What is the purpose of creating a marketing plan?
Isn’t the process of creating a marketing plan a lot of work to go through? Well, it goes without saying, a plan will take you places. A marketing plan is a blueprint like you would need to build a house. Would you tackle any sort of woodworking project without knowing what you were building first?
A marketing plan describes your competitors and how you can out-advantage them by offering services and products that are unique to your niche – at least you have a unique approach. After all, business is competition, or so most people believe. This myth can be exploded, and once that happens, you will find great opportunities in places you least expect them.
BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY
Untapped market space and opportunity for high growth and profit are called “blue oceans.” This is a value-based marketing concept where the company focuses on creating leaps in value. This approach opens up new and uncontested market space, not through competition, but by making the competitor irrelevant.
How is that possible? It is drilled in our brains that competition is what makes the world go ’round. In sports, business, and even personal relationships, we face competition. Someone always wants to be the top dog.
This strategy is especially valuable in today’s world of cyber business. There is SO much competition. Pick a niche and explore the possibilities. It is difficult to find something new and innovative to write about, and just when you think you have a corner on the market and do a keyword search, you find your idea is not that unique after all.
The best way to find competitive advantages for your business is to develop a marketing plan. Then you can see what others are doing and you will know to refine your search and develop something unique to your business.
The best way to understand the blue ocean concept of marketing is to read up on it. You can find a PDF of the book here compliments of the Harvard Business School Press.
WHY HAVE A MARKETING PLAN?
The three main components of marketing are 1) outreach, 2) content and 3) permission.
- Outreach is simply moving from people not knowing you to people knowing you.
- Content is anything you create and spread freely and widely.
- Permission means getting people’s attention and driving them to action.
Marketing is the action of building long-lasting connections by being relentlessly helpful.
When you help people get what they want out of life, then you will get what you want out of life. When you write your books and blogs, sell your products and offer your services, you are changing a part of the world. The more people you connect with, the better the world will be.
Many of you will recognize this book. It is one of the top-selling books year after year. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey lays out a matrix for setting priorities and organizing time. This matrix is very effective and efficient. It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed with too much to do and so little time to get it all done.
The matrix is divided into four quadrants. The one to focus on is quadrant II, the Important but Not Urgent tasks. Urgent activities are ones that need to be done right away, no delay. Quadrant I (Important/Urgent) is not be confused with quadrants III and IV. Quadrant IV is the dumping ground for things you will find are not all that pressing after all. Quadrant III can be done at any time, and not too much time is spent here. Often you will find the Quadrant III activities fading away into quadrant IV.
By prioritizing your work this way, you have more time for the Not Urgent, but Important things, like working on your website or writing your book. I love this matrix because it keeps me on task. I highly recommend you give it a try!
Covey’s matrix is very helpful when writing out a marketing plan. Once you prioritize the tasks that need to be completed, you will sail through the writing. Here are other things to consider:
- Exaggerate nothing. Tell your customers what you will do for them in the future and what you are doing for them now. Be truthful and revealing. Accountability and transparency are everything when it comes to establishing rapport with your customers
- When presenting the facts of your business, rounded numbers are easier to comprehend while maintaining an accurate picture. You may want to say, “We sell 40 to 60 items a day.” Better: “We sell 50 items a day.”
- Use the active voice. “I will deliver the product as promised.”
- Say how you will do what you have promised. “We ship within 24 hours of you placing your order.”
THE PURCHASE/DECISION CYCLE
It is helpful to know what drives people to buy. They do not usually buy on the first click, but research the product before they do. The 7-click rule in the affiliate marketing world says it takes up to 7 clicks before someone buys an item.
Think of your own buying habits.
Do you randomly buy everything you see as it comes at you, or do you take your time and think about it? The beauty of online purchasing, for the buyer, is it takes the impulse out of shopping. After you’ve thought about a purchase seven times, you pretty much know you want the product.
What goes through your mind when you make a purchase? What is the psychology behind buying and selling? The Purchase/Decision cycle is a 6-step process that people use to evaluate a product. Successful businesses base their marketing strategy on these six purchasing behaviors:
Six Customer Behaviors in the Purchase/Decision Cycle
- Notice. First, customers become aware of the product that might solve their problem.
- Consider. They weigh the options and research the product to determine if it meets their needs.
- Purchase. The purchase is only the middle of the cycle, not the end as many of us think. The marketing is just beginning, as the big corporations know, and understanding this important concept will also benefit your business.
- Experience. The customer tries the product. Does it crack up to be what you said it was?
- Repeat Purchase. Your customer LOVES your product and comes back to buy more.
- Refer. They tell their friends about the great product they just purchased. “You should try it!”
