How to Create (and stick to) a Marketing Program for your Business
Marketing is almost always the task that gets pushed aside when things get busy or hectic. As a marketing consultant, this used to hurt my feelings. ‘Why don’t you care about marketing!?” I would scream, banging my head against the wall. I couldn’t understand why smart business owners were so cavalier with their marketing efforts.
Then I became a small business owner. And marketing my services became the lowest priority item on my daily to-do list.
I learned that it isn’t that people don’t care about marketing, it’s that they genuinely just don’t have the time, and, in reality, it’s the one thing small business owners can push to the side without having their entire day-to-day operations collapse.
That being said, I’m a big believer that you need to constantly be marketing to sustain your business. I’m a big picture kind of gal.
Again, a lesson I learned when, because of my lack of marketing my services, business slowed. It’s always when business slows that you put focus and attention on marketing again. The problem is that by that time it’s a little too late. You need the business now. Had you been marketing during the busy time, you’d still have business during a time that’s typically slow. But, like I said, I understand why marketing gets push aside.
The trick to mastering a successful marketing program is creating a strategy that is effective and efficient.
Over the years I have found that one of the most important parts of my job was teaching businesses how to be efficient. There are a lot of moving parts to a successful marketing program. Which is where the biggest challenge comes in, how do you juggle dozens of moving parts on top of the hundreds of moving parts you are already juggling just running your business?
You cut out the fluff and get organized.
To get right down to it, I’ve outlined a high-level overview of how I go about creating marketing strategies for my clients:
Step 1: Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
What are your business goals for the year? Where do you want to be 2 years from now? 3 years? 5 years? etc. Keeping these goals at the forefront of your marketing plan is important.
From there you can create a marketing program that is aimed at helping you achieve those goals. When you see your marketing program as something that is part of your business operations and long term plan, not an added bonus, you’ll naturally make more time for it.
Step 2: Okay that’s easy enough, but what is the marketing strategy that’s going to help you achieve those goals? That’s the next logical question. And here’s the answer that everyone HATES to hear: There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Any marketing agency or consultant trying to sell you on the idea that there is, is missing the point of what makes an engaging marketing program.
Depending on what your business does, what you want your brand to represent and who you’re trying to reach is going to determine who you market to and how. That will most likely be a little different from business to business.
Step 3. Which brings me to the next step. Branding and buyer personas.
Take a look at some of your favorite brands. Why do you love them? Because they speak to you in some way. As an individual, you’re a unique person that has certain things that you connect with. We do not connect with brands that have the same generic messages that every other brand is putting out there.
You need to take some time to establish who you want to be as a brand. What do you believe in? How are you going to communicate with your target audience? What does your brand look like?
Then, who is your brand going to connect with? This is where the development of buyer personas comes into play. You need to create 2 to 4 fictionalized customer profiles that accurately represent the different types of customers you are trying to acquire. This will help you understand how to reach these customers.
Step 4: Define your tactics.
Once you feel comfortable with who you are as a company (branding) and who you’re speaking to (buyer personas) you’re ready to determine tactics.
I have three buckets that I put all marketing tactics into: Brand Awareness, Lead Generation and Customer Service. You need tactics from all three buckets running at once to create a consistent marketing program that feeds itself.
Sometimes brand awareness tactics overlap, but here are some examples of each:
Customer service is going to look different for every business and most business already know the importance of this step. But make sure you’re treating this as a core component of your business that you need to constantly be evaluating and improving upon.
Step 5: This is one of the most crucial steps, get organized.
Create a plan for how often you are going to implement the tactics you have outlined in step 4. Use a project management tool.
Utilize your employees! Determine who is going to be responsible for what tasks.
All too often I see people hiring a marketing manager to implement tasks that their current employees could be doing themselves. For example, if you run a restaurant, you most likely have wait staff that can help you implement your social media strategy for no additional cost. (With guidelines, of course.) Or perhaps you have an office assistant who could send out your weekly email.
Step 6: Analyze your efforts.
Make sure you are making time to stop and check in with your marketing efforts. Make sure you know what tools you need to measure the tactics you are implementing.
If you aren’t hitting your benchmarks, determine why. Do you need to spend more time on certain tactics? Do you need to reevaluate the tactics you are using? Most importantly, are they helping you reach your goals?
Creating a marketing program that works for you business does take work, but if you take the time to strategize and get organized, you can create a marketing program that runs efficiently and consistently to help you reach your business goals.