Before we begin, I would just like you to remember that Cinderella landed a prince within 24 hours because she had a fairy godmother. Unfortunately, you don’t, so you will be needing a marketing plan and it will take way more than 24 hours to land any real customers.
I’m not saying that a business can’t function without one at all, but for a guaranteed successful business you need a strong marketing plan. Today there is a vast range of tools we can use to better communicate with our target audience and they are faster than the old, traditional marketing methods.
When you make a strategic marketing plan you create an imaginary route to success in your head that helps you keep track of where you are right now, where you want to go and how you want to get there. This plan helps you define your goals, keeps you focused on them, and helps you keep sight of the big picture as you seek out new opportunities in the market. If done right, a strategic marketing plan can help you achieve the greatest goal your business has set: to sell your product.
However, falling into too many pitfalls on the other hand is like buying tickets to the titanic – not the totally successful movie, but the totally unsuccessful ship. Not focusing on your audience’s needs and constantly trying to sell to them, concentrating on quantity and not quality, and doing whatever your competitors are doing without even the slightest bit of originality are some examples of pitfalls in marketing plans.
This ends up annoying your audience which some marketers just can’t afford to do. The general ideology that consumers don’t listen because there are too many marketers trying to hog their attention is a myth. The truth is, they feel like marketers aren’t helpful or caring enough these days. If you have original and valuable content your consumers will be willing to listen to you and a marketing plan can come in handy to keep you in the flow.
Research from Content Marketing Institute says that a documented strategy is one of the key characteristics of an effective marketing program. Once you have a blueprint in hand you get a clear sight of how to build the structure from scratch. In this post we will walk through 15 steps you need to go through to launch your startup marketing plan.
Disclaimer: experience may vary a bit from how they make it seem in success stories. A successful plan may take a few weeks to months to implement with a lot more time, hard work and dedication than those who make it give themselves credit to. This 15 step guide should help you develop a strong marketing plan that is beneficial to your business and can last for years.
For any strong structure you need a strong foundation (duh!). So for the first week or two you will need to put a lot of brain power into the following three steps.
Contrary to popular belief, marketing is not about getting to know your product and selling it. It’s about getting to know the people who want your product and concentrating all your energy into satisfying them. Identifying your target audience in the initial steps can save you a lot of time, effort and money. Once you know the market you are catering to, you can create buyer personas to help you make sales.
However, there are several factors you need to consider while choosing your market. For example, what is your market size? How many potential customers are available in your market? Do they have the money to spend on your product? How many existing competitors are there? If so, is your value proposition unique enough?
You need to answer these questions in order to get to know exactly what kind of a market you are jumping into and whether it is possible or not to make it work before you move on to the next step.
Once you know who you are selling to, you need to assess where your business and its product stands in the market. Define your product, what benefits it can provide to your potential customers and how it differs from your competitors. A great way to do this is by making a SWOT analysis where you list the external factors that influence your business (threats opportunities) and the internal factors (strengths and weaknesses).
Make a list of your strengths – things that make your product more superior than your competition and provide competitive advantage, and your weaknesses – What edge do your competitors have that your product lacks. Next, you describe possible opportunities that can help your business grow, and threats that might come in the way of your goals.
In Apple’s SWOT analysis, its strengths include marketing and brand awareness capabilities, original software and hardware, and brand loyalty. Its weaknesses include short product life cycle and heavy dependence on launch products for most of the revenue. Its opportunity could be developing antivirus programs for bugs and viruses in PCs and one of its threats is the other sources of free music downloads which greatly affects their iTunes revenues.
This is where you make a list of what you want to achieve with this product. What do you want to do? Where do you see your product in the next 3 years? How will people react to the marketing plan? How many followers do you deem significant? What change has it been able to contribute to the world?
While making plans, setting a small list of SMART goals is a great way to start. You need to know what is specific about your goal, if it is measurable or not, if it is achievable, if it is relevant to your business or if it is time bound. Once you have a clear goal set in front of you, the rest of the steps get a little easier.
This is a step that most businesses leave for later but starting this phase now gives you greater opportunity up ahead. Creating the best-fitting brand for your business or product in the initial steps gives you a great opportunity to start attracting people from the very start and make them brand loyal.
Creating a budget before you jump to the really hectic Phase III assures that you don’t spend more than you intend to and helps you keep track of finances as you put your plan into action.
I know it feels a bit shallow to admit it out loud, but nothing attracts people like good looks. In the inbound marketing world, branding is the most important and valuable asset your business could own. This is the part where you get real creative and make a personality for your product. It needs to be different from the competition and be able to attract attention. Your name, logo, URL, etc. need to stand out.
Most people leave this part for later but trust me when I tell you that’s a mistake. Take your time to come up with a name that is not just attractive but meaningful too. Your logo and theme should make sense and be somehow related to the brand. Think of the best fitting brand name, look for available URLs and use iconography tools to create your logo. This is a great opportunity to start attracting customers, employees and the general public towards your brand from the very start.
