4 Steps to Building a Successful Marketing Plan
Creating a marketing plan can be a fun, creative process but frankly, it can also be overwhelming. It’s hard knowing where to start, where to focus, and what works. The key to having a great strategy with great results is knowing how to plan and execute your marketing successfully.
Creating a successful marketing system
Businesses with successful marketing create a system that helps them stay on top of all the moving parts- and there are so many! A good marketing system has so many parts that it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks or fall behind.
What I see in a lot of small businesses is that it’s very easy to focus on client work and set aside marketing our own businesses when we're busy. We only realize there's a problem when our pipeline dries up and we’re wondering where the next client is coming from, which is not a good place to be because panic does not foster good decision making! Plus marketing is a long game, not a quick fix.
To create a marketing system that helps you stay consistent with your marketing, and allows you to create a steady stream of leads for your business, think about breaking your marketing activities into four stages:
Stage 1: Planning
When you have a plan with specific goals you can map your way to achieving them. Marketing without this focus is time consuming, messy and super ineffective.
Each of these elements is vital for the an effective marketing strategy:
- A road map for achieving your goals and guiding your decisions throughout the quarter/year
- Details of the types of marketing activities you will do focus on to achieve your goals.
- Metrics to help you understand how each activity aligns with the plan and how effective they are
- A brand message that remains consistent throughout your copy, branding and posts
How to Write your Marketing Plan:
Set aside a 2-4 focused hours to write your marketing plan every quarter. Download and use the sheets in the Story Tonic Business Bundle to help you get started. Whatever tracking system you use, make sure it is simple, prompts you to plan strategically, and allows you to track your progress.
One tip I have seen to be effective is to make sure the first page includes your mission and company guiding principles, target clients, and a list of your core products/services. This allows you to review the foundational strategy of your company and make sure all your efforts are in line with your overall objectives. This is especially important if you are evolving the business, adding new products or your industry is changing (e.g. new competitors, new technology etc)
I recently had a client who was working hard posting on social media and then realized that the topics she was discussing were not at all in line with her new core product she was trying to get off the ground. Sure enough, once we tweaked her marketing plan to make sure everything was in alignment, leads started coming back in!
So remember that whenever you launch a new service or product you’ll also need to market it! That means marketing activities specific to that product not just your overall business. Sheet #4 of the Story Tonic Business Bundle is a Product Marketing Planner template. Use it to help you to keep track of all the steps you need to take to market your new product or service successfully.
Once you have your plan pinned down, then create a second tab on your worksheet for your action plan to lay out your marketing goals, topics and themes, and specific tasks to achieve your marketing goals.
Stage 2: Implementation
The real key to success in marketing is the ability to implement the plan well. I’ve seen many businesses put together a great plan but then drop the ball and let weeks go by without taking action, wasting so much time and missing real opportunities for their business.
This is why your Marketing Plan must set out the projects and tasks that will lead you to your goals. You don’t want to have to think through the whole macro plan on a weekly or bi-monthly basis - you just want to dive into the details of carrying out the necessary tasks. So you want your plan to help you know exactly how to direct your efforts in the regular time block you’ve set aside for this purpose - having to plan each week or finding it takes too long are the top two reasons people give up on posting consistently.
By breaking things down into blocks with specific projects and tasks, you are more likely to get more done because you aren’t overwhelmed with too much to do at once.
Marketing Plan Implementation Tips
- Block a set time in your calendar to work on your marketing projects. Protect that time as you would a client appointment. Close all your open tabs, put your email and phone on hold, and commit to working on the project you’ve set.
- Use a checklist for recurring tasks so you don’t have to waste time remembering multiple steps.
- Create templates for blog or social posts and automate as much as possible! There's an Editorial Calendar template in the Story Tonic Business Bundle you can use to get you started.
Stage 3: Marketing Tracking
Develop a system for tracking your results. To make sure your efforts are working and worth continuing, you must track your results.
You need to establish which metrics matter to your business for each of your growth goals. Then track your results. Look at things such as email open rates, how time of posting/sending affects engagement, types of posts or content that gets the most interest, profitability of any ad campaigns you are running. Tweak to see if a change makes a difference to your results (rather than throwing everything out and giving up) and adjust as needed.
Core Marketing Metrics
There are lots of tools out there to gather your Marketing metrics, and I’ve listed my favorites in my list of top Marketing tools but here are the top ones to think about:
- Website traffic – Use Google Analytics to track your website traffic.
- Keyword ranking – The Keywords Everywhere browser extension helps you generate keyword ideas. Ubersuggest from Neil Patel will show how many people search for a keyword within a particular region and will give you a list of keyword ideas if you click on the “keyword ideas” navigational option.
- Inbound leads – Keep track of the number of website visitors that contact you and then how many convert to a customer using tracking in your website forms.
- Email opens – All mail service providers worth their salt track opens and clicks on all of your email marketing campaigns.
- New business from new customers – Track your leads to conversion by calculating the customer conversion rate. You can calculate this by taking the number of new customers and dividing by the number of leads.
Knowing what’s working and what’s not will help you make budget decisions when you get an opportunity and you need to “find” some money in the marketing budget.
Stage 4: Testing
Next comes testing different options to improve your performance, like for example:
- Which day of the week leads to higher open rates?
- What subject lines are most effective?
- Should you use a different name in the “From” field?
Testing EVERYTHING is the secret of successful marketing. How else will you know if what you’re doing is working?
Assessing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is key to making sure you’re not wasting time and money on things your customers are not responding to.
Set up a regular time to review your data, usually monthly and quarterly so you can determine if what you are doing is delivering the results you need. If something is working, make sure to only change one thing at a time if you are trying to make improvements! This means that if your results go down after a change you can quickly reset your course. When you make too many changes at once it will be impossible to know which elements worked and which areas need improving.
The longer you do this and use the data you collect to adjust where necessary, you’ll find that your marketing becomes more effective. Being flexible and adaptable with your marketing is also how you stay ahead of the constant changes in digital marketing.
Tips for evaluating your marketing efforts
There are many types of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to measure your marketing effectiveness. For small businesses, you might want to measure website traffic, visitor to lead conversions or cost per lead. All of these are good ways to measure marketing campaigns and are simple calculations.
Return on investment (ROI) is always a key assessment measure, whatever the size of your business. When you track ROI you’ll be able to identify exactly what each campaign is contributing to your revenue.
To calculate ROI, take what you spent on a marketing activity and subtract it from the sales revenue generated by the campaign. If you spend $2000 and generate $10,000 in sales, your ROI is $8000. Remember to calculate the time investment as one of your costs. So if the campaign cost $2000 but if it cost $3000 of your billable hours or of your staff hours to execute it, your ROI would actually only be $5000.
The Marketing Reality Check
Don’t expect instant results from your marketing activities! Marketing is a continuous process and it can take months to establish an audience so don’t get discouraged or give up too quickly.
This is important to understand.
Because you don’t want to spend months creating an amazing plan, only to launch it and realize that no one actually is interested in your ads, articles or social posts. What people want changes too. So if they aren’t engaging, that’s not to say they won’t become customers, but it’s useful to get actual data that indicates what they really will respond to instead of—just guessing.
Marketing requires consistency, creativity and persistence.
This is why you don’t just want to validate your marketing ideas —you want to validate them and that’s where having a team to support your efforts and keep your strategy nimble can make all the difference!