Your Marketing Plan – What It Should Contain

Running a business without a marketing plan is a bit like driving a car with your eyes closed. Without a plan, you have no direction on how you are going to grow your business and no objectives or activities planned to trigger that growth. This is why companies, investors and leaders all place value in building a marketing plan. However, if you haven’t created a market plan before you may find the process overwhelming. I’ll be honest, if you complete this correctly, it will not be a quick project, you will definitely spend some time on this. A well-researched, strategic marketing plan may take several weeks to complete and will consist of hours of research. While you may continue to operate without a formal plan – it will end up costing you more time, money and resources in the long run.

Businesses with plans succeed, outperform competitors, and retain staff, more than those with no plan. Marketing takes time, money and preparation, but the benefits outweigh the work. A strong marketing plan will ensure you’re not only sticking to your schedule, but that you’re spending your marketing funds wisely and appropriately.

Your Marketing Plan Will Help You To:

  • Identify your competitive advantage and define your unique value proposition
  • Evaluate your mission and vision for relevancy
  • Focus on your strategic target marketsand their needs
  • Determine and focus on priorities
  • Acquire resources you need to implement your plans
  • Obtain the organization support at all levels
  • Set objectives and strategies for chosen segments
  • Define strategies, tactics and campaigns

I recommend following these 10 steps when creating your marketing plan and strategy that will helpg you achieve your goals for business growth.

  1. Begin With a Mission

Identify your mission as a company. A mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making for your business.

  1. Develop Your Target Market and Segmentation Strategies
  • Who are your target markets?
  • What industries do they represent?
  • What is the size of the company (or market)?
  • Why do they need your services or product?
  • What is going to make this company buy your services or product?
  • What is the channel of distribution for this market?
  • Who makes the buying decisions?
  1. Define Personas & Content
  • Do you know your buyer?
  • Do you know the company they represent?
  • Do you understand their company’s business?
  • Do you know their needs and requirements?
  • Do you know where they buy?
  • Do you know who makes up their decision-making or buying team?
  • Do you know their decision-making and buying processes?
  • Do you know how to reach them with your marketing and sales messages?
  • What are the key decision factors that make them choose one vendor over another?
  • Is the decision made around price, service, support, quality, or other factors?
  • Where do these personas go to source credible content?
  • What messages will generate the right response and what information will be most effective?
  1. Complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • What advantages or strengths do you have?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What do people in your market see as your strength?
  • What could you do to improve?
  • What should you avoid?
  • What are other companies/people likely to see as your weakness?
  • What are good opportunities for you?
  • What could threaten your business?
  • Where is the industry going?
  • What are your objectives as it relates to this target market?
  1. Identify Your Key Influencers
  • Social networks to drive mass impressions
  • Journalists
  • Academics
  • Analysts
  • Professional advisors
  • Websites
  • Industry associations
  • Referral sources
  1. Conduct A Content Marketing Audit
  • Review your existing collateral, content and thought leadership pieces
  • Decide which can be leveraged in new marketing campaigns
  • Identify content gaps so you know where to focus development and resource time
  • Align your content to achieve a marketing objective as well as serve a purpose in the buying cycle (awareness, consideration and decision)
  1. Set Your Marketing Objectives
  • Intended goals and results of your marketing plan, tactics and campaigns
  • Set the metrics (both business and marketing) to track and report on
  • If you’re not use to defining your marketing objectives use the SMART methodology (Specific Measurable Actionable Realistic Time)
  • Marketing objectives are ideally tied to business value including leads, revenue, ROI (Return on Investment), etc.
  1. Plan The Marketing Strategy
  • A detailed blueprint on how to achieve the marketing objectives
  • Strategies list which steps to take, specific action necessary to achieve each step and the expected timeline by which to accomplish each stage
  • Strategies will focus on the 4Ps of marketing: Product (Service), Promotion, Price, Place (Distribution)
  1. Define Your Marketing Tactics, Goals and Mix
  • Advertising
  • Branding
  • Directories
  • Direct marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Public relations
  • Sales
  • Business development
  • Networking and referrals
  • Events
  • Sponsorships
  • Content
  • Communication
  1. Allocate Your Budget
  • Connect your budget to business value
  • Your marketing objectives and target audiences should help you allocate your spend accordingly
  • Research and capture the price of different marketing tactics (some are more affordable than others – depending on your objectives)
  • Your budget should influence the amount of leads that enter your sales funnel and result in increased revenue (noting that increased spend could decrease profit in the short-term)
  • Leverage benchmarks/best practices on target leads to meet goals
  • Review spend and result on an on-going basis 

