Adapted from an email marketing series that was sent to 14Minds email subscribers.
Part 1: Company Statement
You know you need to be investing in marketing, and you know how important having a plan is; nut where do you start? Don’t be deterred by the term ‘marketing plan’ – it’s really not as intimidating as it sounds. You don’t need to create a 30 page manifesto – in fact, a simple, one page plan is actually a much better idea! You can stick it to your wall, refer back to it, and easily change it up if the need arises.
Still feeling overwhelmed? I’m going to walk you through it, step-by-step!
> Open up a fresh google doc (or a Microsoft Word Doc, if you’re old school, or a paper, if you are REALLY old school!)
Answer the following questions:
- WHY do you do what you do? (Hint: Making money is not the right answer).
- WHO do you it for?
- HOW does it help them improve their lives?
- WHAT differentiates you from the competition.
Now, look at what you’ve written and summarize your response into a brief paragraph. For example, this is my summary:
14Minds believes that every company should have the ability to market themselves as intentionally as the world’s largest brands. We implement strategic marketing campaigns for forward-thinking businesses & non-profits via a streamlined process that minimizes stress while maximizing ROI, allowing our clients to focus on achieving their dreams.
The purpose of this summary is remind you of your mission and keep you focused. After all, if you don’t know who you are and why you are in business, you can’t really expect anyone to buy in!
Take 10 minutes to work on this right now – no procrastination! And feel free to send reply here with your statement if you’d like a second opinion.
Part 2: Setting Goals
Imagine packing up your car and heading out for a road trip…with no planned destination. It might seem like fun at first – taking in the sights, exploring new places, and meeting new people. After a while, though, you’re probably going to get bored and tired.
This is what you’re doing if you are trying to market your business without setting goals. You know you have somewhere you’d like to get to- you just don’t where that is!
You want to set goals that are ambitious and will challenge you; but you also want them to be realistic. The best way to set a goal is to do an honest analysis of your current business. What do your customers really love about your business, and what can you do better? Which areas have shown growth, and which need improvement? If you’re not sure, ask! Make some time to speak to customers, non-customers, employees; look at your data, online reviews (if relevant)- until the insights you need make themselves clear. These insights will help you clarify your business goals; your marketing goals are the activities you will do to help you achieve those business goals.
Confused? Here’s an example. Let’s say I did research and discovered that a lot of customers in my target audience simply don’t know that my company exists; I would set a business goal to increase brand awareness. One example of a relevant marketing goal that I could set would be to grow my social media following by 1,000 followers within 3 months.
>Do an impromptu situational analysis of your business. Based on the insights, write down ONE marketing goal for your business to work on achieving in the next three months. Next week, we’ll break down your marketing goal into small, attainable steps.
Part 3: Do the Math
Congratulations! If you’ve gotten this far, you now have a clear handle on your marketing goals*. That means you are setting yourself up to:
- Use the time you have to work on marketing your business more efficiently
- Get everyone involved (partners, employees, etc) on the same page and working towards the same result
- Actually see the fruits of your labor instead of just guessing
At this point, you should now have at least 1 realistic, measurable goal that has a specific end date. In order to get started on actually achieving it, you now just need to do some simple math!
Example: To reach my business goal of increasing brand awareness, I want to grow my Instagram following by 1,000 followers within the next 3 months.
Let’s say I currently post on Instagram once a week and engage for about 2 hours a week, and am averaging 20 new followers/week. I need to do approximately 4x the amount of work to get >80 followers per week, so for the duration of the 3 month period, I will focus on executing at least 4 posts per week and engaging for 8 hours. This is obviously a very simplistic way of looking at things, and you should be taking other factors (such as strategic content marketing, which we’ll discuss in future emails) into account as well; but if you follow this basic outline, you should be well on your way to achieving your goal. This would work regardless of whether you’re trying to grow an email list, increase traffic to a physical location, reach a specific target market, increase your conversion rate etc.
Q: What if I’m maxed out on the time I’m putting into something already and can’t make the math work?
A: Your goal has to be attainable, so you either need to adjust your numbers or choose a different goal.
Q: What if I’m trying something completely new and don’t have previous numbers to base my math on?
A: Start with educated guesses, and give yourself a longer timeline to track results and tweak the numbers accordingly.
If you’re new to this, start with one simple marketing goal. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to have at least 3 strategies working in tandem to help you achieve a specific business goal.
> Look at your marketing goal. Write down the amount of effort you are currently putting in, if any, and what the average results are (it’s ok if you need to guesstimate!) Now, figure out the multiplier by which you need to increase your efforts to reach your goal number.
