Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a series of tactics that deliver agreed goals for the business

First thing for any small business to note is that marketing plans do not have to be a complicated fifty page document. Marketing plans and go-to-marketing strategies may get more advanced and complicated as a business grows but for the vast majorities of companies a simple, effective marketing plan will suffice. Do not write a marketing plan to please an investor or bank manager, write the marketing plan as your best bet to get customers interested into what you are selling.

marketing-plan

Most small businesses will usually find one key marketing tactic that produces a consistent return on investment (ROI) plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together allows the business to grow revenue. The key marketing tactic can range from trade-shows, SEO, PPC, inbound marketing, social selling to advertising. The key marketing tactic selected is the marketing foundation and it needs to be solid, deliver consistent results and removes any fear of the marketing plan failing.

Don’t panic if your business is new or it has not found one yet, please read on.

A great tip to identify what type of marketing plan is right for a business is to ask this question “What is the lifetime value in profit of a customer we sell to?”

I suggest you then assign your business into one of these three customer lifetime profit value categories

  1. Sub €200 profit
  2. Sub €2000 profit
  3. Above €2000 profit

This is important as it defines your cost of customer acquisition (what it costs a business to get a customer to buy from them) and how much a business can afford to pay for clicks, traffic and a sales lead. The business should also figure in customer churn, do not over calculate how often or how long a customer will stay loyal to a business. Depending on the business model, the marketing plan also affects cash flow, because you pay for marketing upfront with a lag over weeks or months to get an ROI on the tactics.

  1. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €200.
    The products or services sold may cost €50 to €200 or higher AND as a business if you sell to that customer two, three, four times over a three year period, the profit on that customer would be less than €500. An example of this could be an online florist. A bouquet of flowers costs €55, but the customer is probably going to buy two or three times a year means the likely profit from that customer is less than €200.
  2. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €2000. The vast majority of businesses fall into this category. The premise here is that the product or service costs an amount that will generate a €2k profit, OR the average customer buys more than once over a period of time with the total purchases adding up to more than €2000 profit. An example here is an online SaaS software company. The average monthly subscription is €50. That is €600 a year over three years = €1800. With a 60% profit margin this comes to €1080 for the lifetime value (profit) of the customer.
  3. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is ABOVE €2000.
    This category usually applies to large one of consumer purchases or a B2B sales environment. The calculation here is that the sale or number of sales over a period of time (36 months) will generate in excess of €2000 profit for the business.

So, now that you have assigned your business to category 1, 2 or 3, here is some suggested key marketing tactics as the foundation to drive the business growth.

If a business is a 1 – Referrals/Local/AdWords

The key marketing KPI here is can you generate leads/traffic/enquires for less than €1 and the cost of customer acquisition (getting a sales or purchase) is no more than €10. A simple marketing metric is the business sold to 100 customers in a month and spent €100 on marketing, so the cost per sale was €1.

Maybe distribute flyers door to door with special offers, advertise locally online with free samples, and optimise your website for local target keywords. Ask customers for referrals to add to your email marketing newsletters. Send OUT newsletters to your existing customers. Attend local events and business organisations. Find one key marketing activity that generates enough customers where it costs the business as little as possible to get a sale.

If a business is a 2 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media

In this category the sales cycle could be longer or need sales intervention. The business will need to generate a high enough volume of leads to generate the ROI needed to be successful. SEO work can be critical here but this should be part of an inbound marketing tactic. The use of social networks for social selling and content marketing to influence buyers should be considered. A good email marketing solution and a resource to work on social media campaigns is probably a must. Budgets permitting, Google Ad Words will deliver the quickest bang for your marketing buck alongside social media tactics.

