A good marketing program takes equal parts planning, strategy and execution – with a whole lot of follow-through added in for good measure.
We see two common scenarios in which marketing fails:
- All planning, no execution – where you put together a ‘plan’ at the start of the year and then goes back to it when there’s a bit of spare time or the sales pipeline dries up.
- No planning – where you try a scattershot marketing approach or a couple of extra sales people hoping it will plug the gap immediately.
The thing is, neither work long-term.
Here’s the good news: the right marketing strategy will future-proof your business and do some of your sales work while you sleep.
I’m talking about a marketing strategy that is: well researched, well planned and consistent. A marketing strategy that is created via a proven method implemented by experienced marketers worldwide.
And here’s the magic: with some focus and hard work, and the right guidance, you could have a marketing plan ready to go in just a couple of weeks. Then all you have to do is brief your team and get implementing.
If you’re ready for it – read on.
First, let’s take a good hard look at your business.
You’ve probably done this already – but it’s always a good idea to develop a clear, realistic picture of your business before you jump into marketing.
This will help you focus on the main things you do well, and tailor your messaging towards what you do best.
Be honest here. Every business has some things they do well and some areas where they’re exposed. There’s nothing wrong with that – you just have to find your best angle and work it!
Niches are your friend. And you probably serve them already.
Going for the ‘everybody with money’ market is nice, but it’s unnecessary. And, for 99% of businesses, it ends up being unsuccessful.
The trick is to self-analyse and discover which slice of the pie you’re best at eating.
At the Marketing Project, we used to serve EVERYBODY. And we were stretched in all kinds of ways before we were really ready. Once we found our niche (serving purpose-driven B2Bs who are making a positive impact on the world) we started to see some proper traction (and we were much happier). We haven’t looked back since.
Evaluate your past and present client list and think about:
- Which industries you’re servicing.
- The business size and turnover of your clients (an estimate is fine)
- Where your clients are located
- Which of your clients are happiest?
- Where do you do your best work?
- Who really gets the best of your business?
- Which parts of your business are scalable, and which part of your workload would put you in trouble if it increased?
This is one of the most important actions you’ll take – not just for marketing, but for the way your business operates. It will give you a concise outline of your ideal customer, services and products – and you’ll be able to use it as an anchor for your planning – now and in the future.
To properly identify how you’re different from your competitors you need to conduct a SWOT analysis.
Yes, we know, it’s an obvious thing to do.
But does your business have one?
When was the last time you did one?
Industries and markets change so quickly, it’s always good to come back to exercises like this regularly. You’re likely to learn quite a lot, and your answers will set the foundation for your strategy.
Any review of where you’re at is not complete until you look at your competitors.
Identify at least 5 businesses that you feel are your closest competitors and do a quick review of their businesses.
- Their USP
- How they position themselves / their brand position
- Their marketing activity
- What niches they’re targeting
Use this information to identify gaps – both in your competitors’ offering and your own. Make particular note of those gaps and come back to them later.
Now it’s back to your current customers for a more thorough review.
You want to find out more about your customers, their business habits and the challenges they face.
Seek out information directly – via a survey, a casual coffee catch up, or a phone call.
As part of our discovery phase, we call our clients’ customers for a quick phone survey about what they do and how they’re percieved (with their permission of course). It’s immensely valuable and we ALWAYS learn a few things the client didn’t mention (or didn’t even know about).
It’s always a good idea to check in with your customers – even (or perhaps especially) if you’ve got nothing to sell them. In this case, we recommend booking in five minutes with at least ten of your clients, in the name of research.
Questions to ask:
- What do we do?
- How would you describe us in three words?
- What do we do well?
- What could be improved?
- What are your biggest business pain points?
- What kind of content do you consume day-to-day, and where do you find it?
Record the calls and get them transcribed. Put the answers into a spreadsheet and take the time to compare the answers.
If you get some negative feedback, great! You’ve got some stuff to work on.
If they give positive feedback, even better. Ask if you can use it as a testimonial on your website.
Create your perfect customer
With the information you have sourced – demographics, location, segments, pain points, media habits – you can now put a face to your target audience.
Create a couple of customer personas that match the different audience segments your business services.
Have fun with it! Give them names, draw them, stick them on the wall and consult them before you make any marketing decisions.
Here’s an example for an accountant:
Sally (37) and Luke (43) are married and own a family business in construction. They have seven employees, build residential homes and have an annual turnover of $5 million. They have an accountant so they can be confident they are managing their finances, tax and employees compliantly. They want to be able to trust their accountant to be a part of their business and be active in providing up to date information without them having to actively seek it out. They are active on LinkedIn and Facebook and attend community networking events.
