6 Steps to Creating a Practical Marketing Plan – is your small business ready for 2018?

It’s that time of year, time to ensure plans are in place for a great 2018. Part of that business planning process is building a solid Marketing plan. Many small businesses that I work with, have no Marketing plan or just work it out as they go along and feel that works just fine. But if you want your business to do more than ‘fine’, you’ll need a Marketing Plan. Here are my practical steps to help you put pen to paper and get that Marketing Plan underway.

  1. Define your business objectives for 2018

Do you know what you want your business to achieve this year? You might be focused on growth, customer retention, driving profitability or all three. Whatever it is that’s key for your business, define it and make the objectives SMART so you can measure how you’re doing.

  1. Now define your Marketing objectives for the year

So, next think about what your Marketing needs to deliver in order to achieve those business objectives. If you’re focused on growth, it might be ‘Increase customer base by 20%’, if it’s customer retention it might be ‘Introduce customer loyalty scheme to increase customer loyalty by 30%’. Talk it over with your team and get their input – this is not a solo exercise. Again, make sure the objectives are measurable and consider setting regular targets against those metrics (monthly or quarterly work well) so you track progress.

  1. Keep it simple

You’ll know how much resource you have to manage your Marketing activity. Don’t overcook it. Better to have a few pieces of good Marketing activity than try to do everything. When you’re prioritising, keep your customer forefront in your mind. If you’re short of time but want a social media presence, choose 1 or 2 channels that match your audience well, don’t feel you need to do everything.

  1. Think seasonally

There’s always a good excuse to talk to your customer and it helps to plan in those milestones. It might be the budget impact, Easter, Diwali or your company’s birthday. Think about key points in the calendar for your business and what that might mean in terms of your Marketing activity.

  1. Get a plan down on paper

A Marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Define your objectives, understand your audience and then choose a format that works for you. That might be a spreadsheet, PowerPoint slide or a chart on your office wall. I’m a bit geeky so it’s always a spreadsheet for me and a nice bit of colour coding helps make the whole thing more visual. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. In the words of a rather famous brand, Just do it.

  1. Be ready to flex & review

The plan’s down and you’re ready for the year ahead. Don’t be afraid to flex and change the plan as you need to and as new opportunities materialise. Won an award? Appointed a great new team member? Maximise those opportunities… Above all, review your plan regularly. Assess the activity you’ve undertaken against your targets, see what’s working and what’s not. Be prepared to get tough so that you’re only spending time and money on the activity that is driving real results for you.

Good luck! And don’t forget that if you need a little help, I offer a complimentary 1 hour Marketing consultation for all businesses in the Birmingham area.

Start-Ups – Getting Social

So many start-up businesses I meet are confused or nervous about using social media. It’s a channel that you can no longer ignore, nor should you as it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to reach a huge (and segmentable) audience. A recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK found that nearly 80% of consumers would be ‘more inclined to buy more often in the future because of a brand’s presence on social media’. So, what should you think about when you’re starting out?

Make it part of your Marketing Plan
Social media should form part of, and align to, your overall Marketing plan. What are your overall Marketing goals? It might be creating brand awareness, improving loyalty or generating business leads. Your social media strategy needs to mirror those overarching objectives. Objectives sorted? Then think about your messages, What is it that you want your audience to think, feel or do?

Choose your networks wisely
Think about your target market when choosing which networks you want to go onto. Most start-ups are time poor so it’s worth focusing on one or two networks initially and using them well. Where do your target market hang out online? Who are they? Is it a business audience? Does your product work well visually? Use all the information you have about your customer base to select the best platforms for you and if you don’t know, then ask.

Just do it!
Don’t be scared to get started. People can be nervous of posting but if you’re sensible about what you post you’ll keep you and your business out of hot water.

And then do it again, and again, and again…regardless of the platform you choose, regular posting is key. To build up a following and traction with your community – posting content that is engaging and relevant is the only way you will keep those visitors coming back. Be true to your brand, choose your tone and stick to it, be that quirky and fun or informative subject expert. There are some great tools out there to help you schedule posts across the networks you choose including the likes of Hootsuite and Sprout Social.

And finally, don’t forget to Measure It. As with any other elements of your Marketing activity you need to measure how social media is performing for you. That might be leads generated, it could also be likes, shares and customer engagement. Work out what success looks like for you and keep experimenting until your social media is delivering for you.