Building a website before you create a marketing plan is like the proverbial ‘putting the cart before the horse’. New businesses (and small businesses) have a tendency to throw ‘marketing’ into creating social media accounts and a website. While those things are important, having your goals outlined first is vital to your success.
But the thing is, most small (and new) businesses don’t know how to create a marketing plan simply because they haven’t done it yet. With a little guidance, business owners can follow a few simple steps to a better long-term plan for their marketing efforts.
Before You Begin Creating a Marketing Plan
To begin creating your plan, you’ll need a few documents, a search engine (like Google), and a good understanding of what your business provides.
Identify Your Ideal Client
An Ideal Client is someone who finds the perfect solution to their problems or needs in the services or products that your company provides. The Ideal Client will be loyal to your company and frequently uses or buys your products or services. They are likely to recommend you to their friends and colleagues.
Use this worksheet to help determine your Ideal Client.
Mission & Vision
Defining your mission and vision are vital in directing your company’s goals. A vision statement focuses on the future and what you want your business to become. A mission statement focuses on the present, and what your business is currently doing to achieve your vision.
Here’s a worksheet on Mission and Vision you can use to do this.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. By identifying these, your company can position itself to either overcome or plan around the weaknesses and threats. Your company can use the strengths and opportunities to continue growing your business.
Here’s a SWOT Analysis template to use for this part of the process.
A competitor analysis, in marketing, helps you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. It provides both an offensive and defensive strategic context, which allows you to identify opportunities.
Completing this worksheet will give you a better idea of where you stand compared to the competition.
Outline Your Marketing Goals
Now that you’ve completed all the worksheets and templates, you can begin to outline your goals. These can align with the opportunities you found during the SWOT Analysis, or be something else entirely. Try to refrain from setting too broad of goals (I want more Instagram followers!) or too lofty goals (I want to make $10 million dollars my first year in business!). It’s okay to start small and readjust as necessary.
As an example, I set a marketing goal for an organization I work for of increasing email open and click rates by 5% year over year. We were at a stand-still with email engagement – the open/click rates were good, but I wanted them to be better!
By evaluating data from the past three years, I determined which types of emails the end-user preferred. They preferred icons and graphics over stock photos. I also noticed that they liked receiving emails early in the morning before working hours rather than in the afternoon. Because of this data, I started using more icons and graphics and sending all important emails before 9:00 AM. This increased our email open rates by 10%!
This goes to show that everything about creating a marketing plan comes down to finding an obtainable – yet challenging – goal.
Creating a Marketing Plan for New & Small Businesses
Small business owners can sometimes struggle with creating a solid marketing plan, as well as implementing it. It can be difficult to find the time to post on social media, update a website, create email campaigns, and track data. And spending money on a marketing agency to do this for you isn’t always cost-effective.
However, there are a few ways you can plan ahead far in advance and use automation to your advantage when sharing content.
Build a Content Strategy
Every marketer alive will tell you that content is king. And it’s not going anywhere. While this is true, it’s also quite overwhelming.
When creating your marketing plan, build a content strategy that is feasible for you and the time you have available. Content is anything that the end-user reads, watches, or hears. It’s up to you as a business owner to decide which methods of content creation are most likely to attract the clients and customers you want.
Use your completed Ideal Client worksheet to determine what makes the most sense. For example, if your Ideal Client is someone over 60 who uses Facebook, you’ll want to post more to Facebook and utilize your website’s blog posts. This age range tends to be okay with more lengthy reading, so you can most likely write a few long blog posts a month. If your Ideal Client is in the 18-24-year-old age range, you may need to consider Instagram or TikTok for social media. This age range is more likely to enjoy short snippets of information and listicles, so you should adjust your content accordingly.
Age is not the only factor in play when it comes to Ideal Client and building a content strategy around them, however. Personalities and lifestyles vary greatly within each generation. Socio-economic status, gender, race, preferred hobbies, and many other elements are important to consider.
Implement and Test Your Strategy
Once you’ve decided what type of content you’d like to create to help promote your products or services, start doing it! The statistics to watch will depend on your content. If you’re focusing more on social media, you’ll want to see an increase in followers and engagement. You’ll want to establish a baseline of open/click rates if you’ve decided to put your efforts towards email marketing. If blog posts are where you’d like your potential clients and customers to be, check your website traffic on those pages and compare it to how many leads you’ve generated. Once you’ve gathered a good amount of data, adjust your process and try again for the same length of time. Compare the new and old data to determine if you are closer to your goals after adjusting. If not, adjust something different. If you are, great! Keep doing what you’re doing – and more of it!
Marketing is all about trial and error. By outlining your goals, implementing a process of content creation, then testing and readjusting, you’ll be on your way to more lead conversions in no time at all.