In summary, follow these best practices:

  • Focus on your priority target markets and personas
  • Leverage your strengths and not your weaknesses
  • Don’t worry about having an in-depth plan or too many strategies
  • Make sure your marketing plans and budget is practical and measurable
  • Assign specific responsibilities and tasks to skilled people on your team
  • Plan, track, measure, optimize and redeploy

10 Tips for Creating an Engaging Business Blog

Business blogging is a powerful tool which when used correctly, can impact your marketing significantly. Here are 10 recommendations on creating a successful business blog:

  1. Set Goals
    Have complete knowledge about your content marketing, social media and blogging goals. Make sure the goals are specific, measurable and achievable.
  2. Define Your Target Audience
    Defining your target audience personas will help you create valuable content based on their content interests. Be consistent and appeal to their pain points.
  3. Plan with a Content Calendar
    Great blog posts don’t spring up out of the blue without proper planning. An established content calendar helps ensure regular, streamlined content flow through the year.
  4. Create a Content Marketing Plan
    Increase your visibility by creating content. If your content is good, increased visibility will translate into views and leads. Promote your blog through cross promotion initiatives on social media, your website and online paid advertising. Also incorporate social sharing buttons on your blog pages for increased distribution and engagement.
  5. Assign Adequate Resources
    A successful blog needs resources: to generate quality content, for creative work (images, design, formatting etc.), to work on the editing and marketing your content.
  6. Work on Content Optimization
    Your blog is a major contributor to your search rankings. Optimize your content by using relevant non-brand keywords. Integrate your blog’s URL into your company site URL which helps in branding and further search optimization. Also, make it easy for people to access your blog from your website and vice versa. Lastly, structuring your content into short paragraphs will help visitors read your content.
  7. Brand Your Blog
    Ensure your blog is consistent with your brand identity, including brand colors, logo, font etc.
  8. Connect Your Blog to Relevant Product/Service Pages
    Make it easy for blog readers to find your products linking your blog pages to the right products/services with a persuasive call-to-action and hyperlink.
  9. Include visuals
    Balance the presence of text on your blog with adequate visuals including photos, video and presentations.
  10. Measure Performance
    Track your blog’s effectiveness by measuring important performance metrics including the amount of traffic, leads and sales generated. Also measure the extent to which your blog is helping you cut costs in search and customer service.

Top 5 Marketing Questions Your Business Should Be Asking

Nowadays, everyone is trying to manage a business and brand that sticks. Businesses and marketers are very busy with multiple channels, campaigns, metrics, projects, and deadlines. To stay competitive, business and marketers should be asking themselves these 5 questions.

  1. Who are your target audiences or personas?

This is Marketing 101, but you’d be surprised how easy forgetting about this fundamental question is. Approaching every project thinking first and foremost about your audience should be second nature. This would also be why your company exists. You’ve missed the market if you’re not targeting or providing value to a specific target or persona.

If you’re just getting started, establishing audience personas will take some due diligence and a fair amount of market research (try your CRM or client files). But it’s well worth the effort if your campaigns are to have the most impact.

  1. When is the right time to provide value?

After creating target personas you need to understand their job details and where they spend their time looking for information. When you identify your audiences’ primary job responsibilities you can zero in on the various pain points they face daily. With that knowledge, you can tailor your message to fit what your audience needs.

Also, your target audience will inevitably spend time looking for new information and consuming content. You need to know where this so you can provide informative and quality content. That is where your brand’s message also needs to be.

  1. What is keeping your audience up at night?

Even if we don’t want to, we all take our work home with us from time to time. These concerns can offer insight into how to reach different customers. While this may not be easy, by doing some strategic research, you can learn a lot about your audience’s needs. This will help you to provide valuable content and deliverables to your personas.

  1. What will make you stand out from the crowd?

The marketing market is saturated. This is why you need to see a piece of marketing a few times before it resonates. People experience a steady flow of content from multiple sources: emails, social media posts, traditional advertising, and many other channels. Keep it short, sweet and simple. This is how your message will stand out.

Keep your audience’s attention by having a clear, focused message about the solutions you can provide that will address their pain points. Be sure you provide value and consider offering an incentive.

  1. What action do you want your audience to take?

The call to action (CTA) is could be considered to be the most important part of any marketing message that your audience receives. Use 1, maybe 2, CTAs at a time. If you have multiple CTAs, your audience will likely become distracted and confused and less likely to convert. Make sure the CTA is easily visible and engaging follows through with the action it presents.

