Getting Started with a Marketing Plan

Getting Started with a Marketing Plan

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s Cyber Monday. How did your weekend sales go? Did you implement some sort of customer building effort like we talked about last week? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Today, we are going to talk about planning, and specifically how to plan out a marketing campaign. My undergraduate degree is in business with a double option in marketing and advertising. My education covered general marketing principles, but in terms of advertising and application, it was focused on working in an advertising agency where you would research and develop a plan over a period of months.

What I’ve found in working with small businesses “out in the wild,” so to speak, is that the majority of them don’t operate that way. They know they need to market their business, but for most of them, that usually means they by an ad or a service if a salesperson happens to hit them at the right time.

That is the extreme end, of course, there are businesses who have more of a plan, but even then I’ve noticed that most of the time, all the pieces such as their website, their social media, their print, and their in-store promotions, don’t all tie together. There is not a single message.

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Because this is so common, the very first seminar I gave was on “how to develop a marketing plan” specifically for small businesses. I want to ask you a question. If something happened to the person who normally makes your marketing decisions, whether that is the owner or a specific employee, would you know the plan for the coming year? Could someone else step in and carry out that plan? If the answer is yes, “Yes, we do have a written plan,” then my next question is, does everyone on your team have an understanding of the activities and goals of that plan? When you play any sort of sport, there is a specific goal . . . An end in mind. Does every person on your team understand the goal they are working towards? If the answer to either of those questions (do you have a plan and is it communicated to employees) is no, some adjustment is necessary. I know one of the things about entrepreneurs is that very often they resist being nailed down to a specific plan or structure. That is part of why they are entrepreneurs, they want to do their own thing and a “plan” can seem so rigid, they like the excitement of uncertainty. What I would say to that is this. Even with the best-laid plans, life will bring enough uncertainty as it is. If you plan and prepare the best you can, you will be ready to deal with the “surprises” that pop up. The other thing I would say is that freewheeling attitude that energizes you as an entrepreneur stresses out your employees. If they were entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t be working for you, they would have their own business. Leaders point to a destination or goal. If you can’t communicate direction, you won’t have the full support of your team. Plans are important, in every area.

Make It Simple

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate report that an agency would create. It just has to be a plan. When I gave the seminar on developing a marketing plan, we talked about things to consider in the plan, but as for the actual plan itself, my recommendation was to keep it simple. Especially if you haven’t done this before, just get a year-at-a-glance calendar and think about the seasons of your business. When are the busy times of your year? What type of event or promotion will you run for that? Write it down. Think about the holidays, what will you do during those times? What are the slow times during your year? This might be a good time to hold a customer appreciation event or spend some one-on-one time with your best clients. When I work with clients, we usually look at the year in quarters and what we will be focusing on during that time. Not always, sometimes themes or focuses need to be shorter, but that is where we begin. Let’s say you have four major promotions or focuses planned for the coming year, those are your pillars. Everything else that you do will either build up to or follow up on those events: your advertising, your on-site promotions, your content marketing, your email newsletters, your social media postings. Do you see how the rest of your marketing and promotion become much easier once you have the sketches of a plan?

Marketing Tips for the Holiday Weekend

Marketing Tips for the Holiday Weekend

Thanksgiving is in a few days and then the big sales weekend is upon us: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday.  If you have any sort of retail business, I’m sure you have your sales and promotions in place.

But one thing I would like you to think about is “what happens next?” You’ve put a lot of effort and most likely a lot of money advertising those sales. Hopefully, this weekend will see a good return, but do you have anything in place to bring those customers into your broader customer base.

Once they come into your store, do you have a way to connect with them to encourage them to come back?

When you buy an ad in a magazine, or a newspaper, or run a promotion on social media, you are paying that publication for access to the distribution channel they have created. They have the eyes, or ears, you are trying to reach.
But what you want to do is to build your own distribution channel, your own customer base so that you aren’t solely reliant on paying outside advertisers.

What do I mean by this?

Let’s say you are running a sale this weekend. You’ve paid for mailers to go out, ads in several papers, and are running a Facebook promo . . . along with everyone else.

Someone comes into your store, buys a few things, and leaves. They may come back, they may not. But in order for them to know about sales you are running in the future, you will have to keep running the same sort of ads you did this time.
You will keep paying for the same customer over and over.

You might say, “well we have a Facebook page, we can post our sales there.” Good, you should.

But here’s the thing about Facebook, that page you are posting on and working so hard to build is actually Facebook’s page about your business, it is not your page.

When you post an update, only a small percentage of your followers will see that update unless one of two things happen, the first is if it gets a lot of engagement through likes and shares, and the second is if you pay for exposure. Otherwise, that update is throttled.
I wrote about this several years ago, natural engagement has only gotten worse. The same is true for Instagram, engagement of regular posts has dropped dramatically in the last year.

