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Small business marketing planning can be daunting. If you are like most entrepreneurs and startups, you'll no doubt feel the intense pressure in trying to both deliver the service your business offers to it's clients and making sure that you are winning enough new customers.
At the very least, you might be at least a little confused as to what various marketing methods involve and in understanding which ones are the best to pursue when it comes to putting together a strategy for your own business.
So, with the points above in mind, I wanted to put together a free small business marketing plan with useful templates that will hopefully help streamline the creation of your strategy and give you time to focus on other areas of your business.
It will walk you through the most common and effective ways of promoting your enterprise, with a 15 step example plan at the end to help you along your way.
What You'll Get And A Couple Of Notes
First off, I just want to say that this guide is split into 3 parts as it's very, very long. Here's the breakdown:
- Part One: An overview of small business marketing methods that you can use when building out your overall plan
- Part Two: Important apps to help power your strategy - not essential, but your life will be a lot easier with them
- Part Three: Putting your strategy together - an example 15-step plan of how you can go about about putting your strategy together
- Free Marketing Plan Templates: at the bottom of Part Three, hosted on Google Drive and free to download (Google Account not required)
The free templates consist of a digital marketing ROI calculator, a strategy checklist, an example telesales script and follow up email copy, an example lead nurturing track, an agile marketing scrum sheet, a target market identification sheet and an example weekly planner designed to help you manage your strategy efficiently.
Okay, let's begin with taking a look at a few of the most common methods that are currently available to you. I'll be including some of them in the sample strategy at the end of the third part of this guide - simply add/remove individual elements as you build out your own plan.
Potential Small Business Marketing Plan Ingredients
So much to choose from - here are the most common and best marketing methods available
Traditional Marketing Methods
For the purposes of this guide, traditional forms of marketing are those that you would engage in off line. Some of the options available to you are as follows:
At some point during the sales process - excluding e-commerce-only businesses I guess - you will have to use the phone to close deals and win business. Although you won't necessarily have to use the phone to generate the initial lead, it's a good idea to at least brush up on your phone selling skills because the are still important as you move forward with trying to close the sale. This is because at the very least you will have to follow up a web generated lead by calling them on the phone - you'll still have to sell yourself to your prospect and win them over from any competitors that they may be considering at the same time as talking to you.
It's also worth including some intelligence-based, proactive telesales work in your strategy - the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) has the success rate of telesales campaigns at around 6%, which gives it one of the best response rates around. Plus, in terms of a quick win and immediate results, telesales is one of the best options available to you along with a PPC campaign - other methods can take some time to show fruits.
This post on telesales will go over the basics and then link off to other posts relevant to specific parts:
Telemarketing campaign checklist
The effectiveness of a mail-shot campaign can be debated, although if you are a small business targeting a local market, it's probably something you should at least consider. As with everything else in your strategy, you should make sure that whatever you do here is tightly integrated with your plan and that it is also measurable. This can be partly achieved by including a specific code within your mailing that can help you track responses.
The response rate you can expect will vary according to price, time of year and other factors, although it seems that a response rate of around 2% would be widely considered as very good. That's why it's a good idea to use a highly targeted database and also to make sure that you integrate everything, such as a follow up telephone call a week or so after the mailing has been sent, for example. This way, you can catch prospects who might have been interested in your offer but that were too busy to get in touch with you.
Tip: When using mail-shots, it's a great idea to direct recipients to a specially designed landing page as this will help increase conversion rated. It will also make it much easier for you to track success. For example, if you were running a special offer in your campaign, you could set up a page and encourage recipients to visit that particular page. For example, rather than just using your main website address, you could use something like the following:
You could also use a QR code in place of this, which recipients could scan on their mobile device and reach your landing page that way. For more information on designing a great landing page, please see the following post:
How to design a killer landing page
Field Sales/Sales Meetings
It's often said that there is no better way to build relationships and to close sales than a good old face to face meeting. This is probably true, although there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to use this in your own strategy.
Firstly, you should only ever meet with prospects who have shown a keen interest in what you are offering (ideally you will have qualified them first too). Second, while meeting a prospect face to face is probably one of the most effective things you can do, it's also one of the most costly. Third, be sure to be confident, professional and prepared when it comes to actually delivering your pitch or presentation.
For more information on developing this area, please see the following posts:
The sales pitch - are you a dud in the boardroom?
Field sales - your personal presentation
In saying the above, there is something to be said about doing 'door to door' around your local business area to introduce yourself initially. I haven't written a post especially on how you can do this, although I will do shortly and will post the link here.
This form of promotion is similar to direct mail marketing in that it's beginning to develop a somewhat lacking reputation in terms of performance and tracking. However, if you keenly target your market through niche publications, you stand the best chance of seeing the best results possible.
In terms of response rate, you should realise that between 0.5% and 1.0% would be very good, although this can of course vary according to how well targeted the advert is and how enticing the offer is. As with mail shot marketing, you should include a code within your advert that can help you track the success of your print campaign.
Some advice that would be worth paying attention to with this is that you should do your best to check audited circulation figures for the magazines you are thinking about advertising with.
Tip: if you Google 'audited magazine circulation figures', you should find the relevant body responsible for this within your target area.
Trade Shows And Exhibitions
A very effective way of directly targeting your ideal audience is by attending industry-relevant trade shows and exhibitions. You're almost guaranteed to find an exhibition for your niche, which will be attended by professionals working in it - in other words, key decision makers that you really want to talk to. For example, fitness exhibitions will be attended by all sorts of fitness enthusiasts, from Directors and purchasing managers of fitness equipment companies and gyms to home users and professional sports people.
