Small Business Marketing Plan - Part 3 of 3: Example Strategy Design

Designing a marketing strategy for your own business.

As you will have read in the first part of this series, there are many directions in which you can focus your efforts as you build out your marketing strategy. This is great as it gives you a lot of flexibility.

However, it also hints at the problem experienced by most small business owners and start ups - namely, where do you spend your valuable time and budget?

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What's the best process for you to follow? Which ones should you ignore? You don't want to leave out anything important, although waste in any area is dangerous for any small business - especially in the modern climate.

The above issues and questions are exactly why I've written this guide - it's designed to give your business a boost in the right direction.

What follows is an example of the main steps you will need to take in order to craft a winning integrated plan. You'll find yourself dipping in and out of some of some of these areas a lot through each month, others not so much (please see the monthly planner below for a breakdown on this).

The example guide below will take into consideration both direct, outbound promotion as well as digital, inbound marketing processes. It's up to you if you don't want to incorporate the direct methods, although when you are first starting out I'd say it would be suicide to rely solely on digital, inbound leads - you simply don't know how long they will take to start coming in. At least with properly executed direct marketing, you have a good chance of getting new leads from the get-go. This is especially true if you are a B2B, service based business.

Also, you don't really have to perform these steps in any order, although I'd strongly recommend conducting the SWOT and PEST analysis first.

Step One: Take A Good Look At Your Current Situation

Before you can design a successful small business strategy, it's really important that you have a good look at your current situation to identify your strengths, weaknesses and other important factors that can determine how successful you will be.

The best way to do this (in my opinion anyway) is to conduct a SWOT and PEST analysis. This allows you to identify factors that will affect your marketing strategy - both in terms of factors you can control, and factors that you cannot control. Both need your attention so that you can be as prepared as possible.

I've written a post that goes over the SWOT and PEST analysis in more detail - you can read that here. It's very important that you complete this step - I really wouldn't ignore this one.

Step Two: Have A Think About Marketing Goals And Then Set Realistic Targets

As much as it is important to think about where you currently are, it's also important to have an idea of where you want to be after your campaign is finished. Actually, you want more than just an idea here - you want to define clear, specific and realistic targets that you can likely achieve.

I think it's always best to use the SMART framework when setting any kind of goal, so I suggest that you use this in your marketing plan too. I've posted a guide about using SMART objectives, you can get to that here.

Step Three: Have A Think About What Monthly Budget You Have Available

This is a very important step and is one that only you can work through. Before you do anything, it's a good idea to spend some time working out what your total monthly budget is and how much you will split between the various elements that will make up your marketing strategy.

For example, let's say you have a $1000.00 monthly budget. You could decide to: 

  • Spend $300.00 on PPC campaigns 
  • $100 on 4 blog posts (one per week) 
  • $250 on creative design, such as e-book templates, landing pages, printed promotional materials 
  • $100 on various marketing tools/applications 
  • $250 on freelancer agency fees to help in areas you need advice in 

The above is oversimplified, although the point is hopefully clear - work out a reasonable budget and stick to it. Of course, you don't have to allocate as much budget as this if you are prepared to learn how to do the majority of the work yourself.

Update: you can use the Digital Marketing ROI Calculator (linked below) to finely forecast the level of ROI (Return on Investment) you can expect from your marketing channels. You need to have a bit of background information handy, although the calculator will do the vast majority of the legwork for you.

Please see this post for detailed information on how to use the calculator.

Step Four: What's Your Message? Have You Made It Easy For This To Be Heard Across The Web And In The Real World?

I think that it's very important to consider this early on because it will save you back-tracking at a later date in order to come up with a way to make your message become easily spread across the web - particularly through social networking platforms.

What I am talking about here is actually relatively simple. You want to come up with catchy hashtags (as one example) that can help people pick up your message and spread it across their social networks on your behalf (earned media). If you think about this during the early stages, it will help achieve the following:

  • You won't have to pay to redo marketing materials to include your hashtags, stories, slogans etc 
  • You won't think 'Ah, I should have done that ages ago!' :-) 
  • You'll be able to build a social following a lot quicker than if you don't do it 
  • You'll make it much easier for your business to benefit from earned media - if people 'get' your message quickly and easily, they are more likely to share it though social sites and blogs etc. 