I am not saying not to participate on these platforms. They are a good way to participate in the conversations going on about your industry or service. But recognize it for what it is, it is Facebook’s game, they call the shots. You don’t.

So what is the answer? I’m going to cover three ways to grow your customer base from people walking through your doors, make the most of those ad spends.

#1 Build Your Email List

The one thing that you control is your list. You want to know who your customers are and continually expand that list. Some businesses send mailers to their list. Some do text marketing. But the easiest and most cost effective way to market to your customers is through email marketing.

If you go into a large nationwide business, what do they ask you at the register? Have you joined our rewards program and would you like to receive email notifications of sales?

They are building their customer base. Once that customer is on their list, they don’t have to rely as heavily on outside ad spends. They can do flash sales, they can clear out inventory with special closeouts and send it to their customer list.

But maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have a rewards program with my point of sale system.”

It doesn’t have to be complicated. One of my clients had a really archaic register system, but they still built their list. The cashier just said, “Are you on our email list?” If the answer was no, they said, “Would you like to be?” Then they just wrote their name and email address down on a sheet by the register and those were later added to their list. It can be that simple.

#2 Build Customer Reviews

The second way to grow your business from existing customers is by building up your reviews on review sites like Google, Angie’s List, and Yelp.

When you are looking for a company to do business with, what do you do? You might ask around, and then you also look at online reviews, don’t you? This is especially true for service businesses and restaurants.

I’m going to tell you a story of a local business who does a really good job of gaining favorable reviews.

I have three girls, and all of their mouths are a mess. One had a crossbite, one an overbite, and the third an underbite. Two of them had to have two sets of braces. We are an orthodontists dream.

When we started going to this orthodontist, I noticed that they had a lot of good reviews and I was wondering if they had a service that helped them with that. I also paid attention to the other ways they cultivated their relationships with their clients: they have a little welcome to the family gift when you start with them, their staff is very friendly, they have good communication, their office is pleasant with movies, games, refreshments, and wifi.

But actually, a lot of other dentists and orthodonists do the same, without getting the same number of reviews.

So one of my daughters got her braces off a few weeks ago. It was a big day. After the braces were removed, the doctor showed me how they looked along with the before pictures.

He asked me if I thought they looked good, and of course, I did.

And then he asked if I was happy with the service we have received. I said yes, and he asked again if there was anything they could do to improve because they were always looking for improvement.

He was following up to make sure there weren’t any issues outstanding.

After that, he handed me several cards and said, “If you refer anyone, be sure to put your name on the back of the card so we can send you a thank you card.”

And then he said, “would you mind taking a few minutes to write a review about us on Yelp or Google?”

When I said I would, he asked which one I would prefer to write on and then handed me a paper that had step by step instructions on how to leave the review.

It was brilliant. It wasn’t some complicated service. He just asked.

So just to recap what he did.

  • He highlighted the value and quality of the service.
  • He asked if we were happy
  • He asked for feedback.
  • He asked for referrals.
  • And he asked for a review, right then, and made sure the steps were clear.

That is how you get reviews. Make sure your customer is happy, and then ask for them.

#3 Build Social Media Profiles

So the last way you can build your business with customers that you have is through social media.

If you have a retail store, I hope you have some sort of photo opp set up for kids. Get some candy or some cookies and juice, set up a station, and have an employee standing there ready to take pictures.

I would recommend having some sort of drawing or contest. If they post the photo tagging your business and location with a unique hashtag, they are entered.

This is a really easy way to grow your social media following.

Have a Plan to Expand Your Customer Base

So to recap, I covered three ways you can grow your customer footprint, and I would prioritize them in this order

  1. The first is your email list. I would do this before you do anything else. If you collect those emails and then say, I don’t know what to do next. Don’t worry, call us, that is what we do.
  2. The second would be to focus on building your online reviews. Now, if you are a retail business, you obviously need to come up with a different strategy than the one that I mentioned, but there are many ways to do this.
  3. The third is to build your social media platform.

Pick one of these goals to focus on. Don’t try to do all three. Just one.  But look at not just this weekend’s sales, but on how well you grow your customer base.

Need Some Help?

New Marketing Podcast

New Marketing Podcast

Announcing our new marketing podcast, “Coffee Tips with Carla.”

A little bit about Coffee Tips.  Small business owners wear many hats and one of those usually includes that of “Chief Marketing Officer.” It used to be that a small business put up a sign, put an ad in the Yellow Pages, and ran a few promotions.

Things have changed.

Each Monday morning I will be sharing a few tips to help you promote and grow your business. It won’t be a lecture, just something you can listen to as you sit down to your first cup of coffee on Monday morning.

I hope you’ll join us.


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