Would it surprise you if I told you that working as a Business Mentor across Bristol, Bath and Somerset, 90% of the businesses I come into contact with have no proper marketing plan in place? Perhaps that’s you? It’s ok to admit it. We’re all friends here and you’re not alone!
I believe that many small/medium business owners think that a “marketing plan” is only for the huge, multinational giants, but that simply isn’t true. How do you attract new clients or customers? Through marketing! And if 90% of businesses have no effective plan, don’t you want to be amongst the 10% that do?
In this blog, I’d like to show you why you need a plan to attract new customers and how easy it is to create one to drive your business forward.
A phrase I use regularly is “planning compels action”, and this is certainly true for marketing!
What is a marketing strategy?
Sometimes in business, we give rather grand terms to what is essentially a simple plan of action! A marketing strategy is simply your overall game plan for identifying and reaching prospective consumers and converting them into customers. One or two pages maximum will suffice so that you stick to it and use it. Any more and in my experience, it won’t get used effectively.
Your marketing plan should follow the typical ‘purchasing funnel,’ so let’s look at this in more detail.
The marketing funnel begins with awareness. This initial stage aims to gain market presence and introduce your products/services to prospective consumers. People need to know who you are and what you offer!
There are several ways you can do this; trade shows, social media campaigns, direct mail advertising, and of course one of the biggest – search engine optimisation. But bear in mind how costly and valuable SEO is to your business will largely depend on the industry you’re in. For example, it will be more expensive for a hairdresser or builder to reach the top of the search page than something more niche, such as a violin repairer. So be sure to consider this when investing in SEO.
Your marketing strategy should outline who your key customers are and where they ‘hang out’. This could be Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, magazine, TV, radio, etc. I frequently see businesses marketing in places where their customers are not, so understand your target customer, and talk to them in places they frequent.
But at this stage be mindful of bombarding people with the hard sell. Instead, think of ways to demonstrate you’re trustworthy, reliable, have excellent customer service or can build meaningful customer relationships. Ultimately, you want to leave people with a positive, lasting impression of you and your brand.
Once you have created some awareness of your offer, we move onto consideration. People buy something because it fulfils a need or a desire, and they usually consider three to five different brands before making their overall choice. Your strategy should consider how you can place yourself amongst those other brands and ultimately demonstrate why you should come out on top!
Think also about where you want your potential customers to consider your offer in detail, for example your website or Facebook Business page, or maybe your showroom. Is there enough information for them to fully consider what you are selling?
An important note to make here is that the people you market to are not necessarily the same ones who are going to buy. For example, kids’ toys and games are marketed at children, but it will be mums, dads or other family members who are likely to buy them. So other USP factors need to be considered in your marketing strategy, such as value for money, durability etc.
Here are some other areas for you to think about:
- What does your brand stand for?
- What sets you apart from the competition?
- What extra value do you or your products have to offer?
Once everything has been considered and a decision to purchase has been made, there’s still some way to go before it becomes an actual sale. How many times have you been online trying to buy something and then the process was too long-winded or it didn’t work correctly? The result being that you gave up and went elsewhere? Your strategy should look at your online or in-store purchasing processes and identify ways to make these as seamless as possible. Consumers are even more online-savvy since lockdown, so make sure your purchase process compares favourably with the best. Get your friends to mystery shop your process.
And don’t forget the marketing funnel doesn’t end with a conversion. In a highly competitive market, retaining customers is just as important as securing that initial sale! Reliable after-sales service and customer relationship management increase the chance of repeat business and new word-of-mouth recommendations.
I’m sure you’ve Googled reviews of a product many times before buying. People are just as likely to buy from people they don’t know as ones they do. Your strategy should identify ways to gain customer feedback or reviews. This is great for your marketing materials but it can also provide you with all vital information to tweak existing products or develop new products/services.
As a mentor to businesses in Bristol, Bath and Somerset, my clients will tell you how I obsess about the “Customer Journey.” And I do so because this is the lifeblood of your business. Break your customer journey down into the 4 steps above; create awareness – provide a place & information for consideration – make conversion straightforward – encourage referral. And there you are, you have a marketing strategy!
But crucially you must write it down into a plan (I can provide templates if that helps) because remember, planning compels action!
So, are you covering all these stages? If not, it’s time to sit down and plan.
If you’re a small business owner based in the South West of England, I offer a free 90 minute mentoring session during which I challenge myself to find at least two points which will help you and your business. So why not book today?
Director & Business Mentor – Bristol & South West
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