It doesn't have to be hashtags, it can be anything that will help your message be spread across the web. For example:

  • A personal, engaging story that people will want to share 
  • Catchy slogans 
  • Engaging pictures 
  • Any other media that can be easily shared

This might be a step that you don't think is worth taking, although I just wanted to mention it so you can at least give it some consideration when writing up your plan.

Here are a few pages that talk about what I mean in more detail:

The earned media effect - how your small business can ignite it
Great marketing - owning the search results by hacking the real world

Step Five: Properly Identify Your Target Market

The next thing you will want to do is to begin to work out who your target market is. This may sound completely obvious, although you might be surprised to find out how many small businesses don't even consider this and therefore waste a huge amount of resource with the worst targeting possible. The more specific you can be the better. Try to think along the following lines:

  • It's much better to highly target a smaller audience than it is poorly target a large one 
  • Don't feel like you have to be all things to all people - know what it is you do and focus on providing that to the right people 
  • Check out what your competitors are doing and what markets they are targeting, you'll probably learn something useful 

Tip: I've included a target marketing identification question sheet below that will give you a good start in identifying where your efforts should go. I've also written a new guide here that should help in more detail with this.

Also, I've just put together a post on developing buyer personas, which should help you narrow down your ideal target customer. You can read that post here.

Step Six: Find Companies Within That Market And Do Your Research On Them

Once you have identified your ideal target market, it's time to begin looking for specific companies within that sector. There are many ways you can do this. For example, you can use a search engine or you can purchase access to a database. However you decide to identify these companies, the important thing to remember is that you can't just contact them straight way, you need to do your research. Some things to think about would be:

  • What do they do exactly? 
  • Who do they serve? 
  • What are they proud of? 
  • Are the performing well, or do you need to wait until their situation improves before proceeding? 

Step Seven: Find The Right People Within These Companies

After you have found your target companies, you need to do a further bit of legwork. It's important that when you call the companies on your new list that you at least know the persons' name that you need to speak to.

Ideally, you will also have reviewed:

  • Their LinkedIn profile 
  • Other social media accounts, such as Twitter 
  • Any blog posts they have written or have been mentioned in

Tip: If named information is not available on the company website, an easy way to find this is to perform a search such as 'HR manager, company ABC'. This will normally bring up a LinkedIn profile along with a name (here is a useful post on using LinkedIn for lead generation too).

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Step Eight: Set Up Your Lead Nurturing Process/CRM And Put Every Lead You Get Into It

I can't stress this part enough. You want to make sure that you are making the most of absolutely every lead you have - this means you'll need to record them in an automated system designed to keep your leads engaged.

Even people who don't seem interested at the time you first contact them should be put in this system and slowly nurtured over the following months and years if necessary (of course, if they un-subscribe from your emails, you need to make sure they don't continue to receive communications from you).

This holds true for all leads, whether they are generated through the web or through more direct means - you should keep every single one of them in a well organised system.

Tip: I've included a basic lead nurturing template below - you'll probably find that you'll need two or three different tracks depending on the type of leads and services you have, although the example provided should help you get started. I'll be adding more examples below over the coming months.

Step Nine: Optimise Your Website And Set Up Your Google Places Account

If you can, you should perform the basic SEO steps yourself - this will save you money and will allow you to gain an understanding of how this practice works, as well as the wider scope of digital marketing. You'll quickly find out that it's not a black art and that with a bit of effort you can do the job just as well as anyone else.

I'd recommend against falling into the trap that so many small business owners seem to get caught in - getting lost in the murky world of search engine optimisation, spending too much time on it to the detriment of other disciplines. Just focus on the basics and try not to worry too much about every new trick you hear about through SEO forums and such.