If a business is a 3 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media/Events/Sponsorship

Depending on your market segment, where customers generate a profit north of €2000 usually involves more lead nurturing, heavier buyer influence, bigger social media reach and plans for a more guided sales cycle. I have seen companies successfully use events as their key marketing tactic even if the sales cycle and cost per lead required more investment. The biggest success tactic from a marketing activity now used in this category is content marketing. Maybe consider putting a lead generation person on social selling to generate customer interest. A business needs to invest in resourcing the writing and publishing of well executed articles and whitepapers to set the business as a thought leader in their industry. While the cost per sales lead and cost of customer acquisition can be higher, the marketing plan tactics needs to deliver more solid leads or higher qualified customers as the marketing investment in this category can seriously impact the cash flow of a smaller business.

social-media-planning

Regardless of 1, 2 or 3, the key to making a marketing plan work is to be: CONSISTENT.

Plans take time, for a plan to work it must be implemented with both the heart and the head.  Every marketing plan has to have KPI’s and metrics. Implement, stick with it and adjust where necessary. Do not adopt the “give it a whirl” approach or alter course before the data supports the decision. In a digital world, social media marketing has overtaken sales and even brands as the core business driver. The buyer-supplier relationship has moved on, fast, the marketing plan needs to address how to deliver a consistent return on investment (ROI) via a key marketing tactic plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together matches the business strategy for growth.

Marketing Plan Template

             Marketing plan template and guide

                           The Bitter Business

A marketing plan will help a business identify the markets, product to market fit, customers and competitors which underpins the strategy selection to make a business sustainable. This marketing plan template courtesy of The Bitter Business can act as a guide through the process of creating a solid, well thought out marketing plan for your business.

marketing-plan

Download the marketing plan template for free here. Marketing plan template and guide

Why every business needs a marketing plan

A good well thought out marketing plan will help the business stakeholders to answer key questions about the business, and act as a reference document to help the team execute the marketing strategy. It will also help develop a structured approach to creating services and products that satisfy the market and customers’ needs.

When writing a marketing plan,  always be clear about the marketing objectives and how the business is going to achieve them. This free marketing plan template can be a guide in setting those realistic and measurable objectives, budgets and action plans with ability to allocate resources.

Content Marketing Plan

As social media grows, the use of content marketing both as a social selling tool and as an audience engagement tool to acquire and retain customers has now taken centre stage within the marketing strategy. The great news is apart from time to preparing the content, content marketing is mostly free but there are some lessons to be heeded. Free publishing platforms like WordPress or Medium, and free content and link promotion on Scoop.it, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook amongst others make content marketing a go to tactic for any business.

Also listed below is some helpful resource lists covering “content marketing guide” “content marketing tips” “content marketing promotion” and “content marketing publishing platforms”.

content-marketing

Content Marketing is not Blogging

To ensure content market delivers, a business has to start out with the end in mind, what keywords are you targeting, is your content for industry education or brand promotion.  Content articles need to be one thousand plus words and the content needs to be relevant and well written.

The use of content Marketing requires creating and sharing meaningful content (white papers, market research, industry insights, market articles) to attract and convert traffic into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into repeat purchasers. The content a business needs to share should be closely related to what it sells; or more pointedly, words that will educate an audience, market segment or industry so they get to know, like, and be  influenced enough to do business with your company.

Content marketing is not a one off event, it is an ongoing marketing and sales process that is scheduled, resourced and integrated into the company’s marketing strategy. A company’s content marketing goals should be to own the media space coverage for the topics selected or target keywords chosen.

A critical point to note is that content marketing is the art of reaching out to communicate with your customers and prospects without the heavy sales pitch. This has become known as non-interruption marketing. Instead of pushing out products or services sales messaging, using social selling techniques the business delivers information that makes the buyer more informed. The underpinning fundamentals of a content marketing strategy is that if a business delivers relevant, timely, valuable information to prospects and customers, they will ultimately reward the business with purchases and loyalty.

Content Marketing “Creating a Deep Connection with Prospects and Customers”
Effective content Marketing is not possible without well thought out and well written content. Quality content is important as it links and impacts nearly all aspects of the marketing strategy.

  • Content marketing strategy powers social media exposure.
  • SEO: Quality content with relevant keywords will impact on SEO and SERP.
  • PR: Content marketing drives successful PR as it shows readers the business cares about them not just their business self-interest.
  • SEM: For paid advertising to work, great content will deliver more traffic/leads.
  • Inbound marketing: Content is key to driving inbound traffic, sign-ups and leads.