Now that you know who you are and who your audience is, it’s time to write your brand story. Don’t worry, this isn’t a ‘once upon a time’ kinda thing – we’ll talk you through it, step-by-step.
Your brand story includes your brand values, your value proposition statement and key marketing messages.
Do a brain dump and just write down all your thoughts based on the research you found. Then edit it to something that you feel demonstrates your difference in the marketplace, the values you want to stand for and the type of business you are.
Here’s a good template to get you started:
- What are your brand values?
- Why do you exist (beyond making a profit)
- How does that translate to a tone of voice?
- What are your unique selling points?
- Who wants your product or service and why do they want it?
- What problem do you solve?
- What are your key marketing messages? (The things you should always be reminding people of)
This won’t be over in five minutes and you’ll probably get frustrated – but persevere. This is the foundation for differentiating yourself in an already crowded market.
Decide at a high level what it is you’re going to do and what you want to achieve.
“Initially, we’re going to target customer segments A, B and C because our research has shown us that they’re currently facing challenge A that we know we can easily solve for them. We also know that our value proposition is an ideal match with these segments because of X and Y. In order to make this activity profitable, we need to target xx prospects, have xx meetings and convert xx into clients at $xx per month within three months.”
Think about who might measure these goals and set objectives in place that will help you reach them. Your objectives should be smaller, more measurable tasks.
For example – one of your long-term goals might be to double your billable hours for existing clients. It’s good, but where do you start? Use your objectives to take bites out of the elephant. They might look something like:
- To increase the number of blogs posted from one per quarter to one per week by [date].
- To develop a plan for promoting our blog posts with the aim of increasing our website traffic by 100% by [date} and 150% by [date]
- To allocate one hour per day of [marketing coordinator’s] time to engaging with our target audience across [social channels] commencing [date]
With your strategy identified, now’s the time to choose the tactics that will help you achieve your marketing and business goals.
Strategy and tactics are very different – and it’s important to acknowledge the difference. Your strategy is the WHAT and tactics are HOW you’re going to do it.
Your marketing plan, step-by-step
First, let’s decide your channel mix.
Think of a channel as a train carriage containing your target audience – you can ride on the Facebook carriage, the LinkedIn carriage, the local newspaper carriage (and so on).
You can of course ride on more than one carriage, but it costs more and takes more of your time. You want to restrict your travel to the ones where you’re most likely to bump into your target audience. If you’re starting from zero, we’d recommend 2-3 channels to start with – too many and you’re chasing your tail creating content for each (at the beginning at least).
Your marketing calendar
Ok, you’ve picked the channels – now it’s time to think about WHAT you’re going to do to get your audience’s attention.
We suggest one campaign per quarter to start, supported by continued and consistent ‘always-on’ activity.
Make sure you delegate responsibilities to different people (internal or outsourced) as you can’t do everything yourself.
A project management platform is a great way to keep on track. Consider a solution like Monday.com, Trello or Asana. If you’re a bit sceptical, don’t worry – these programs have come a long way in recent years and are all quite delightful to use. You might find that your team prefers it for all their work!
Here is the crucial element. It’s at this point where most marketing projects fail.
The research and planning elements are finished, everyone’s excited and the first campaign is launched.
Client work takes over, there are crises to manage, and all of a sudden it’s six months down the track and everyone’s forgotten about the marketing plan.
Naturally, this is not the way to get results (except bad ones. It’s a cracking way to get bad ones!).
Unfortunately for busy and impatient business owners and managers, slow and steady wins the race.
Despite what you might see on the surface, marketing is a game of inches. It’s all about planning, executing and optimising over time.
What do you mean by optimising, you say?
The final step in the process consists of continued evaluation.
Set clear measurements and KPIs for each campaign and activity and nominate one person to analyse what worked and what didn’t.
Then review, refine and relaunch. Then analyse again.
Review, refine, relaunch and analyse.
Review, refine and… well, you get it.
We’ve created this plan over years of perfecting marketing strategies for busy, purpose-driven B2Bs like you.
The Marketing Project a bunch of pragmatic, hands-on, roll-your-sleeves-up B2B marketing professionals (led by me).
We passionately believe that B2B SMEs who are trying to make a positive change in the world should have the same access to marketing know-how as the big-boy corporates.
Want to talk more about this marketing plan, or how we might be able to help you? Book a 30min Zoom consultation with me today.