Take a second to think about where you were in July 2016. What goals did you have for your business and professional growth? Now come back to the present. Have you achieved these goals? Or exceeded them? Did you even come close?
I recently asked an audience of small to mid-sized business owners at a marketing conference this same question and to my surprise only about 10 per cent raised their hands. This means more than 70 of the 80 attendees had not achieved their goals from the previous financial year.
When I delved deeper I discovered that about 60 per cent of these business owners did not have a marketing plan in place. How can you expect to achieve your goals if you do not have a strategic plan to guide you? The answer, of course, is you can’t.
A strategic marketing plan is essentially a road map to success and is integral to business growth. It sets out your goals, strategies that will be used to achieve them and allows you allocate resources accordingly.
If your business doesn’t have a strategic marketing plan, a new financial year is the perfect time to establish one and give yourself the best chance of success. So what should an effective marketing plan include?
Any effective marketing plan should start with a vision statement. The vision statement should be something that inspires and excites you; it should get your juices flowing and give an adrenaline rush that will drive you toward success. Your vision should also be based on what I call BHAG (Big Hairy and Audacious Goals). While your dreams must be realistic, they should still push you to work hard.
The vision statement must also be aligned to your dreams and your realistic expectations of what the business can achieve within the next three to five years. This means you need to undertake research and consider the facts and figures to ensure you create an appropriate vision. For example, if you’re planning to dominate a niche in the market, you will need to find out who currently holds the biggest market share and learn from their strengths, weaknesses, milestones and shortcomings.
Once you have a clear vision, you are well placed to define specific measurable goals for the business. Your goals can relate to anything, whether it is sales, finance or customer satisfaction, as long as they are SMART. A SMART marketing goal is something that relates to (and results in) the generation of leads. For example, aiming to generate 20% more leads from social media in the next three months may be a SMART goal for your business.
You could also consider your goals from the previous year and add them to the list if you did not achieve them. If you’re struggling with setting goals, do some research into your competitors –find out how those who are ahead in the market have got there and consider what they do differently.
Once your goals are clear, you can work backwards to figure out exactly how to achieve them. Then you can determine what needs to be done tomorrow, next week, next month and over each of the coming months.
Once you’ve set clear objectives for the year it’s time to calculate your budget and allocate resources accordingly. This allows you to prioritise your spending and strategically reach the highest possible return on investment.
While it’s important to know your budget, it’s equally important to be flexible and open to new opportunities for generating a return on investment. If the return on investment justifies your spending, it can be okay to exceed your budget, but if you are seriously financially constrained you can always get resourceful. I always tell my clients – it’s not about the resources that you have but about how resourceful you are.
For example, when I started Arrow we had a relatively small marketing budget, so we partnered with a travel software company that created travel booking websites. Without investing a cent we were able to grow the business by 60 per cent within just one year, simply by partnering with this company.
A target market for your product or service should be clearly defined to ensure you are marketing to the correct audience. You should also consider your ideal client and the most profitable and enjoyable clients from the previous three years, so you can continue to market to them.
A clearly defined target audience makes it much easier to create effective marketing, boost your customer base and ultimately, increase your ROI; there’s no point wasting time and effort marketing to audiences that are never going to be interested in your product.
It’s equally important to think about potential new clients to target in the coming year. Industries are constantly growing and new segments and audiences are always emerging, so refining your target audience each year is integral to remaining relevant and engaging.
Understanding your target audience also makes it easier to decide which marketing tools to use. For example if your audience is exclusively millennial, you might consider social media advertising, while if you’re targeting older audiences, you may choose to focus on website redevelopment or creating engaging blog content.
Your marketing strategies should be closely connected to your target market – each strategy should target your ideal client and be in a form that the client will understand and use.
Each strategy should be given a deadline for completion and should be assigned to a member of the team. Dividing your plan into individual strategies is also a great way to allocate your budget and track estimated marketing spend.
One way to think about marketing strategies is to consider the geographic location of your customers. For example, one of my clients is in the beauty industry and recently expanded into the New Zealand market. Through Google AdWords research and analysis we discovered that those living rural areas of New Zealand were more responsive to online sales than their metro counterparts, as those in rural regions have limited access to physical stores. This has allowed us to map out a strategy to reach the client’s target audience and consider the channel they are best reached through.
Stay tuned for part two of our series in which we will discuss the importance of regular SWOT analyses and offer a downloadable marketing plan template.