5 Steps to a Strategic Marketing Plan

For small business owners wearing multiple hats, marketing is one of the most common causes of frustration or anxiety.

But marketing doesn’t have to be complicated and if you know where to start it’s really quite simple.

Marketing is about having conversations with people and helping them to buy. It’s that simple.

When you get the foundations right, and you have a plan, creating those conversations becomes a whole lot easier.

Start with the foundations: your ideal client, your unique ‘connection point’, and your message; throw in some goals and measurement, and you have your strategic marketing plan.

So let’s get started…


1.   Who is your ideal client?

This is the single most important part of your marketing. If you know who your ideal customer is, then having your conversations becomes so much easier.

Now if you’re running a garden design course, you might say “I know my customer - it’s people who have a garden”.

But how much do you really know about them?   

How old are they?

What sort of garden do they have?

Where do they live (town/country; terrace/detached)?

What do they do for a living?

Where do they shop (think Asda or Waitrose)?

How do they feel about their garden (nervous, frustrated, passionate)?

Ask your self these questions, write down the answers and build a detailed portrait of your ideal customer: their likes and dislikes, frustrations and aspirations.

Go as far as you like with the detail. Give your customer a name; find a photo online (or use a pic of your favourite customer); create a visual collage of their life and a written description based on the questions you’ve asked yourself.

Then keep your collage somewhere you can see it. This is the person you talk to every time you write a social media post, send an email or create an ad, so keep them in mind.

If you have different customer types, create a profile for each one but do be wary of having too many. This is about making your life simple not more complicated; start with two audiences at most and see how you get on.


2.   How to connect with your ideal client 

Once you have your customer profile, you can start to plan how you’re going to talk to them, and this starts with a single connection point.

You might hear marketers talk about a value proposition or a USP. For me, the simplest way to explain this is as follows…

People buy from you, when they feel connected with you

People feel connected, when they understand you

People understand you when your story is relevant, consistent and true

So the way to reach your ideal customer with your marketing is to demonstrate how you fit with them, how you could potentially connect.

To start creating your unique connection point, get away from your desk, go for a walk or just be somewhere different, and think about what you do for your ideal customer. What’s unique about it? How do you solve their problem or deliver on their aspirations?

This takes some time to get right so mull it over, write down your thoughts, discuss them with people you trust then refine it down to a sentence or two.

This is the foundation of your messaging and it must be clear and concise. If you can’t describe what you do in a sentence or two, how can your audience understand and connect with you?

A Financial Adviser I worked with was so unlike your typical IFA that we created a point of connection for her around her personality:

“Open up your financial future with a refreshingly different approach.”

For an IFA a connection point around trust and honesty might seem a more obvious approach but obvious isn’t unique. As a potential customer, I’d expect an IFA to be honest and trustworthy. What makes this one different from another is her approach to working with her clients.


Does your connection point have ‘legs’?

Before you begin creating your messages, take the time to check how robust your connection point is; write a list of evidence that supports your statement.

If you can’t list more than two or three things to support your connection point, you might need to think again. If you don’t have enough evidence, it will be hard to create messages that will connect with your audience.

Your list will be a combination of the things you do, how you do them and the facts that make your business unique. You can also include case studies and testimonials that demonstrate your point of difference.

This list becomes your guide for talking about your business whether you’re networking, posting on social media, or briefing a PR writer. Use it, refer to it and refine it as your business evolves.


3.   Create your marketing messages

When you have your customer and your unique connection point (with supporting evidence) written down, you can create your key messages.

I often hear business owners say they don’t know what to say in their marketing, but if you ask them about their business and how they help their customers, they can go on all day!

Your marketing is just a conversation with people who might have an aspiration or a problem you can help with. So, when you’re thinking about your messages, think about the conversations you have with people: What questions do they ask? What do they worry about? What do they need to know before they buy?

Create your messages under four or five key headings and write them down:

·         The problem you solve: What is bothering your customers right now or what aspiration do they have? (think about seasonal trends if relevant)

·         Evidence/demonstration: How do you solve your customers’ problems?

·         What’s going on in your industry? It shouldn’t always be just about you and your business

·         Behind the scenes: You want your customers to get to know you, to feel that they belong in your world

·         Your business: What you do and how you do it (this is low down on the list because first and foremost, your messaging should be about your customer, not you!)


Use language that is relevant for your business AND your customer. If you’re in a jargon laden industry (like marketing!) and your ideal customer is nervous of approaching people like you, then your language and messaging needs to be simple, reassuring and open. 

Once you start creating your messages, if you’ve laid the foundations with your customer and connection point, you’ll find lots of messages spring to mind.

Different types of messages will be appropriate for different channels, and if you’ve captured them all in one place you can refer to them over and again for blogs, ads, social media or your website.

Every time you write something in your marketing, check it against your key message headings. If it doesn’t fit one of them, then ditch it – it’s not right for your audience or your business.


Choose your channels (keep it simple!)

This bit is easy when you’ve completed the first three steps: You know your customer, you have a clear connection point, and you have your key messages.

Write down all the possible ways you could connect with your audience (don’t forget about print, or face to face events and networking), then identify two or three options to start with.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes whilst you’re refining your list. Consider where they hang out and choose your channels accordingly. For example, if you provide a business service and your ideal customer is a corporate leader, Facebook is unlikely to work for you. Those individuals may be on Facebook but they won’t be in work mode when they’re sharing photos of their kids.


Now you can create your plan

You’ve laid the foundations with your audience, your connection point and your messages, now you can put the rest of your plan together. It’s time to think about your marketing goals and how you’ll measure them.


4.   Your marketing goals

You know this is important, but have you really thought about your marketing goals and written them down? If your goals are whirling around in your head that’s not going to help that sleep problem! And if you don’t have any goals at all then you’ll definitely miss out on opportunities.

Writing down your goals helps fix them in your mind, makes a commitment to yourself and means you’re far more likely to achieve them.

You might have a million and one things you want to do, but choose no more than 3 goals, based on what’s important to you over the next 3-6 months. This might be promoting an event or new product, or it might be a broader goal to generate awareness of who you are and what you do.

Whatever it is, be specific and set goals that you can measure.


5.   Decide how you’ll measure success

The final step in putting your marketing plan together is measurement. Too many people fall into the trap of creating a campaign, getting stuff out there, then never considering it again.

Don’t be that person – put this last element in place and your plan is complete (how good will that feel?!).

You have three decisions to make:

·         Decide what success looks like for you and write it down. Your measurements will depend on your objectives but could include click-through rates from emails, social media engagement levels or event bookings.

·         Decide what you are asking people to do – this could be book onto an event, sign up for emails or enter a competition.

·         Decide how you will track your success – if you can’t track it, how will you know when you’ve succeeded?

Whatever you’re measuring, make time to check in on your activity every week to see how it’s performing (put time in your diary to do this). Keeping a close eye on activity means you won’t be wasting time and/or money on things that aren’t working so well. You can quickly change things that aren’t working and start to do more of what is!

For me, measurement is the most exciting bit! When you start to see the results of your efforts, it will help you keep focused and motivated to keep going.


Start creating your plan today

So why not make a start with your marketing plan today? Book some time in your diary to create your audience profile.

Everything else will flow from that if you follow the steps above. And you’ll have a simple, workable marketing plan in no time.

Please do leave a comment or email me to let me know how you’re doing. I’d love to learn more about your business.

And if you need some help along the way, my new Marketing Bootcamp starts on 16th September. Take a look and get in touch to see if it’s right for you.