A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish!

Our Marketing team have provided some essential advice and guidance for developing and implementing your Marketing Strategy!

We believe that our marketing team does a great job for us and so we thought that over the next few months, it would be a fantastic idea to share them with you.  SO, we have asked them to create a series of articles that will really help you to get the marketing of your business off to a flying start.

This month’s focus will be the creation of the all-important marketing plan, this is the foundation for all future marketing activity and without which your marketing activities are likely to either fail completely or at the very best, lack the impact that you had anticipated.

Then over the coming weeks, we will delve deeper into the various areas of marketing and how to get the best results for your business.

Are You Ready? It’s time to create your marketing plan!

We’re sharing our Marketing Team with YOU

But what exactly does that mean?   Where do you start and how do you know whether what you’re doing is working?  Read on and we’ll guide you through the creation of an effective and integrated marketing plan.

Marketing needs to be well planned and targeted and one aspect of a marketing plan affects all of the others because coordinating your activities is crucial to achieving the purpose of marketing; to increase and maintain the awareness and perception of your business, in order to increase sales and ultimately maximise your profits.

So, let’s consider the steps you will need to take to create your marketing plan.

Identify your Target Market/Niche

Identifying your target market may be something that you did as part of your initial business idea or research but if you didn’t do it then, you must take the time now.  As a small business you need to decide on a specific target market, a niche on which to focus your efforts in order to deliver a product or service that the customer wants and is willing to pay for.  You must know who your target market is when it comes to deciding where to promote your business because where you promote will depend upon the type of people that you are trying to reach.  Trying to market to everyone would be an ineffective use of your marketing budget.

Position your Business

Positioning is all about how people perceive your business and its products or services.  It’s about creating an identity in the minds of your target market for the service you provide.  For example, you may decide to position your product/service at the premium end of the market and charge a higher price than your competitors but in order to achieve this your product/service will have to be better than your competition in some way, and your marketing will need to create that perception as well.

Determine your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Your product or service needs to have a unique selling proposition (USP).  It is the one point of difference that sets your business apart from your competitors and the basis of your competitive advantage!

Take some time to consider what your USP could be.   You may initially think you have the best price, quality service or service responsiveness, but these are not USPs.  These are expected by customers today and are likely to be offered by the competition as “standard” benefits. Your USP needs to be over and above the norm and certainly something that cannot be easily copied.

Your USP will form the basis of your marketing message, which you will use in all your communications you have with your customers.

Create a guarantee

The idea of a guarantee is to minimise any concerns that your target market may have about buying your product or service.  Develop and offer a guarantee to minimise these concerns and eliminate reasons not to buy from you. The right guarantee can also become a great USP!

Devise your plan

Once you know exactly who you are as a business ie what you offer, what you represent, where you want to sit within the market place and who you are looking to target to form your customer base, you can begin to think about your marketing tactics.

Start by considering the marketing mediums available to you.  If money were no object, it would be easy to decide which advertising medium to go with at first.  All of them!  Unfortunately, the reality is that you will be working to a marketing budget which will restrict the number of mediums that you can use.

Good market research and understanding your target market will help you to determine which mediums might be best for promoting your product or service but there will always be an element of trial and error or “testing” involved in advertising which is why it is so important to monitor and evaluate your marketing activities to find out what is working for your business (more on this later).

Some mediums are more traditional and fairly simple but still effective, whilst others are more modern and have the potential to be incredibly effective but they are also more complex.  Not all marketing mediums suit every business, but the information provided below and in more detail in the coming months, together with your own market research, should help you to get an idea of the marketing mediums that might be right for your business.

Traditional marketing mediums

Although many of the traditional marketing mediums are struggling in today’s market place, there are still opportunities available for those business owners who would prefer not to engage in Internet marketing or for those who want to ensure that their business has a presence within the local community, as well as online.

Local radio, cable TV, and billboards are all viable options for business owners with larger marketing budgets, whilst more affordable (although more labour intensive) traditional options include door flyers, windscreen flyers, and direct mail. As the latter will probably be more relevant to new businesses with smaller budgets we have covered them briefly below.

Local Flyers – Leafleting is a popular marketing method for small businesses and with good reason.  This door-to-door method of marketing is both simple and affordable as it is just the on foot delivery of unaddressed flyers to homes or businesses in your area.

If you offer local services then delivering flyers door to door in the areas that you wish to target is the ideal way to market your business because your aim is to develop a local client base.  In addition, you can select your delivery areas to ensure that you are reaching your target market such as young families or affluent individuals.

Although leafleting is a significantly cheaper alternative to direct mail and allows you to market your business to a large number of people locally, direct mail is more personal and more targeted and does get a higher response rate.

Direct mailRunning an effective direct mail campaign is a science in itself and worthy of an article of its own, so we will return to the subject in more detail, but let’s quickly take a look at “lumpy mail” here.  Lumpy mail is a form of direct mail that is so named because the recipient can clearly feel that there is something inside the envelope.  It is more effective than standard direct mail because the “lumpiness” of the envelope will leave the recipient curious as to what is inside and therefore more inclined to open it.  Once they do this, you are a step closer to getting your marketing message across because your piece of direct mail has gained the recipients attention and is now open in their hand rather than having been filed, unopened, in the bin!

Now is also a great time to use direct mail. As the majority of businesses have moved towards email marketing due to the low cost of implementation, the amount of direct mail people receive through their letterboxes has drastically reduced, making it easier for your marketing to get their attention.