Content marketing is about telling a different story; breaking through the clutter, winning more customers by marketing more intelligently.

The days when a business bombarded a prospect will sales calls and interrupted potential customers with mediocre content (brochures) that customers do not care about are over. Intelligent marketing uses content marketing to draw prospects and customers towards the business by creating information and content they actually find engaging and useful.

Content Marketing Guide

1. Choosing Content Topics

Start by selecting what industry, keywords, target audience and information you believe they would be interested in. Write about topics the business is knowledgeable on and has expertise in. A company selling interior design could write a fun article about “interior design from the 70’s you want to avoid”.  It is not a sales pitch or net, content topics are fishing lines that attract people towards the brand. Engage the customer, give before you ask.

2. Planning the Articles

This takes time and patience. Writing quality content of 1000 plus words could take 1 or 2 days. Over time, experience will shorten the thinking time but planning and writing takes time. Planning out your content topics a month in advance can make the writing easier and the final content of higher quality. Before writing anything, devote time to keyword selection, topic title, brainstorming the content messaging, finding sources for images and sound bites.  So when the actually writing process starts is should be about crafting words.

3. Write Quality Content

Once the target audience, topic title and keywords have been decided upon, the process of crafting the words into an article can begin. Plan out how many quotes, sound bites you want to include. Always think quality, quality means grammar, sentence structure but more importantly is research based information like the information below on social media.

To put the potential impact of social media into perspective, here is some insightful statistics’ on buyer decisions.

“57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.”

“67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

4. Build SEO into content marketing

When writing articles (title and first paragraph) think SEO. Google and SERP now rewards higher word count articles and article topics that match the content along with visually focused (video, images). Think like Google does, does this content do a good job at connecting search users to quality, relevant information. Do a keyword search for the planned article title; strive to make it unique while still using the target keywords, example “Easy Content Marketing Tips”. The core SEO is content marketing but by including tips and easy it broadens the article appeal and reach.

5. Promoting the Content

Before you hit the publish button, check spelling and depending on your content platform make sure to tag it for search terms within the site. Now start promoting the article (posting on to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.). Use a social bookmarking tool like AddThis to link your article to social bookmarking sites like Tumblr, Digg, Reddit, and Evernote.  This takes time, do not publish and promote the published articles the same time every day or week.  Publish the article, and then maybe give it a day or two before linking and promoting it.

content-marketing-diagram

6. Pause, Rest, Repeat

The old 80/20 rules applies to content marketing, it is 20 percent inspiration and 80 percentage work (research, thinking, planning and doing). There is no magic wand or short cuts, DO NOT outsource your content creation except to a trusted party who understands your business and marketing strategy. Do not copy and paste existing articles, use them for ideas and suggested wording.

Content marketing tips.

1. When posting a link on Twitter and Facebook also include an image

2. Share articles more than once over 2 or 3 weeks but change image/wording (not the article itself)

3. Try different times when posting on social networks

4. Adjust the content (posting title or wording) to suit the audience

5. Post the article links to multiple social bookmarks

Content Marketing – Promoting your articles and links.

This is a list (not exhaustive) of where to post the article links. Using a social bookmarking tool like AddThis is free and will speed up the process. I find doing it from Firefox is quicker.  Also try not to be logged into Google when posting.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Scoop.it, Nowvia, Evernote, Storify, Paper.li, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Silk.co, Soup.io, App.net, Pearltrees, We heart it, Buffer, Quora, Klout, Google+, Digg, Bizsugar,Disqus, Tumblr, Pinterest, Plurk, Diigo, List.ly, Shareslide, Visual.ly, Bundlr, Soundcloud,  Crunchbase, Sproutr.co, selfgrowth.com, prunderground (for PR and SEO), bitly, Owler, Imgur, LiveJournal.

Content marketing publishing platforms.

Some companies choose to have more than one content marketing platform. Most will use WordPress built into the site and also use a platform like Medium for other articles.