Marketing: How to Break Through the Noise

The market place – any market place – is noisy and crowded. Marketing has moved towards a content, value-driven strategy where companies are competing (even more so) for market attention. Below are my recommendations on how to cut threw the noise.

  1. Build a marketing strategy

Be sure to include the following elements:

  • Strategy: Start with a business strategy that addresses your target customer, market, technology and business needs
  • Products and services: Have a quality offering that meets customer needs (both stated and unstated) better than the available alternatives
  • Target audience: Understand as much as you can about your prospects and customers – who they are, what they need and want, and how you can best provide value
  • Competitive and market analysis: Understand the market in which you compete, including as much as possible about the industry and competitors
  • Brand: Build a strong brand and reputation in the minds of all key audiences – customers, partners, employees, shareholders, the local community, and others
  • Communication: Effectively communicate the value you provide so as to generate demand
  • Sales and distribution channels: Provide the right tools to enable those who sell and recommend your product to be successful
  • Operations: Deliver, track, and analyze your marketing efforts to understand what’s working and where changes should be made
  1. Think digital

If you’re not thinking digital first, you’re already behind. Be able to develop and deliver targeted digital campaigns that will provide an increased return on investment (ROI). Measure and track your digital marketing and make executable improvements, while focusing on lead generation.

  1. Create alignment

Marketing will succeed or fail based on your planning and execution. Alignment along internal and external stakeholders will increase the performance (and results) of your marketing strategies. Even some of the most creative marketing initiatives can fall flat if you don’t have alignment.

Have consultative and collaborate conversations between marketing team members and business stakeholders to create alignment. Review to make sure you have the resources (and budget) available to execute your strategy. Great marketing initiatives fall short if they are not provided sufficient resources. Have you thought about the technology required to execute your strategy? You need to. Exploring opportunities here also aligns with executing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Marketing needs to have a strategy is you want to successfully cut through the noise and have a valuable impact in the market place.

5 Things to Consider Before You Start Marketing (or Advertising)

Marketing and advertising isn’t easy and it usually isn’t cheap. While you can find cost effective tactics you there are 5 things to consider before you start marketing.

  1. Set Objectives & Benchmarks

You need to know what your objectives are and what benchmarks (if reached) will make your marketing tactics or campaigns successful. This can include impressions, visitors, clicks, leads, conversions, cost per lead/conversion, etc. Knowing the specific results you want from each campaign will allow you to take the guesswork or emotion out of your decisions and invest in what marketing tactics perform.

  1. Align Marketing with Sales 

Before you start advertising, think about who, what, where, when and how you generate a sale. This will determine when and where you want to advertise. Without alignment, you won’t generate any revenue or return on your marketing investment. You should also think about capacity and inventory. You don’t want to advertise unless you can deliver.

Consider these questions and they will help you determine the appropriate marketing medium mix:

  • How many calls, leads and emails can me (or my team) effectively handle in a day/week/month?
  • How do you handle each incoming lead?
  • Do you make outbound phone calls?
  • Have you conducted sales training?
  • When do you receive the most leads or sales?
  • Is there seasonality to be considered?
  • What marketing mediums generate the highest quality of leads?
  • Who converts the most leads and where do they come from?
  1. Plan Your Messaging & Creative

Marketing performs best when you provide value and are focused around solving an issue or a need. Your creative and messaging should focus around your customers. Don’t hard sell or only talk about yourself. Create benefit-worthy messaging to help increase the results of your marketing.

Consider these questions when planning your messaging or creative:

  • What key issues are important to them?
  • Is there a point of view to consider or address?
  • What emotions or feelings do they experience before, during and after converting from a lead to client?
  • Can you provide unique value?
  • Is there a competitive position to take?
  1. Find the Best Marketing Mix

Consider a variety of marketing strategies and tactics. This includes local advertising (TV, radio), outdoor (billboards, transit), direct marketing, digital (display, PPC, SEM), social media, mobile, etc.

Marketing Strategies to Consider:

  • Radio works well in commuter markets from 6 AM to 6 PM. It requires very little production cost, and you can change your message in hours
  • TV works well in the evening (7 PM to 12 PM) and can provide increased emotional branding, however production costs are quite high
  • Outdoor advertising works well when generating local brand awareness, however you need to be in market for a few months to generate results
  • Direct mail works if you have a small area to target and you can create something that will stand out in the mail
  • Digital marketing can be cost effective, flexible, and highly measurable/trackable
  • Social media is an important tactic, which will help drive awareness, leads, and prospects to your business
  • Everyone is spending more time on his or her mobile devices, so don’t forget about that medium
  1. Implement, Test & Measure

Testing will help you improve and fine-tune your marketing efforts. Think about this before you launch a campaign to so you track it and measure results. Review monthly or quarterly and decide if you need to end the campaign, renew, refine, etc.

