For business owners wanting to take their business to the next level and be competitive in today’s business landscape, a strategic marketing plan is essential. Think of it as a road map, which will show you how to get where you want to go. I will never forget listening to a podcast featuring Gary Vaynerchuk. He said, “Every single company out there, where they know it or not, is a media company in addition to the business or product that they specialize in.” That has stuck with me ever since and it really drove the creation of the marketing department at Green & Co. What he says is more true today than ever, as technology dominates our lives more and more each day. Companies that don’t jump on board the digital marketing bandwagon will get left in the dust, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Here we will share our tips for creating the main foundations of a successful marketing plan, so you can strategize and implement.
1) Digital Presence
It’s safe to say that the internet is here to stay. So, if your business doesn’t have a digital footprint yet, it’s time to jump in and make your mark. If you need help with this, there are plenty of great marketing companies out there to call, or if your budget allows, you should consider hiring a marketing professional to be part of your team.
A website is the best place to start. Choose your domain name or URL. You can use hosting sites like GoDaddy.com to see if the domain name you want for your business is already taken or not. You purchase your domain name, sign up with a web hosting site, and then use an easy template from WordPress to create a nice-looking website. Of course, you can always hire this out to a professional web-designer, but it is so simple to do yourself, that we recommend starting there if you are somewhat tech-savvy. Websites should be redesigned every two to three years, since technology and the Google algorithms change so often. You will find that your website is out-of-date much more quickly than you’d expect.
Once your website is up and running, you should consider hiring out for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services or install a do-it-yourself program like Yoast. This will help your website and its pages be searchable on Google. If potential customers can’t find your website, then having one won’t help too much if you are trying to drive online traffic to your website.
Google My Business and Google Reviews
Speaking of Google, you will also want to create a ‘Google My Business’ or GMB page as well. This is what you see in the box at the top or on the right side of the screen when you search for something on Google. Many people use the map to find what they are looking for, and you definitely want to rank on that list. (After you create your GMB page, then Google will physically mail you a postcard with a code, which you will have to enter into your GMB page, in order for it to be active.) Your GMB page is where your Google Reviews will show up too, and these days, businesses with multiple positive reviews will get the call or the click as opposed to businesses with none. So, make getting Google Reviews from your customers and clients a top priority. How can you animate the process to make it even easier? Do you send them an email or text asking them to write a review to help your business once they’ve worked with you? Or even better, do you ask them directly? Whatever your plan is, the important part is having one and asking for those reviews. They will make a huge difference to your business.
We live in a social media world now, so there is no better way to reach your potential or current customers. You will want to make sure your business has a page with the major social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and definitely YouTube. There are even software programs out there like Buffer which will allow you to schedule multiple posts across all of your social media accounts at once. It makes it easy to set up all of your posts in one place, rather than logging into each of the accounts and posting separately. Experts recommend posting several times (at least 2-3) a week to remain “active” on social media.
One of the best ways to remarket to your current or past customers is via email marketing. We all get these marketing emails from places we’ve shopped at or businesses we’ve patronized. Think about the ones you open versus the ones you delete immediately or unsubscribe from. What makes them different? What type of content would your customers want to see? Maybe it’s value-based, such as helpful articles and information, maybe it’s updates, maybe it’s an incredible offer that they can’t pass up. Whatever it is, you want to make sure it is nicely presented. We recommend using an email campaign software like Constant Contact, Mailchimp, or Active Campaign. There are dozens of great companies to choose from, so do some research and decide which one fits your budget and your needs the best.
What does your audience of past, present, and future customers want to see from you? What do they want to know? What kinds of videos do they want to watch? The answers to these questions is where you start with content creation. What info are you going to put on your website? What blogs are you going to post to your website? (Experts recommend posting at least one blog per week.) How can you re-use the content of those blogs on your social media or in your email campaigns? You can get creative with your content and re-purpose it for different channels of your marketing plan. If you aren’t the creative type, you can always pay someone to produce written and video content for you. If budget doesn’t allow for that, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, so begin with sharing what you know, showing passion for your business, or explaining exactly what you do. That should come naturally and be an easy place to start.
You really want to think about who your target customer is, before spending lots of money on advertising that doesn’t give you much return. So, evaluate your options carefully. Look at doing some digital advertising with Google Ads or on social media sites. You can also go the traditional route if you think it’s the best way to reach your potential customers. Consider direct mail postcards, brochures, or advertisements in print media (newspapers and magazines) or on TV or radio if you want to reach a larger audience. Of course, business cards are also something you are going to want to have for your in-person networking. If your business is new or it is not where you want it to be financially, and you don’t have a large advertising budget, you are going to have to focus on using your networking and “prospecting” skills to gain new customers and generate more sales.
Some businesses are built solely on the owner’s networking skills. That’s how word-of-mouth referrals really start to drive the business forward. Some of the traditional things to do to get sales going would be old-fashioned cold-calling or “door knocking” (visits to potential clients) to introduce yourself and your business. These activities are completely free and are some of the most effective ways for an entrepreneur to build their company. Other networking options involve getting out in the community to meet people and get connected. BNI (Business Networking International), your local Chamber of Commerce, or other business networking groups exist to help people build their businesses and get referrals, so those are a great place to start. There are industry-specific groups or even specialized groups that you can join too (i.e. women in business or construction industry groups). Secondary to that would be the various service clubs such as Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis etc. However, the main reason for being there is service to the community, but professional relationships of trust between members is a common side-effect. You can also look on social media for “word of mouth” groups or industry specific groups to join and get in on the conversation online.
Last but certainly not least, maintaining your customer database is one of the keys to your marketing plan, and also one of the most important assets of the business. You want to make sure you use some type of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. Many email marketing software companies include this type of feature, like Hubspot for example. You have all of the names and contact details (email, address, phone) of your past and current clients in one place, where you can keep track of them. This “client list” is part of what will make your business saleable down the line when you are ready to pass on the reigns to a new owner.
It has been proven time and time again that it is much cheaper to sell to current or past customers than it is to find new clients to work with. So, use your database to re-market to them, to keep them engaged with your brand, and to stay on top of their mind when it comes to whatever your business does. To do that, you want to stay in touch with them. Send them an email once a month, send a mailer every quarter, call them to touch base every six months, stop into their office with a “thank you” gift…whatever works and makes sense for your business. This database is the source of all your sales, and they are responsible for all of the revenue that your business has done throughout the years, so treat them like gold. Keep this database updated, and most importantly, use it to keep in touch with the important people that you have in it.