One of the most important parts of developing a marketing plan is to create a strong marketing budget. Whether it is a small or a grand opening, you’re going to have to set a budget for your marketing plan. Thanks to a variation of tactics available for reaching all kinds of niche it is always easy to find a mix that is best suited to your product and affordability.
For creating a solid marketing plan you need to organize all your financial information (how much revenue your business collects, what your monthly expenses are, any variations, etc.), determine where you want to spend your marketing funds and assess the data to make appropriate changes to it.
By now you’re done with the thinking part and here is when you feel like you have finally started working. Web presence is a powerful asset, but very easy to screw up too. The next five steps involve a lot of dedication and time. Do not mistake these as a grand entrance on the internet.
For the first few weeks of establishing online presence you will need to stay alert at all times and regularly push your content. The sad part is, not a lot of people will be following you and those who do might not seem to care. Almost every business faces this rough patch where you post content regularly and it mostly goes unnoticed.
The first few weeks are all about testing, testing and testing! Use A/B testing tools and keep a sharp eye on your analytics tools to find out what your visitors like and what features lower your bounce rate.
However, if you keep working on it, you will eventually reach out to a few people that find your content interesting enough and start sharing it. It is important to be alert at all times when following the next five steps.
This is a crucial step to your marketing plan. When making a website you don’t need to make it all sparkly and grand. A simple website with a landing page and a lead generating about page that goes with the theme can be enough sometimes. Your website should act as a medium to collect your visitors email addresses that you can use to make potential leads.
When making your website, make sure you follow the KISS – keep it simple stupid – rule. When trying to add too many features a webpage becomes too crowded and this could increase your bounce rate. Make sure your information and features properly are spaced out. It’s all about making your visitors feel comfortable reading your page and browsing around.
Once you have your website set up you can start working on building your blog. Blogs are a great platform to post interesting things that drive in traffic. Like I said earlier, the general public will give you their attention as long as what you say is valuable and relevant. When they feel like all you are doing is adding more noise in the market, they will leave.
When creating content for your blog make sure that it is interesting enough for your readers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about your brand or business. You can post general things that might interest your readers too sometimes.
Make sure your blog is designed properly and maintained on a regular basis. You need to develop editorial strategies that enhance your blog. Make interesting headers, include strong introductions and intriguing titles that compel readers to read your post.
When creating content for your blog you must make sure you know the purpose of creating the content, trim most of the irrelevant fat out from it, and add strong calls to action. You can never go wrong with simple content in the early stages. As your blog starts to develop you can make your content more advanced accordingly.
Choosing the right social media network can be a little hard because you wont find your target audience on just one network. However, its okay to take your time and asses each potential network you would like to join before you make any commitments.
The most famous ones are Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Since you cant find all your customers on any single one of them, you will need a combination of at least 3-4 networks if you can’t handle more.
Once you have chosen which platform to use, you need to start building a dynamic profile for your brand to be able to gain some social authority. Again, people wont start following you the minute you set up your profile. It can be a slow process that can take days, maybe weeks, to gain a significant amount of followers. However, that shouldn’t stop you from building your page. Share your information, make the about section appealing and add a hint of personal side to it too.
You can use this platform to share posts from your own blog and from other successful blogs too. Once you gain active followers who like what you post, they will start sharing your content and start interacting. Followers are a great way to get word-of-mouth marketing and are powerful enough to make your content viral if they really enjoy it. Once you have your social profile set up you all you need to do is post stuff and your followers do the rest. You can then start engaging with them via comments or statuses. Ask them questions and get to know them better to be able to make buyer personas to make sales.
The general appearance of a site is highly important to attract more visitors but what really makes a website effective is strong content. When trying to create attractive content for your site you should make sure it is unique, complies with the needs of target audience and has complete information. Specialized businesses such as eCopyDesk (yes, us!) can help you create strong and effective content for your webpage.
You don’t really need to put in a lot of big fancy words to impress people. Just make sure it is understandable and grammatically correct. As long as your visitors understand what you are saying they will keep coming back to read more.
SEO can greatly help your business’ webpage visibility to others in order to create more ‘organic’ traffic. When posting content always make sure it is optimized for search engines. SEO is a crucial ingredient for any online marketing strategy. For your website, your blog, each and every post in it and your social media marketing activities are all SEO-friendly.
This guide from Moz contains a lot of information on how to make your website more search engine friendly. You should add images in HTML text so they don’t get ignored or devalued by the search engine. Ensure your website has a crawlable link structure, which makes it easier for search engines to find your website. Failing to do so can result in some webpages because orphan pages in the eyes of the search engine. you can also use the rel=”no follow” tag to make sure a specific link is NOT followed by the search engine.
Use keywords very carefully and try using words that dominate the keyword search. However, some marketers abuse keywords in their content in a desperate attempt to get search engines to notice them. Don’t do that! Test your SEO and see if it gets the desired results for your page. If not, try optimizing it again until it clicks!
Its been more than several weeks of crazy workload, but now you can come out with a bang! By now you should have a strong website, a substantial amount of followers and some content that is already sitting there to be noticed by new visitors. Now is the time you use lead generation techniques to increase traffic. The next five steps are about taking your existing assets to the next level.