Remember:

  • SEO is an extremely important part of your strategy, although it is only one part and there are many other parts to focus on while your SEO presence builds up 

You'll also want to set up your Google Places listing at this point too - please see this guide on how you can do this for your business. It's really, really worth having this set up as quickly as possible.

Step Ten: Work On Your Social Media Accounts And Make Them Attractive To You Target Audience

If you haven't done so already, you'll need to first of all set up your social media accounts. As I mentioned earlier, it's debatable as to whether you need to be actively engaged with social media, although my personal opinion is that you really should be. If you really pushed me, I'd say that the average B2B service-based business needs to be on Twitter and LinkedIn, Facebook not so much.

I'm sure there will be many who disagree with this, it's just my opinion. If you really want to be on Facebook, go ahead and set your account up - it won't do you any harm as long as you keep it regularly updated.

Tip: this post will give you a good idea as to how you can use Twitter for local marketing purposes.

Step Eleven: Set Up Your Blog, Plan And Write Posts That Will Interest Your Target Market

Blogging is a very important part of your digital marketing strategy. It's not so important as to how often you blog (as long as it's at least once a month), it's more a case of making sure that you are regular and that your posts are of a high quality and that they are relevant, engaging and useful to your target audience.

For more information about setting up your blog and on how to write great blog posts, please see this link.

Step Twelve: Plan How You Will Create The Rest Of Your Content

A few of the steps involved here require some form of content. For example, your lead nurturing tracks will require email copy, and you may want to have an e-book on display to help capture contact details. Also, your blog will require regular new content too.

You'll need to decide whether you can create this content yourself, or whether you need to hire a freelancer to help with this part of the project. You don't need to be writing up War and Peace here, you just need to create unique, interesting and relevant content that will get your audience engaged (a great site to check out for copy writing tips is CopyBlogger).

I've written a guide that will help you source excellent freelance marketers if you decide that's what you need - you can get to that here.

Step Thirteen: Create A PPC/Google Adwords Campaign

I haven't written a detailed post specifically about this yet, although I'd suggest that you go over to Adwords and set up your first campaign. It's a very quick and efficient way of generating quality leads for your business, plus there are great guides on the Adwords site to help you through set up.

Update: I've written a beginners guide to PPC which you might find useful - you can get to it here.

Step Fourteen: Set Up Your Tools And Software Accounts

If you haven't already, now would be a good time to go through and set up the tools and software mentioned in Part Two above - if you do this early on, they will make your life a lot easier going forward. All of them are free too, so no need to spend any of your budget here.

Refer back to Part 2 of this guide more info on useful marketing systems.

Step Fifteen: Create An AGILE Sales And Marketing Plan And Stick To It

Up to this point we've gone over the main elements in some detail. The next part is just to say that it's important that as you build out the areas above it's important that you do so under an 'agille' strategy, rather than a traditional, fixed strategy.

You can read more about this here, and I've also included an agile marketing scrum sheet below that will help you measure and keep on top of things on a weekly basis. That way, you can quickly and intelligently adapt when needed.

What To Do Now

Hopefully, this example small business marketing plan has given you a good idea as to what you need to have covered in terms of developing your route to market plan.

Now, please review the documents below and check through the links provided above - taken together, they're designed to help you start with each element and get off to the best start possible.

Links To Free Marketing Plan Templates

Please note that these files are hosted on Google Drive - you can add them to your own Drive account (no Google Account required), or you can download each file to your device. I'll be adding to these templates over time, so please check back for updates.

Target Market Identification Sheet (Doc)
Digital Marketing ROI Calculator (Spreadsheet)
Marketing Strategy Checklist (Doc)
Basic SEO Checklist (Spreadsheet)
Agile Marketing Strategy 'Scrum Sheet' (Spreadsheet)
Example Telesales Pitch (Doc)
Example Lead Nurturing Track (Doc) (please see this post while the file is being updated)

Go Back To:

Part 1 - Potential Marketing Methods
Part 2 - Useful Marketing Applications

Good luck, and please let me know how you get on.

By Alan MacDougall

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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, designed to help small business owners and start ups maximise sales revenue.