Let’s face it, developing a marketing strategy for local businesses isn’t always obvious. If you’re like most small business owners, it is a constant struggle knowing which marketing channels provide the best bang for your buck and which customers to focus on. That’s why it’s more crucial than ever for business owners and marketing decision makers to understand the importance of having a marketing strategy be familiar with how to create one. Think of it this way: every successful sports team goes into the game with a gameplan. Even the worst football teams in the league spend tireless hours developing a strategy for each game and making sure everyone is on the same page. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if they didn’t put all that time and effort into preparation.
While there are ton of tips, resources and best practices out there to draw upon, the cold, hard truth is that none of those are any good without a plan. The most important thing for local businesses is having a marketing strategy and corresponding plan. After you have that, you’ll be able to select the most appropriate tactics that fit within that framework. This article is written to help ensure that local businesses understand the importance of a marketing strategy and where to get started.
Why Do You Need a Marketing Strategy?
In order for your marketing strategy to be effective, you’ll definitely need to understand how to create a marketing plan. Simply buying ads on TV or the Internet and running them without having a predefined goal is almost a sure-fire path to marketing failure. The goal of your strategy is to actually help you save time and money when it comes to your marketing, because you’ll have a more laser focused approach. By having a well-thought out approach you’ll be better prepared when the time comes to advertise, instead of cobbling a solution together at the last minute that may or may not work.
You will want to specifically determine what your goals are. This could be any number of metrics, such as building your customer database, increasing sales, generating web traffic, building brand awareness, etc. Ideally, they should be “SMART” goals, meaning specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.
In practice, this means pinpointing the most important marketing opportunities, creating the most appropriate metrics (can be quantitative or qualitative) and deciding how exactly your marketing performance is going to be improved over time.
Your strategy will go a long way to determine who you are targeting with your marketing efforts, and what the best mediums and channels are to reach them. In 2016, the number of marketing channels is rather large, and keeps growing. Which ones you choose to focus on will largely depend which generate the most response from your audience.
If your target market is Millennials, for example, social media channels like Facebook and Twitter might provide a better return on investment than running radio ads. Conducting market research to better understand your target audience will be very helpful in deciding which channels are best. Once implemented, make sure you’re using analytical tools (Facebook Analytics, Google Analytics, etc.) to monitor your performance and determine if you’re meeting your goals..
Once you know what the goals are, you’ll then be able to determine what collateral and assets are needed to accomplish this. This includes creative elements, budgeting, and brand messaging. Aside from developing creative, your tactics should include how you’re specifically going to get the message out.
Some specific tactics to consider are: email marketing, social media campaigns, coupons or promotions, live events, and radio/TV commercials. How you’ll execute on the specific tactics you choose should stem from your SMART goals and the channels you’ve decided are best for reaching your audience.
How Can You Get Started Developing Your Marketing Plan?
There are a few basic steps you can take if you’re searching for how to create a marketing strategy for your business:
- Collect Data - First, you want to gather information from previous marketing efforts as a solid point of reference, a part marketing analysis being a key part of that. You can utilize this information as a baseline for setting goals and improving your new marketing strategy. If you previously ran email marketing campaigns, for example, curate all the available statistics like open rates, click-throughs, and unsubscribes. If Facebook was your preferred method, look at key social media metrics such as total impressions, engagement, page likes, and shares.
- Create Goals - The goals you set for your marketing efforts should be specific, realistic, and based on your overall business and marketing strategy. This can be things like website visits, newsletter sign-ups, online sales etc. Whatever you decide, your goals should be concrete and measurable. Some examples of SMART goals could be increasing the average online customer order by $5 each quarter, or acquire 500 new online customers this year, at a marketing acquisition cost of $10 per customer.
- Create a Budget - You’ll then want to take a look at budgeting, by determining how much money you have available for marketing in comparison to your available options. This underscores the importance of developing SMART goals and choosing the right marketing channels based on your target audience, so you’re marketing dollars are laser-focused. You can fine tune this number in the future once you determine the actual costs of the marketing efforts you’d like to engage in. The main thing is to make sure you allocate funds appropriately so that your SMART goals will be met. If your SMART goals are based on social media engagement, for example, know exactly what your paid promotion options are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so that you can make the best budgeting decisions.
- Decide on Channels - Based on the data you’ve collected on which marketing efforts have worked best, and are likely to be most effective in the future, you can then decide which channels are most appropriate within your budget. If your target market is Millennials, for example, you might decide to purchase more advertising on Facebook if your data indicates that social media has worked well for you in the past.
- Formulate Metrics - Finally, you’ll need to decide on a few key metrics of how you’re going to measure success, based on the goals you’ve set in step two. If your goal is to get higher engagement on social media, make sure you’ve set up and know how to access the Twitter analytics dashboard, for example. Odds are your original marketing plan will need adjustment over time, and without measuring what’s working and what’s not, you won’t know what changes to make.
What Should the Marketing Plan Look Like?
In terms of the actual plan, the most important thing is determining what your goals are. Take note of what kinds of marketing efforts have worked in the past, and which efforts you think might need improvement. Try to pin down exactly how you are going to accomplish these goals. What kinds of creative resources will you need and/or how you’re going to have to assign specific roles to your team?
You can then start outlining changes and adding new types of marketing that you’ll be engaging in. For example, you might decide that the best course of action is a push for content marketing, or that ads on digital and social media might best serve your purposes. You can then determine who you’ll want to target with your marketing in terms of specific segments, platforms, and campaigns. Most likely you’ll have several target segments that you’ll want to reach out to in the media they prefer.
The bottom line for local businesses is this — without a detailed marketing plan, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Like surprisingly many small businesses out there, you’ll simply be throwing resources at this and that without any long term strategy. While this might work for a period of time, marketing efforts that “fly by the seat of their pants” simply end up wasting time, money and valuable resources.
So do yourself a favor before you spend another minute of your time or penny of your budget, ask yourself: Do I have a marketing plan? And if you don’t, then follow some of the steps we’ve given you above to make one. You’ll definitely be better off in the long run.