Are You Mobile Marketing? Here Are 4 Tips To Help.

If you missed the memo, marketing has gone mobile. ComScore reports that more than 1.8 billion people worldwide use mobile devices and this includes your customers. Customers (and potential clients) are using smartphones and tablets to find information about your company (and your competitors). 48% of Internet searches begin on mobile devices. Basically if you haven’t thought about your mobile marketing strategy, you’re already missing out. You need to be in the mobile marketplace if you want to be seen as a relevant leader in your respective industry.

Entrepreneur has a few statistics you should probably consider:

  • 99% use mobile devices to search for valuable content and information
  • 63% of all Internet access is from mobile devices
  • 62% of users access email from mobile devices
  • 15% make purchases from mobile devices

Here are my 4 tips to help you improve your mobile marketing.

1. Have a Mobile Friendly and Responsive Website

This is a must-have. You need a website that is mobile friendly/responsive and loads fast for mobile viewing. Include relevant informations and ensure your mobile website is easily accessible and navigable with clear links and user-friendly icons.

2. Mobile Relevant Articles and Content

Your website needs to have a mix of dynamic (topical content in the form of blogs) and static (About Us, Services, Products, etc.) content. Potential clients search for more than just what your company does. There needs to be a value exchange when developing useful, mobile-friendly content.

3. Be Social

When visitors find great content on their mobile devices they want to share it quickly and easily with others on their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.). Be sure to include social media icons on all of your web-based marketing.

4. App- Centric

Consumers spend more than half their mobile time using mobile applications. I am not saying that all companies need a mobile app, but you need to consider how your website, content and marketing is presented within other mobile apps – for example Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You should also have a presence on the popular social media networks, with branded pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, etc.  Ensure that the profiles on these sites are complete, up-to-date and provide relevant information.

6 Tips for Developing Interesting and Engaging Content

While content may not be easy to right, however it’s a necessary marketing strategy. It’s important to engage your experts and thought leaders to help develop valuable content for your target market(s).

When developing content you should consider a few things:

  • Products or services most desired by consumers may be affected by seasonality
  • Content should be built for the long term and the short term
  • Readers will only consume content that is easy to understand, fast to read and if it provides value

Here are 6 helpful tips for developing interesting and engaging content.

1. Discovery and Brainstorming Meetings

These meetings can help you plan and discuss the fundamentals for content creation. This includes:

  • Marketing strategy: Discuss what has been working and what hasn’t. Then adjust your content types and distribution strategy accordingly. This will help you become more efficient and increase your results.
  • Ask questions customers do: Use those questions for building content. The whole point is to develop content that will provide interesting and engaging content that will provide value and satisfy a client’s need.
  • Publications trending: Have your content published and linked to the company’s website. Back-linking is an important SEO strategy.

2. Marketing and Industry Research

Research is an essential tool that will help drive your business, marketing and content marketing strategy. It will also help you understand your audience so you can build an engaged online following (including social media). It’s important to stay up to date with information related to your industry. If you know what’s going on, your consumers will be more confident in the company and the content you build. The objective is to become a valued thought leader that people go to for information and ideally your services (or products).

3. Content Calendars

This is a must-have. Planning your content marketing and keeping your plan updated and responsive to market trends (sourced by tip #2) will help you execute your content creation. Personally, I love to use Excel. Be sure to include:

  • Social media (what the post will say, the link it will go to, image it will include, and date/time), traditional content (blog posts, infographics, case studies, etc.), press releases and events.

There are many free templates on the internet – I recommend using these:

– Social Media Calendar: HootSuite or Hubspot

– Editorial Calendar: Hubspot

4. Keywords

Keywords should be researched (in tip # 2), included in your content marketing strategy and included in your content marketing calendar (tip #3). A keyword based content strategy will help you increase your organic online search rankings on terms that your potential clients would be searching for. This will also help you align your topics with the search results for your industry or market. It’s important to remember that keyword-optimized content is fine for SEO, but interesting and engaging content should be based on customers’ expressed desires and questions, which will help you to provide value to your target audience.

