithm means you are in a position to figure out how much you need to spend to get those customers (i.e. your Acquisition Cost). If you need to make a hundred calls to get those twenty leads and each call costs you $5, you need to spend $500 every month to get ten new customers. Remember, in the game of marketing, you are buying customers. Make sure you start with the end (the goal of new customers) in mind. Too many and your customer service may struggle.  Too few, and your cashflow might be constrained. Aim for the growth you know you need and can stretch to achieve.

4. Measure Everything

Compare different campaigns. Imagine you ran two campaigns, each costing $1000. Campaign A generates 1000 leads, and Campaign B 100. Which one is better? You can’t say until you’ve measured the number of leads you convert to customers, what each customer spends, how many times they buy from you, which campaign generates the best referrals from the new customers, etc. In other words, you need to know the Lifetime Value of the campaigns to know which ones to repeat and which to ditch. Not all marketing is equal (and about 80% of campaigns fail!) because not all customers are equal.

5. Do a SWOT Analysis

Knowing your ideal customer, setting goals, and a budget is where to start, but it doesn’t end there. Get out and research your competitors. What products and services do they offer? What is their cost and pricing model? How do THEY go to market? What social media posts get the most Likes? The more you know about your competitors, the better equipped you will be to win the game.

6. Know Your USP

Your Unique Selling Proposition – what makes you different from the competition – tells the market why it should buy from you and not someone else. If you aren’t sure what makes you unique, ask your existing customers. After all, there is a reason they are with you!

You might also want to offer a guarantee. One way to do that is to know what the major customer frustrations are in your industry. A plumber I know told me that in his industry, the frustrations include being late, leaving the customer’s home in a mess and “not wearing belts”! So, he guaranteed to be on time (or the first half-hour is free), that he and his crew would always tidy the place before leaving (or the homeowner got a full-house cleaning service which the plumber paid for, and all his staff wore belts…

For most businesses, guarantees are legal requirements, so use that to your advantage. Of course, you must be sure your systems are in place to deliver on your promise.

7. Target Your Audience

Once you have done all the preparation work, it is time to start actual targeting. Be very specific and granular. Imagine a dartboard and break down your target into those same thin segments (there are twenty on a dartboard if you aren’t up to speed). You may want to write down the Top 10 attributes of your ideal customer, then rate your customers (A – the Best, B - Doing Fine, C – Reeducate to become As, D – Move them On) before asking yourself five questions:

  1. Who are they? – You’ll know this from your research.
  2. Where can you find them (in the greatest density)?
  3. What do they want?
  4. Why do they want it? People buy on emotion, so get to know their motivations.
  5. How do they buy? Online, in-person, through clubs…

The answers to your questions mean you can tailor your offer. Each segment needs its own tailoring because one size never fits all. You should write up the copy (what you put into the campaign) once all that is done. It is what the market sees, but trying to shortcut it will cost you in the long run.

Treat the marketing plan as an investment because that is precisely what marketing is.

You’ve got this!

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