WordPress – Blogger – Medium – Glipho – LinkedIn Pulse – Lifehack – About.me –  Google Groups – Typepad – Svbtle – Buzzfeed.

Digital Marketing Strategy

Any Irish company with growth ambitions needs to have a digital marketing strategy in order to take advantage of the growing opportunities for sales, inbound lead generation, traffic and customers that digital marketing can generate.

The internet is changing the buyer –supplier relationship, today businesses have to know that attention is a currency and social media generates lots of noise so it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract the eyes and ears of the companies target market. Small companies can compete with larger companies but larger companies have well-funded marketing departments, a business is also competing with social media itself for information dispersal and a multitude of social networks are trying to get the attention of the same prospects or traffic.

digital-marketing-plan

So digital marketing has to have a strategy, a well thought out strategy which must support the overall business strategy; in fact a company’s digital marketing strategy may be the engine that powers the sales strategy. Ask the question, “what is our digital marketing strategy based on?” is it customer growth, new product promotion, market penetration or market development? Digital marketing and social media channels continues to expand and influence the buying choices of consumers and business so it is vital that every business learns how to succeed in the online world. In some recent reports published into digital marketing, a lack of effective strategies remains the most significant obstacle to succeeding in digital marketing. In fact, a survey of digital marketing managers showed that over 51 percent of them believed that a lack of connection to business strategy prevented them from achieving the digital marketing goals set out.

A well thought out digital marketing strategy will help a brand or business reach digitally engaged audiences, build deep customer relationships, and create new markets, products, or even redefine the business model.

Planning and executing a digital marketing strategy is essential to out-thinking the competition. In the online world the ability of a business to thrive could well be directly related to how well the business is able to maximise digital media channels. Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter or keyword searches on Google means it is possible for consumers or potential customers to interact on a truly global scale. Buying channels and behaviours are changing, the sales process and customer acquisition tactics are being redefined which means regardless of the business size or industry, it is critical that a business learns how to tap into the power interacting and engaging customers online.

The number of digital marketing choices can seem confusing, companies can confuse digital marketing tools with digital marketing channels, what is social posting versus SEO, what has content marketing to do with marketing automation? As a result, it can be difficult to determine where to start. Without a clear digital marketing strategy the temptation by a business, particularly small businesses are to try and do it all. Get a video created and post it on YouTube, plug a few promotions on Twitter and Facebook, join lots of groups on LinkedIn, the list can go on and on. Some businesses even use a specific team to handle a social media channel.

The reality is, without the right digital marketing strategy, a business is simply wasting resources and time, even losing ground to competitors. Much the same as any business planning process, the key is to understand the business mission and vision, then get agreement on the overall business strategy roadmap, next develop an understanding of the customer base, what goals the business wants digital marketing efforts to achieve, then selecting a digital marketing strategy that will help you to reach both your target audience and goals. For instance, if the strategy is market penetration or development then the strategy is to reach new customers or if it’s a product development strategy then the strategy is to focus on launching a new product or service.

The point is, without a solid strategy, it is not possible to determine whether the digital marketing tools a business has invested in will actually help meet the goals that have been set.

There is allot of technology hype around tools, social media monitoring, digital marketing courses, SEO submission etc. so thread carefully as the easy option can be to simply jump in on the latest digital marketing buzz word  which may or may not help a business’s digital marketing strategy.

Developing a successful digital marketing strategy is as simple as:

  1. Understand the business mission
  2. What is the overall business strategy
  3. Identifying the target audience.
  4. Developing SMART business goals.
  5. Selecting a strategy for meeting those goals.
  6. Implementing actions and activities for the strategy
  7. Monitor, review and adjust the chosen strategy.

Start out thinking your competitors, develop a digital marketing strategy that can be resourced and has clear ROI. To bring the point home, MarketingProfs reports that 69 percent of senior marketers in large companies expect an increase in digital spend. The time to get digital marketing right is now as digital marketing will impact on a business’s customer acquisition, sales, product development and maybe ultimately business success.

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