Marketing is a Mountain
Knowing where to start with your marketing can be incredibly intimidating. You may be standing at the base of the mountain, looking up at the obstacles ahead with a sense of dread. You're thinking about the money you have to spend, the rats nest that is social media, working with wacky creatives, an inbox full of data & analytics, "marketing gurus" promising you quick-fix solutions, customers that are sending you mixed messages, a team that's not sure what the next steps are, and a personal responsibility to hold it all together... You may feel like you are falling off a cliff before you've even started.
It's a lot.
While the mountain may be massive, I promise you there is a safe way up it. You just need a plan. So take a deep breath, take a step back, assess what you are up against, pick a route, and start climbing.
In this article, we will break down how to create a marketing plan so you can feel the courage to move forward with your business, even if it's foggy up ahead.
Part 1: Know the Mountain
To get a sense of the challenge you have ahead, let's zoom out and get a sense of scale. To begin your marketing plan, you need to set some time aside to step out of the day-to-day operations of your business and really define these top-level items:
- Your mission
- Your customer
- Your budget
- Your competitors
Know Your Mission
At this point, if you don't already have a mission statement, my guess is you have heard from various business, branding, and marketing resources that you need one. To hop on the bandwagon, it's true. A really well-defined mission is incredibly important to a successful marketing strategy.
Here's the caveat: an impactful mission statement has to go beyond a couple sentences of vaguely inspiring and highly agreeable phrases about generally doing a good job. An impactful mission statement needs to be specific, it needs to be memorable, and most importantly, it needs to be honest. You have to believe it to your core.
Why is it so vital that your mission is vivid and honest? Because people are smart. Nowadays, people are walking BS detectors. It doesn't matter how many layers of marketing collateral, pretty pictures, and expensive videos you pile on top; if there is a hint that your mission is disingenuous, they will always keep your brand at a comfortable distance.
To do: Make sure you are on the right mission and write it down.
Know Your Customer
Without a customer, you don't have a business.
So, who is your customer? If your answer is "anyone who lives and breathes," I am sad to inform you that your marketing strategy will fall flat fast. You can serve a wide range of people, but the broader your audience is, the less effective your message will become for any specific person.
In 2023 we are living in a world of customization. People are no longer satisfied with products or services that have a laundry list of generic benefits. They want to know how it is going to change them personally. They want a community and a lifestyle that they can buy into.
With that in mind, take some time to create a profile (persona) for your ideal customer. Who are they? How old are they? What do they do for work? How much money do they make? What makes them tick? Get specific. You can get as detailed as you want with this. The whole point is to understand how to talk to that person and how to serve that person with your business. You can have more than one profile; just make sure they are distinct and realistic. Creating 2 customer profiles is a good place to start. Create one for your ideal customer and a second one that focuses on a secondary audience. A secondary audience would be the person that is a fan or future customer. Once you have completed your profiles, they should be used as a reference to ensure your marketing message and strategy stays on track.
To do: Create customer profiles (personas) to use as a reference as you craft your Marketing Plan.
Know Your Budget
Whether you are an established brand with years of marketing efforts or just getting started with some pennies and pocket lint to spend on marketing efforts, it's crucial to set a marketing budget. Defining what you can and will spend on marketing this year will help build an effective marketing strategy.
If you are just getting started and don't have a massive marketing budget to spend you will have to compensate with your time. Set aside time daily or weekly to spend on marketing your business. Your time is valuable, so create a clear budget for how you will utilize it.
If you are an established business and have money to spend on advertising, that is great. Just be aware that throwing money at the problem will not always solve it. You need to be very intentional with how that budget will be allocated.
To do: Set a clear budget for marketing efforts.
Know Your Competitors
Thinking about competitors can be a frustrating experience, and I don't recommend spending too much of your valuable time obsessing about them. However, understanding their strengths and weaknesses is a good way to know how to serve your customer better.Take some time to learn about your local competitors and companies worldwide working in your industry. Take inspiration from the ones that are doing great work and take note of the ones that are not. What are the strategies that are working? What are the opportunities for innovation? The point is to find a gap in the market and to find something that sets you apart from the competition.
In Marty Neumeier’s book The Brand Gap, he says: “To achieve originality we need to abandon the comforts of habit, reason, and the approval of our peers, and strike out in new directions. In the world of branding, creativity doesn’t require reinventing the wheel but simply thinking in fresh ways.”
To do: Document your competitors, analyze their strengths and figure out where there are opportunities to differentiate yourself.
Part 2: Pick a Route
Now that you have a good idea of the landscape and a good sense of the surroundings, you can begin to pick a route up the marketing mountain. This is where you can get more tactical and creative with your marketing strategy. Here's how:
- Set Measurable Goals
- Get Creative
Set Measurable Goals
At this point you have a mission, you know who your ideal customer is, and you have a good idea of the competitive landscape. Now it's time to set some goals.
What are you trying to achieve this year? Is it a specific number of widgets sold? Is it new customers gained? Is it getting repeat customers? Is it to strengthen your brand voice? Whatever the goal is, just make sure it's specific. When you make goals that are specific and measurable, it allows you to break them down into bite-sized pieces and analyze your progress as you go. Creating realistic and measurable goals will also allow you to get more creative with how you accomplish each one.
To do: Spend time drafting a few measurable goals for your business. There are no rules on how many you need but keeping it simple is always a good tactic.
With your goals set, it's time to get creative. There are many different channels for creatively marketing your business — the only real limit is your imagination. Spend some time thinking from the perspective of your ideal customer. How would they want to interact with your business?
If you’re selling an expensive product, maybe you need to invest in a marketing strategy that allows the customer to spend time with the product through a demo or a free trial. Or get a deep dive into how the product will improve their life with an educational video series. If your product is a digital service, you should probably take a digital approach using social media advertising or content marketing. If you are a b2b business and rely heavily on face-to-face sales, maybe the best strategy is to put your budget into making a good first impression by designing some killer business cards and giving your potential customer gifts.
It's going to take some time to narrow down the best channels to market your product or service, but the time spent planning and strategizing will pay off.
To do: Be bold with your marketing ideas and get creative. Remember to think outside of the box and have some fun.
Part 3: Start Climbing
You know the lay of the land, you've strategized the best route, and now it's time to start climbing. At this point in the journey, it's time to:
Planning is incredibly important when it comes to crafting a solid marketing strategy, but all the planning in the world won't get you anywhere on its own. It's time to commit. It's time to spend the budget and put the hours in. Get drafting, creating, and communicating. You have to put something out into the world before you can can get feedback on it.
To do: Launch your idea into the world.
After you have rolled out some marketing campaigns and spent time executing your strategy, it's important to look at what is working and what isn't. If it's digital, look at the data. If it's direct communication with your customers, ask them about their experiences. It's important to be able to stop and assess the progress. Make sure to record what worked and what didn't so you can improve on the process moving forward.
To do: Review your progress and make the needed adjustments.
Once you have acknowledged wins and adjusted for the failures, it's time to take another go at it. This is something you should constantly be doing as you market your business. As culture changes and your business changes, your marketing strategy will also have to change. Once a strategy has run its course, head back to the drawing board and repeat.
To do: Repeat the process as many times as needed.
Don't Forget to Enjoy the Journey
Marketing is an adventure and while it can be daunting, it can also be a ton of fun. If you are on the right mission and you have a customer to connect with, there are so many great ways to make meaningful connections with them.
If you are looking for some company along the way, the team here at Rinard Media is always looking to partner with passionate businesses that are ready to make something cool.