Remember, whether you are planning to distribute local flyers or run a direct mail campaign, you need to find a reliable marketing or printing company that specialises in creating campaigns that suit your budget, industry, and target market.  Poor quality flyers have given leafleting a bad name in the past. In order to be successful, your flyers need to be well designed, they must contain your marketing message and USP and be professionally printed.

Sponsorships of local and regional events can be very lucrative for business owners. They are relatively inexpensive, and can be tailored to your advertising budget. This is where you can capitalize, as you are getting your business name seen without spending huge amounts of money and your potential customers begin to associate your business with the local community.

Digital/Internet Marketing

Today, the internet represents a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to compete with larger organisations so here are the different ways in which your business can use the internet as a marketing tool;-

  1. Your own website 
    Promote yourself through your own website ensuring that prospective customers can find information about the company, information about each product or service you offer (remember to include your USP and focus on the benefits of the product or service not just the features), a simple next step ie what your prospective customer should do next if they are interested, contact details, testimonials/references, articles/blogs and case studies.  We will be looking at how you develop a successful website in more detail in the coming weeks.

    Ensure that you register a professional domain name rather than one that is free.  The cost is only about £8 for two years for a .co.uk domain but the cost of not having one in terms of the perception of your business to your target market is high!

  2. Promote your business and your website through the search engines.
    Most methods of marketing via the internet are centred around search engines and the use of ‘keywords’, these are the words people enter into search engines (like Google) when they are looking for something.   Ensure success in promoting your business this way by doing some ‘keyword research’.  Put yourself in the place of your customer and consider what words you might use if you were searching for your product or service.  Once you have established your keywords, consider the following two different ways to market your business using the search engines.
    1. Google AdWords Advertising (Pay-per-click Advertising)
      This is arguably the quickest and easiest method of advertising online.  Google displays your advert on the results page whenever someone searches using the keywords that you have chosen and the great thing about it is that you only pay when someone actually clicks on your advert and visits your website.

      To find out more about Google AdWords advertising visit https://www.google.co.uk/adwords. There are similar search engine advertising opportunities offered by Bing and Yahoo, which whilst relatively small in reach compared to Google AdWords, are still worth exploring.

    2. Search Engine Optimisation
      Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of your website or a web page in the search engines via the “natural” search results. In Google (and most other search engines), the natural search results are those that can be found on the left hand side of the page and are those NOT marked as ‘Sponsored Links’.

      Search Engine optimisation is a very complex subject and so most businesses employ a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultant or company to help with this area of their marketing.

  3. E mail marketing
    E mail marketing is one the most underused marketing tools but ironically can be one of the most effective in securing new customers.  Through continual email communication with your prospects and existing customers you can build strong relationships and trust, and by staying at the forefront of their minds you’ll be the first person they call when they are ready to buy.  You could use a monthly newsletter to keep in touch or an autoresponder email series to educate your prospects about the benefits of your service.
  4. Social Media Marketing
    In today’s marketplace, Social Media is a core networking tool and an essential part of the marketing strategy for small and large businesses alike. Social Media Marketing is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.  It focuses on creating content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it across their social networks.   In the same way that you would have a personal profile page on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you can set up a profile page for your business on the social media sites as well.  It costs nothing to do and by putting fresh and interesting content on your profile regularly, you stand an incredibly good chance of your business’s profile page being shared across your readers’ social networks.

    And the benefit of social media sites doesn’t stop there. Advertising on these sites helps businesses to meet their goals. Targeted adverts can be created for different audiences within your pre-determined budget and the results of your advertising measured.

    The Importance of a LinkedIn profile for companies in the Business to Business sector
    A professional company website that is frequently updated with relevant and interesting content is a must for most businesses. However, alongside the company website, especially for companies in the B2B sector, LinkedIn has great potential. Aside from the fact that the potential exposure for your content is significant because the sharing and re-sharing value is so much greater than on the company website alone, the potential audience is a network of corporate professionals! The content that your business puts on LinkedIn needs to be captivating enough that having read it, your potential client feels compelled to then visit your company website or to connect with you.

  5. Your Email Signature – Marketing on autopilot!
    This is a simple marketing tactic but one that most people fail to take advantage of. Setup a signature template and your important information will be appended to every email you send automatically.

    Your e mail signature should include:

    • Your website address
    • Your Facebook page address
    • Your Twitter address
    • Your Linked In Profile address
    • A concise version of your marketing message / USP

    Any logos/Awards/Media mentions that will help to build trust/credibility with your prospects and peers.

Monitor and Evaluate your Marketing Plan.

Finally (and as an on-going activity), monitor and evaluate your marketing plan. Once you’ve chosen your marketing tactics and begun promoting your business, you need to ensure that you continually monitor these marketing activities to evaluate their effectiveness. Frequently refer back to your marketing plan, in particular any goals and timeframes that you set for your various marketing activities. You need to give each activity sufficient time to build momentum, however you do need keep an eye on your time frames; adjust them if necessary to allow a little more time for something to achieve its potential but be realistic and make changes if a particular marketing activity is not performing. There is no point continuing with something that is costly and time consuming if it is not delivering the right results.

We hope you have found this article useful. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for our follow-up articles where we will dive deeper into each area of the marketing plan to help you develop yours. If you have any specific areas you would like us to cover in greater detail please let us know and we will ensure our marketing team include these.

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