Ever wondered how sites that go viral do it? Neil Patel does a great job defining how to create viral content. Again, this is not going to happen overnight. You’ll need to be consistent if you want it to work.
In order to create viral content you need to strategize very carefully and pay attention to details during execution. Everyone wants to get more traffic with less posts but usually the reverse happens, so you are going to have to work very hard to produce as much content with higher chances of going viral as possible.
In order to go viral the content must be worthy enough to be shared. If it solves a problem, enhances the reader’s mind, or brings an important change to people’s lives your content is most likely to be shared around.
By now you have a great website with substantial traffic on it, a blog that you update regularly and social accounts with some active followers on it. There’s activity going on everywhere and is getting a bit of recognition too, though it may be a “good job” or “awesome post” comment every now and then. Still, by this time you know fairly well how to use keywords and what general topics are. Now you can start interacting with influencers in your niche.
Why is that important? Well, influencers have a bigger audience than you do and their followers are mostly active. One tweet about your post can really make a difference. You’ll find that there are more clicks on posts talked about or shared by influencers than ones with organic traffic on it.
KISSmetrics states that in order to start interacting with influencers in your niche you need to find similar content, using trending posts, old but popular posts and famous blogs that have reached a good number of people. Find out who else have shared this post. You can use bitly to look for people who have searched for posts and find influencers who have sent most traffic to them. After that, you contact with those people, interact a little with them and then get them to share your post somehow.
The easiest way to get in touch with them is to leave a comment if they have a blog. Most of the times they will reply. You need to reach out to bloggers who have posted a similar post to yours and leave them an email (a short one) giving reasons why they should share your post and make a really compelling argument. In time, you will find some influencers who feel like your work is valuable enough to be shared and that, my friend, is when you’ll hit jackpot!
Guest posting is when you write posts for other people’s blog. It happens to be one of the most important strategies for growing traffic to your blog. It is a great way to connect with your audience and also helps spread your name around.
But in order to be a good guest, you must link the post to your own blog, promote it on social networks more than once, thank the person who let you guest post and stay alert for replying to comments and feedback. Go to your new-found connections and convince them that you have something valuable to add to their blog and that they should let you post for them.
Guest posting will help you build stronger relations with other bloggers, introduce you to a lot of new people in their audience and back-links in your post are great for search engines!
Crowdsourcing is getting really famous in marketing strategies. You basically take a task and let the crowd work on it. Big businesses are using the idea of crowdsourcing to hold contest based campaigns for ideas, viral content development and marketing. You can use crowdscourcing to do market research for your products, gather opinions of the general public, provide customer support or make cost effective changes to your business.
Now that you established your website, launched your blog, have gained social authority, all you need to do now is maintain it. Make sure you regularly post new and original content that is shareable and valuable to the readers. Give your followers good posts on new topics so that they dont get tired of you and decide to leave. Keep them engaged and interact with them, as well as your influencers, to get the most out of the traffic you have.
By this stage you have worked pretty hard on creating a brand for yourself. Now all you need to do is relax, keep posting awesome content and keep an eye on your analytics tools to see if and where you might go wrong so you can fix it ASAP without losing followers.
This 15 step guide is a process that will last for months, but you can see some results coming in with every step you take, and this should last you for a long time. Without a properly drafted marketing plan it is very easy to drift away from the goals you initially set for yourself and can be extremely difficult to find success. However, a simple plan will keep you on track and you can measure where you stand and how far off you are from your goals.
Start by choosing you market and target audience you wish to cater.
After you are done with Phase I start developing a brand for your product or your business.
Phase II involves setting a marketing budget for your plan so you don’t end up spending too much of your revenue or funds on this. You can also use various tools and tactics available online to set your budget.
Phase III involves setting up your web presence. Set up a simple, yet functional website that has a landing page, and about page and can collect visitors’ email addresses. You can develop your website further as you grow.
Along with this you need to start a blog where you can post about your business or product, what is does and how it would effect a consumer.
Choose the social networks you wish to join and set up kick ass profiles that compel visitors to get to know you more.
The final phase is where you launch your website with a bang. This is really easy if you have content that has chances of going viral. Create engaging content that moves people and enhances their lives somehow to get them to share it.
Once you have active followers you just need to post awesome content and let them do the rest.
Start crowdsourcing campaigns to interact with the general public and get to know their opinion and thoughts. This should also help you create better buyer personas. The last step in the plan now is to maintain what you have build with all your hard work and dedication. Now all you need to do is just sit back, relax, and not screw up!
This 15 step guide should really help your business shine and gather potential leads that you can convert. It’s not as hard as it seems, it’s just time consuming.
PS: If you still feel its really hard, send an email our way. We’ll help you develop a strong marketing plan that increases traffic, potential leads and will be a guaranteed success.
Ghashiya Kassim is a blogger at eCopyDesk. Due to her social sciences background, she sees a lot of similarities between marketing strategies and general social norms such as dating, parenting, or life experiences almost all of us have gone through. That is reflected in her content through humor and endless pop culture references, something that keeps her audience engaged and compels them to read on and on.