When you're on a budget (of both time and money), it can be tough to step away from billable work to focus your efforts towards working "on the business." And yet, a realistic marketing plan is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that billable work continues to roll-in. Without customers, there is no business. Without marketing and sales, there are no leads to become customers.
Sorry to all of my marketing entrepreneur friends selling a formula, but I simply disagree. At its core, marketing is simply the ways a business most effectively communicates what they do and why they do it with the intention of generating revenue from those communications. No formula that someone creates will always apply to you. There will be cool ideas embedded in a formula for sure, just remember that your business - like a fingerprint - is unique to you.
How has Marketing become so Complicated?
Like any other industry, innovation and technology have changed the way marketing works. In the 1800s people drove around in wagons with their company name written along the side to promote their business, and now we run ads online to find new prospects. Back in the 1980s we had the rolodex for keeping up with customers and prospects. Nowadays, we use fancy CRM systems such as Zoho, Keap, Salesforce, and Hubspot. Our lives have become more complicated, and grabbing our attention has become more difficult.
You can read all through the blog post Year End Planning: Making a Marketing Plan to get into the individual steps. Those six steps include:
Branding is the first place where businesses can misstep. Primarily, I've met small business owners who tell me that they "don't have a brand" because they "aren't big" or something to that effect. On the other hand, there are the business owners so passionate about their branding that they never get beyond that fun, creative step of the process. The best advice I can give you about branding is this:
Be honest about who you are, what you want your business to look like, and the kind of people you want to attract. Rather than preoccupying your mind with color palettes and logos, first spend time on your brand language. Above all else, Start SIMPLE! Decide the answers to your branding questions and document it somewhere, then move on. Come back to it if needed.
Avoiding your own data is like trying to not look in the mirror when washing your face. Yeah, you can do it without the mirror, but it makes a lot more sense to look at yourself when washing your face.
The best way to tackle your own marketing audit is by starting with questions in mind, such as: "is my website doing a good job of converting leads with my opt-in form?" or "are people engaged by my monthly email newsletter?" Take that objective, look through the data and find the honest answer for yourself.
If you are running ads, writing marketing content, or communicating with prospects without goals in mind, then you are probably wasting time in some way. Hear me out on this one before you judge.
EXAMPLE: You created an automated email for someone to receive after opting in to get your email newsletter. Why do you send it? What is the goal of that email? Not being able to answer those basic questions means that you may have wasted an incredible opportunity to make more money in less time... all because you did not think through the possibilities.
In the past, I've referred to ideal customers as my tribe. These are the people I love to serve the most because they understand my value proposition, I know I can serve their business well, and amazing things happen when we collaborate. Even if you are selling widgets, you have biggest fans out there who love what you're making. Understanding WHO these people are and WHY they love your brand is vital to your success.
Spend time trying to create simple Customer Personas for the different people you serve well. There are many ways to go about making customer personas. If this is very important to you, then dive into the market research to create a well defined persona. The most realistic way to do it is by reviewing your current customer data and understanding who you currently serve well and what they have in common.
Sorry, but not sorry to say that a well-documented process is one of the most important tools you can have in your marketing plan. Brainstorm cool ideas all day, set goals, and research customer personas - but that will not make your marketing happen.
Consider the step by step process it takes to write your blog posts, social media, emails, or your sales process. Write It Down! A happy little hack that may make your life easier... use a voice recorder or screen capture while recording your voice. This has been a game-changer for me. Instead of trying to remember all of the steps it took me to do something, I turned on my screen capture and explained what I was doing and why (while I was doing it).
Earlier on, you set some goals for marketing. How are you tracking towards achieving those goals? Oh yeah, we need to measure that at some point. This does not need to be complicated. Whatever your goals are, also set benchmarks along the way to the bigger goal and remember to check in with yourself. This could be as simple as a monthly check-in on all of your goals.
Once you check on your goals, then you have this incredible opportunity to do something with that knowledge. If things are not working out like you expected them to, then CHANGE something. Let's say you thought a big LinkedIn marketing campaign would help you get new leads for your product launch. One month in, there are no new leads from LinkedIn. You let it ride two more months... and still no leads. It's time to try something else. Look through your data and redirect those efforts to a place that may work out better.
As strange as it may sound, I love a good marketing plan. It forces me to think through the future of my business and how I want to get to my destination. I usually take 6 weeks to tackle it all (one step per week), which prevents me from feeling overwhelmed. You can create a realistic marketing plan for 2020. It doesn't matter that we're half way through January already, start now and you'll have something to work with for the rest of the year.