5. Be Dynamic and Keep It Fresh!

Stay on top of market trends and more importantly topical content. Be reactive and adjust your content calendar (tip #3) accordingly. Consumers will want new content, but not all the time. Also, consider changing your content format, depending on your marketing and content objectives. Examples include: blog posts, infographics, videos, social media posts, images, contents, ebooks/whitepapers, case studies, brochures, case studies, testimonials and press releases.

6. Feedback & Results 

Last, but definitely not least, you will need to gather customer feedback and tracking your performance. This will help you gather feedback from your market and to adjust your marketing and content strategies moving forward.

6 Tips for Developing Interesting and Engaging Content

While content may not be easy to right, however it’s a necessary marketing strategy. It’s important to engage your experts and thought leaders to help develop valuable content for your target market(s).

When developing content you should consider a few things:

  • Products or services most desired by consumers may be affected by seasonality
  • Content should be built for the long term and the short term
  • Readers will only consume content that is easy to understand, fast to read and if it provides value

Here are 6 helpful tips for developing interesting and engaging content.

1. Discovery and Brainstorming Meetings

These meetings can help you plan and discuss the fundamentals for content creation. This includes:

  • Marketing strategy: Discuss what has been working and what hasn’t. Then adjust your content types and distribution strategy accordingly. This will help you become more efficient and increase your results.
  • Ask questions customers do: Use those questions for building content. The whole point is to develop content that will provide interesting and engaging content that will provide value and satisfy a client’s need.
  • Publications trending: Have your content published and linked to the company’s website. Back-linking is an important SEO strategy.

2. Marketing and Industry Research

Research is an essential tool that will help drive your business, marketing and content marketing strategy. It will also help you understand your audience so you can build an engaged online following (including social media). It’s important to stay up to date with information related to your industry. If you know what’s going on, your consumers will be more confident in the company and the content you build. The objective is to become a valued thought leader that people go to for information and ideally your services (or products).

3. Content Calendars

This is a must-have. Planning your content marketing and keeping your plan updated and responsive to market trends (sourced by tip #2) will help you execute your content creation. Personally, I love to use Excel. Be sure to include:

  • Social media (what the post will say, the link it will go to, image it will include, and date/time), traditional content (blog posts, infographics, case studies, etc.), press releases and events.

There are many free templates on the internet – I recommend using these:

– Social Media Calendar: HootSuite or Hubspot

– Editorial Calendar: Hubspot

4. Keywords

Keywords should be researched (in tip # 2), included in your content marketing strategy and included in your content marketing calendar (tip #3). A keyword based content strategy will help you increase your organic online search rankings on terms that your potential clients would be searching for. This will also help you align your topics with the search results for your industry or market. It’s important to remember that keyword-optimized content is fine for SEO, but interesting and engaging content should be based on customers’ expressed desires and questions, which will help you to provide value to your target audience.

5. Be Dynamic and Keep It Fresh!

Stay on top of market trends and more importantly topical content. Be reactive and adjust your content calendar (tip #3) accordingly. Consumers will want new content, but not all the time. Also, consider changing your content format, depending on your marketing and content objectives. Examples include: blog posts, infographics, videos, social media posts, images, contents, ebooks/whitepapers, case studies, brochures, case studies, testimonials and press releases.

6. Feedback & Results 

Last, but definitely not least, you will need to gather customer feedback and tracking your performance. This will help you gather feedback from your market and to adjust your marketing and content strategies moving forward.

Here are 5 Ways to Create Shareworthy Content

Is your content engaging and shareworthy? Here are 5 quick tips to help you create shareworthy content:

  1. Start a conversation
    Write your content so it reads like a conversation. End the content by asking a question or encouraging feedback in your social channels and providing links for readers to do so.
  2. Share conversations from your social channels
    Include content from your social channels across all your social platforms and in your various online channels. Show tweets where your brand is mentioned, share blog/Facebook post comments and invite consumers to join into the conversation.
  3. Format Appropriately
    Content formatted in accordingly can lead to increased social sharing. Create lists of tips or best practices, announce industry events, provide solutions to common problems and highlight important industry news.
  4. Enable sharing of multimedia content
    Providing links to your photos, videos, podcasts or other interactive content is recommended. The goals of your multimedia content should be creating interest, providing valuable information and encouraging social sharing through the use of sharing links.
  5. Recap your most popular social content
    Include a list of your “best of” content from your social channels. Include your most popular blog posts, your most re-tweeted tweets or your most commented Facebook posts. Share this across all your online marketing channels.