For more information on making trade shows and exhibitions work for you, please see the following post:
Generating leads at trade shows and exhibitions
Free Newsletter and 21-Page Marketing Automation e-Book: Get it delivered direct to your inbox nowDigital Marketing Methods
As it's name implies, digital marketing involves anything based on the web or through email. Here are some of the options available to you as you build out the digital side of your overall plan (these are in no particular order of importance).
Daily Deal Sites
Just like Groupon serves the consumer market with heavily discounted deals from quality brands, the business market is also served by similar sites. There is some debate as to the long term effectiveness of such methods, although there is no doubt that they can help you to quickly attract new customers who may not have otherwise dealt with you. Just be sure to remember that such customers may not be the type of customer to buy again when you are charging full price.
Also, when attracting customers on mass like this, you should make sure that you are able to handle the volume, especially considering the vast reduction in profit you will see. Some sites will charge you a fee per lead, whether or not that customer even purchases from you. If a customer does purchase, you will have to pay around 20-30% commission on top of this.
And remember, this is all on top of the discount you are already offering you customers.
Social media networks are a great way to help gain exposure for your business. Sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter provide a gateway through which you can directly interact with prospects and customers alike. They are also (mostly) free, aside from any adverts you might want to run, any content you need to have designed and of course the time requirement involved.
This is probably a sticking point for most Small Business Owners - there either isn't enough time in the day or, on the other hand, it really is way too easy to spend far too much time on these sites. Therefore, it's very important to manage your time effectively on these sites, which is something that this plan aims helps you achieve.
This post on social media will go over the basics and then link off to other posts relevant to specific parts:
This post on social media will go over the basics and then link off to other posts relevant to specific parts:
Social media basics
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
If you are like most small business owners, SEO in some form or another will be a cornerstone of your overall strategy. If you're not, and it isn't, I suggest you do an about turn and get to work on it :-). I don't mean that you have to hire an agency or that you become an expert in every little area, I just mean that you should make your site as polished as possible and start promoting yourself seriously on the web.
I've written a Search basics article, which will help you start on the fundamentals. You can also refer to the Check-list sheet that I've linked to at the bottom of this article for more practical pointers. Of course, you can also check out Google's own guide - it's well worth a look and will give you a great idea as to what needs covered. After a bit of research, you'll quickly learn that search engine optimisation isn't a black art and that it's something you can do very well yourself.
This post on small business SEO will go over the basics and then link off to other posts relevant to specific parts:
Small business SEO basics
PPC (Pay-Per-Click) is an extremely efficient way of quickly tapping into the audience who are actively searching for your type of business online. Rather than waiting for your organic search presence to mature, you can pay to instantly appear alongside other sponsored ads when a users' search phrase contains your target keywords. You can target this kind of campaign very specifically, which means that - if done correctly - you will only pay for quality and highly relevant visitors to your site.
Google Adwords is the most popular platform to use for this, although Bing, Facebook and LinkedIn also offer PPC based marketing platforms that allow you to achieve the same thing.
You can read my beginners guide to pay-per-click advertising here.
Local SEO/Google Places
Although it's called Local SEO, the work involved is different to your general SEO efforts. At it's most basic, local SEO involves setting up a Google Places listing for your business. It's free and is without doubt a great way to attract local customers. When a user specifically searches for products or services within your area, Google will show your listing (along with other local results) above the standard organic listings. You can also advertise your Google Places listing with Adwords Express, and you can keep your listing updated with regular offers and photos.
For more information on developing this part of your strategy, please see the following posts:
How to set up a Google Places listing
Mobile optimised, local search marketing
Email Marketing/Lead Nurturing
Email marketing has continued to be an area that can deliver great returns on your investment. In fact, the DMA has the average return at over $40 for every $1 spent, which makes it the best performing practice you can be involved in. This is especially true when it's used in a lead nurturing campaign - the results can be quite simply staggering. An important thing to remember here is that you need to always comply with the CAN-SPAM Act - failing to do so can cause all kinds of serious problems.
These posts on email marketing and lead nurturing will go over the basics and then link off to other posts relevant to specific parts:
Lead nurturing 101
Email marketing 101
If you have the right kind of product, affiliate marketing can be a great way to attract new leads, sales and of increasing your customer base. The best way to think about how this works is to imagine it as a virtual sales team, which is spread across the web and is paid by results only. You would set up your campaign and provide website owners and online publishers with adverts that the can upload onto their site. As their web visitors click through to your site and make a purchase, you pay them an agreed commission for the referral.
There are large networks out there, such as Commission Junction or ClickBank. Don't worry if you find it difficult to get accepted onto the networks at first - you can set up your own program through a provider such as Ambassador.
For more information on developing this part of your route-to-market strategy, please see this post:
Affiliate marketing introduction
Let's be honest - to most small business owners, the idea of blogging is tiresome to say the least. After all, you're busy enough running the core of your business to find the time to write a blog post once a week, or month. However, it's been shown that websites with a regularly updated blog receive more traffic than those who have not.
If you really think you will struggle to maintain a business blog, you can always look at outsourcing this requirement. However, if you'd like to keep your blogging in-house, you might find the following posts useful:
Setting up a blog for your small business
How to plan and write great blog posts
Now that we've gone over the most common and useful marketing disciplines, in part two of this guide we'll go over a few important marketing applications that will make managing your strategy a whole lot easier.
Part 2 - Useful Marketing Applications
Part 3 - Putting Your Strategy Together
Thanks for reading,
By Alan MacDougall
Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.
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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.
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