- Notice. Your new customer has just noticed your product. The cycle continues…
The time in the purchase cycle depends on what you are selling. If you are buying pencils, you won’t give the purchase much thought. But if you are looking for an interior designer, you will spend quite a bit of time asking your friends, searching the net, and making phone calls to find the right designer.
HOW LONG DO YOUR CUSTOMERS SPEND IN THEIR CYCLE?
There are many things you can do to sell your products and services. Selling a service is a little different in the types of sales promotions, but the ideas are the same. For space sake, these are some things you can do in the Purchase/Decision Cycle for Products.
- Set up your affiliate marketing links
- A professional-looking website that is search engine optimized (SEO)
- Free information via email (PDF targeting audience’s specific interest or need)
- Quarterly Newsletters – if you have more than one target audience, one for each
- Give in-depth information about the product on your website
- Purchase, Experience, Repeat Purchase, Refer.
- Focus on making it easy to chose what product to buy
- Make your website easy to navigate, use images, and make your links obvious
- Accept major credit cards and PayPal if they buy directly from you
- Ask your customers to share their own photos. You put the better ones on your website.
- Ask your social media contacts to solve a mystery with a drawing for a free gift.
- Respond to emails and comments within 24 hours
POSITION YOURSELF AS AN EXPERT
There are many free or low-cost marketing strategies that will give you exposure as an expert. For instance, an article submitted to the local newspaper about “Spring Gardens” that is written by the local greenhouse nursery.
Find inexpensive ways to get the word out that you are an expert. Here are some suggestions:
- Teach a class for a fee. No need to limit yourself to online classes. Does your community have adult education classes? Speak to local groups. Community colleges and park and recreation departments are good places to find groups that fit your niche. Teaching is good because not only does it position you as an expert, but it gives you an opportunity to grow in your field and become more knowledgable about your products.
- Teach a class for free. Volunteer at your local library, club, church, school or community center. Business meetings and association meetings are always looking for speakers. Get mileage from the classes by putting a press release in your local newspaper, circulate flyers around the community, business cards. Be sure to get contact information from the people that listen to you speak.
- Write a weekly or one-time column. Try pitching your article to the local newspaper editor. Post blogs on your website. If you want to submit articles to magazines, the best way is to purchase the Writer’s Market. Published annually, this book has the publishing guidelines for every publication, sorted by genre. Widen your internet exposure by writing guest blogs.
- Write an ebook. Amazon has made it incredibly easy to publish a book. An ebook takes little effort as opposed to formatting a print book. Advertise your book on your website, and offer it for free for anyone that visits your site (you know the drill, this is a very common practice.) An ebook makes an excellent calling card and sets you above the rest as an author.
- Be a guest speaker. Call into a talk show or a trade meeting. Do your homework and have a proposal worked out on what you will talk about, and then approach television and radio stations for a short advertisement or interview.
These are just a few things you can do to position yourself as an authority. As you become more known through speaking engagements, people will go to your website to learn about you and view (and buy) your products. It takes time to establish yourself as an authority figure, but creating relationships is a skill any business owner cannot be without.
Now it is time to pull all the pieces of your marketing strategy together. Like a business plan, it is wise to put your plan on paper so you can see exactly where you are headed. Also like a business plan, your marketing plan will grow and change over time. As you become more experienced with selling your products, you will come up with better ideas for marketing, and you will want to incorporate them into your selling strategy.
Here are things that should be included in your plan. Most of this is covered in other posts, but here we put it all together.
- Details about your business.
- Who is your target audience?
- What are your goals?
- What marketing tactics will you use? (See above.)
- How much will it cost? Make a budget.
- How will you execute your marketing plan?
In this blog, we discussed how a blue ocean strategy is useful in building a successful business, and how the Covey Matrix can help prioritize your time.
We are predictable buyers and follow a purchase/decision cycle that mega-businesses rely on for customers to buy their products. Incorporate this cycle into your own marketing plan to draw in new customers and to use the customers you already have to spread the word about your products.
One of the most effective marketing strategies is to position yourself as an expert. By establishing yourself as a speaker or teacher or author, you will naturally draw followers and customers.
Online marketing is not necessarily a business where you sit at your computer all day writing blogs and never meet the public. True, there is a large audience to draw on in the cyber world, but do not forget there are people in your community that can also benefit from your products and services. By not including this group into your marketing plan, you are not only leaving potential sales on the table, but you are limiting your market and the reach of people you can sell.
Start small, start slow, and when you are comfortable with one or two approaches, try another tactic. Keep adding to your retinue of publicity and marketing and one day you will have many great tools at hand that will help your business grow.