Baldrick, I have a cunning plan.

Blackadder

Blackadder liked nothing more than a good, old fashioned, plan.  And any business, whether you’re little or large needs one to get the best out of your marketing efforts. A good plan is the glue that holds together your marketing activities and campaigns, it’s a constant reminder for you to tell a consistent story across your various comms channels and lets you monitor progress in a methodical, meaningful way.

So assuming all the initial market research, product development and set-up is done and you have something ready and waiting to be marketed, where do you start?  Below I’ve outlined a few areas of marketing worth including in your plan.  It’s by no means exhaustive but it’s somewhere to start.

Market research – knowledge is power
I know it fills you with all the excitement of watching paint dry but knowing your market and where you fit within it (positioning) is hugely important when you’re planning your marketing activities.  Go back to what might be pages and pages of dry facts and figures and pull out the key points for your plan:

  • Who are my target customers?  (Job titles, age, gender, socioeconomic status…)
  • Who are my potential partners and sales channels?
  • What industries, sub-industries or sectors am I selling to?
  • Why would they want to buy my product/service over and above anyone else?
  • What problems do my product/service solve for them?
  • Would my sales and marketing activities have to change depending on what country I sold in?

Messaging, positioning and personas – make it personal
Now you know what the market conditions are like and who your key audiences are, it helps to create a simple statement explaining what your product is, how you’re positioning it in the market and the benefits on offer to that particular type of customer.  It only needs to be a couple of sentences but remember to write like a human being.  Try to avoid complex terms and business jargon.  You may think it makes you sound more ‘corporate’ but a) that’s not a good thing and b) there’s nothing like a bit of ‘blue sky thinking,’ ‘moving the needle’ and ‘bleeding edge’ to turn your audience off faster than you can say ‘low hanging fruit’.  If the buzzwords are getting in the way and you’re finding it difficult to craft your positioning statement – pretend you’re explaining it to your granny.  It’s a good start!

It may seem obvious but tailor your story for difference audiences.  For example, if you’re a B2B company selling a mobile app to a Hotel for their guests to use, create a different message for the Hotel than for the Hotel guest.  You might even break it down further and consider what the COO of the Hotel would want to know and would it be different from the CMO for example.  When you’re done, you can use these messaging and positioning statements as a template from which all your other marketing materials (data sheets, brochures etc) can be created.

Marketing materials – content and consistency is key
You know your audience, you’ve honed your key messages so now, the fun stuff: creating content and designing some marketing materials!  Whether it’s a business card, your website, a brochure, data sheet or case study – make sure you keep those key marketing messages at the front of your mind so you explain and promote your products and services in a consistent way.

Continually look back at the different personas you’ve already identified and make sure each piece of content is written with them in mind.  For example, if you’re selling tech to Hospitality, Travel and Entertainment companies, create separate sections for each industry on your website.  The issues hotels have might be completely different from those of a cinema or stadium, for example.

Look at creating great content before anything.  Make it insightful, playful, interesting, entertaining or visual. Once the hard part of creating it is done, look at the different channels you can use to promote it; Twitter, Facebook, blog, press release, website etc.  But remember to tailor it to the channel.  What might work well for a blog won’t be appropriate for, say, a press release.

Reporting without it, you’re flying blind
You’ve put all this time, money and energy into market research, creating content, designing marketing materials and promoting, how do you know it’s all working?

Measuring your marketing performance shows you the fruits of your labour.  It tells you whether you’re on track to meet your goals or whether some campaign tweaking needs to be done.  Reporting comes in all shapes and sizes and whatever marketing channels you use, it’ll have its own analytics functions.  For example, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all have their own reporting dashboard to show you how you’re doing and you can see your how your website is performing with Google Analytics.

I should have mentioned this earlier but one of the first things you should outline in your plan are some realistic objectives.  Make sure you set some marketing goals so you know what to work towards and what to report on.  For example, some marketing goals might be:

  • Achieve 10% increase in the rate at which people visit the website and are converted to buy.
  • 500 new likes of Facebook page by the end of the month
  • Increase traffic to website with blog referrals by 20% by the end of the quarter.
  • Add £50k worth of new account business through marketing generated, qualified leads by the end of the year.

There’s so much more that can be included in your plan but it really depends on what your marketing appetite is and whether you have the time and ability to do it justice.  Whether you decide to do a little or a lot of marketing, it’s always best to have a plan because,  unlike Blackadder and the long-suffering Baldrick, you’re far more likely to be successful!

I’m not small. I’m concentrated awesome.

Small but mighty

5 reasons why small businesses can outmanoeuvre the Goliaths when it comes to marketing

Some smaller businesses feel that because of their size, they lack the marketing punch larger multinational organisations might command. You may not have the budget but your marketing can be just as effective, if not more so. I’ve worked for small companies and I’ve worked for large ones and what you might be lacking in funds, you can make up for in innovation, speed and agility.

Here are 5 reasons why size is irrelevant when it comes to marketing might:

  1. Agility:  If there’s an unexpected change in the market or new legislation throws a spanner in your business plan then small companies can turn on a sixpence and market accordingly.  It’s easier to get your house in order, prepare a statement, rework presentations and sales materials, update your website, brief staff etc in a company of, say, 20 than a company of thousands.
  2. Speed: This is related to agility and recognises that with fewer people in the mix, marketing doesn’t have to suffer the long, drawn-out process of multi-departmental sign-off and decision-making by committee.  Small businesses can be quick off the mark and get that great marketing idea developed and out the door before competitors, reaping the rewards of first-mover advantage.
  3. Consistency:  One area of marketing larger companies struggle with is maintaining a consistent message across all of their marketing channels and ensuring their many brand ambassadors (e.g. employees) stick to the script.  You may have the perfect product, the best service and the most compelling unique selling point (USP) but if you don’t talk and write about it in a coherent, consistent way then it’s a moot point.  The message is diluted and lost to your customers in the quagmire of competing voices.
  4. Innovation: Ever produced your best work under pressure? Necessity sometimes is the mother of invention and you might find that being a smaller company with limited marketing resources drives greater innovation.  This might be a controversial one, but smaller companies can, in some ways, take bigger risks.  It’s not so easy to take a risky marketing decision in a big company when you’re battling against ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ mentality and a long-standing conservative culture.  And sometimes, the bigger the marketing risk, the bigger the revenue reward.
  5. Personality.  Generally people follow people rather than faceless brands.  People like to follow the CEO or head of sales of a company rather than a logo.  If your brand has bags of personality then this might not be the case (take Nutella’s Facebook page as an example). As a start-up you’re effectively working with a blank canvas and can spend time honing a genuine corporate personality and tone of voice that you can use from the start vs. a more established business that might need to go through a costly, wider re-brand.

So don’t write-off your marketing efforts just because you feel you can’t compete with the big boys. You can. And you can do it well, outmanoeuvring the clumsier corporations and quick-stepping your way to original, credible and, most importantly, profitable marketing success.