*Note: There are many different ways to define marketing goals and differentiate them from marketing objectives, so don’t get sidetracked by terminology. My aim is here to keep this process as easy as possible, and to help you go from zero to focused without getting overwhelmed. If you feel like this is too simplistic for your business, and are interested in a more sophisticated marketing plan, let’s talk.
Part 4: Choose your Marketing Channels.
What do I mean by marketing channels? Your website, email, print ads, social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, messaging platforms such as WhatsApp – these are all examples of marketing channels.
Many marketers skip over this step or treat it as an afterthought. However, if you’re a small business owner managing your marketing on your own, your resources are limited. Keeping your marketing channels in mind when developing your plan will make your efforts more effective overall. Here are some tips:
- Choose up to 3 channels (excluding your website, which is a necessity). You’ll only see real success if you can fully commit your time (and money, where relevant), so it doesn’t make sense to spread yourself too thin
- I strongly recommend choosing email as one of your channels. It may have been around for a while, but it’s still the best way to elicit a direct response from your market. Also, if you build an email list it is yours forever, while other channels force you to rely on a third party business.
- Choose your remaining marketing channels based on where your target audience spends the most time
Now, this doesn’t mean you can never use any other marketing channels besides the three you’re committing to now. These three will be the foundation of your core, long term marketing strategy; you can always run additional campaigns to boost your efforts throughout the year.
> On your one page marketing plan, write down the three marketing channels you will focus on.
Part 5: What messaging should you be distributing on each on your marketing channels?
It’s really important to think this through. Best case scenario, the alternative is a lot of wasted time and efforts; worst case, you alienate potential customers. Here are some simple ideas to factor into your messaging:
- Figure out what your audience really wants. Chances are, there are plenty of competitors who sell exactly the same things as you do, so simply describing what you sell isn’t going to get you far. Instead, tell people how you are going to help them get what they really want, which is not your end product or service but the benefit they’ll get out of it. Here’s an example; if you sell car seats, don’t talk about how you sell the latest styles with the highest safety ratings. Tell your audience how your car seat installation service, free with any purchase, will give them the peace of mind to know they’ve done all they can to keep their children safe.
- Always focus on ONE message at a time. It’s tempting to try to give over a lot of information at once (We’re having a sale! And we have a new product! And by the way you can visit our store for a special event on Sunday!) but that will only lead to your message getting lost entirely. Instead, choose one single action to focus on and include a clear, simple CTA (call-to-action) for your prospects to take the next step.
- Tailor your message and tone to the channel. Each marketing channel has its own etiquette. For example, posting an advertisement on your Instagram feed is kind of like walking over to someone at a party and trying to sell them on the latest multi-level marketing scam you’ve bought into (#awkward). If you’re not sure what goes on what channel, spend some time browsing other websites, social channels, email, etc in your industry.
Today’s task: On your one page marketing plan, write down the following three points: 1. What is the ultimate benefit my customers receive from my product service 2. What is the one action I want to focus my current marketing message on 3. What tone/style of content is appropriate for my marketing channels.
Part 6: Put your marketing plan in action with a simple sales funnel
Sales funnels CAN be complex and involve lots of different complicated tools, but they can ALSO be really simple and still get results. At its core, a funnel is just a sequence of communication – anyone can do that! Here are 3 steps to a basic funnel.
- Create a Lead Magnet: Offer potential customers something in exchange for their email address (or other contact info) and permission to receive additional emails. Anyone who fills out your lead magnet should be subscribed to your email list; the relationship is now yours to develop. (Lead Magnet Examples: Webinar, downloadable report, recipe)
- Nurture your Subscriber Relationships: The way you nurture these will vary depending on your industry, but the basic concept is to gradually break down all barriers to a purchase. For example: If you sell something complex, a buyer might be worried that they won’t be able to figure out how to use it. To alleviate this concern, you can follow up with a product demo. Providing testimonials or case studies is also a great way to move leads down your funnel.
- Have a Strategy for Sales Conversion: Your sales funnel allows you build trust and alleviate concerns, but most customers will need a final push before you can close the deal. Choose and commit to ONE strategy that will allow you to get over the final hurdle.
Examples: Allow customers to try before they buy; offer a money back guarantee if the product/service is not as described; have three package options so customers can choose the one that feels right for them; offer an unlimited service.
Today’s (final) task: Determine your lead magnet, and list three ways you can nurture leads once they are in your funnel. Then, commit to one sales conversion strategy.
Tip: Today’s task is the only one that requires a bit of technological know-how, but don’t let that scare you away. If you don’t have a website or resources to set one up, there are simple tools such as LeadPages that will create a lead magnet on a landing page for you.
That’s it, our one page plan is done!
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