I have been asked by a number of my clients, who are all small business owners, to help them develop an online marketing strategy and to create a marketing plan. I have decided to do a blog post on the subject since I think it is something many business owners might find useful.
Why Create an Online Marketing Strategy & Marketing Plan?
If you are reading this post, then you have already begun the process of developing an online marketing strategy and a marketing plan.
Why develop an online marketing strategy and plan? Well, first of all, let’s be clear about a few terms. When I say ‘marketing plan’, what I mean is a plan to market your product (or service) online. When I say ‘strategy’, I mean the overarching plan of how you are going to carry out the tactics to reach your goals. I would also say that a marketing plan can be thought of as a more detailed (and less glossy) version of your marketing strategy.
An online marketing strategy and plan are both very important documents. Without one, you could be wasting a lot of time and effort trying to find a marketing recipe that fits your business. With one, you can easily revisit the plan at any time and see how you are doing.
What Should You Include In Your Online Marketing Strategy & Marketing Plan?
Here is a short list of everything you should include in your online marketing strategy and marketing plan:
- An explanation of your business, what you offer and how to use the platform you choose to reach your audience (if you are on social media, this will be your ‘brand voice’ and the content you post on social media)
- An overview of your target audience and their needs (you can use free tools to research this)
- An outline of your competitive analysis, including your strengths and weaknesses
- An analysis of the economic (and hopefully other types of) market conditions and an explanation of how these will impact your marketing strategy
- A brand voice and the visual imagery you will use to represent your brand (don’t forget about your logo!)
- A digital marketing plan (this will become your guide to get started)
- An analysis of the metrics that will be used to determine your success (for example, how many new customers did you bring in and at what cost?)
- An SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities andThreats)
- A recommended course of action
- Pricing Strategy (if you are offering a service, this will be your guide to what pricing structures to use)
- The design and content of your website as well as your social media platforms
- Your email marketing strategy
- The type of marketing you will use (for example, SEO, PPC, display advertising, etc.)
- And much more …
The first step in developing your marketing strategy and plan is to create a vision and mission statement for your company. Use these to guide your choice of marketing mix (see below) and to help you determine the goals you are trying to achieve with your marketing efforts.
How Do You Plan to Market Your Product (or Service)?
The next step is to choose the channels through which you will market your product (or service). Now is a good time to review the types of marketing you have done before and to determine which channels you will continue to use. You should also decide how you will measure the success of your strategy. The metrics you choose will determine the elements of your plan that you can measure and track. You should also look at the channels that your target audience is using to learn more about their needs and wants.
Once you have established the channels through which you will market your product (or service), you can turn your attention to the competitors. Your analysis of your competitors should be comprehensive and contain all the useful information you need to know about your competitors. There are several tools you can use to perform a competitive analysis. I would recommend you use a tool called ‘Keyword Competitiveness’ by Uberblox. With this tool, you can enter up to 5 keywords and get a complete report on how well your chosen keywords are doing compared to the competition.
The next step is to determine the marketing mix that will be used to promote your product (or service). The following are the four basic elements of a marketing plan:
1. Product (or Service)
What is it?
This is the ‘thing’ you are selling. In the case of a product, this could be a physical item (such as a bicycle or sofa) or a service (such as legal services or landscaping).
In the case of a service, it is the provision of a product (such as online marketing or website design) that you are selling.
Why should people pay for it?
This is the price you are charging for the product (or service). If you are selling a physical product, you can use the ‘cost-per-unit’ concept (such as the Cost-per-Sale or Cost-per-Unit) to determine your pricing strategy.
In the case of a service, you have some overhead expenses (such as rent or staff costs) that you need to cover so you can continue to provide the service. One way of looking at pricing is to assess the costs to provide the service versus the costs of buying the materials required to do the job. If you are finding it difficult to put a price on your product (or service), then try putting a value on it. You can use online tools to generate a nominal value for your product (or service).
Where will you sell it?
This is the channel (or platform) through which the product (or service) will be distributed. If you are selling a physical product, this could be anywhere (so long as you have the necessary transport links). In the case of a service, it is a platform that enables you to provide the product (or service).
How will you get people to buy it?
This is the method you will use to get the product (or service) sold.
If you are promoting a product, the method you use will depend on the type of product you are promoting. In the case of an e-commerce store, you will use online marketing (including SEO) to increase web traffic to your site. Once you have gained web traffic, you can use email marketing to promote your products. There are various other methods you can use to promote a product (or service), depending on your budget and the type of product you are promoting.
Other Important Aspects
Once you have developed your marketing strategy and plan, there are several other important aspects you should consider:
- Public relations and media training (for business owners)
- Marketing research (if you are carrying out marketing analytics)
- Pricing strategy (if you are carrying out market research or if you have decided to carry out a formal price competition)
- Product (or service) positioning
- Short-term and long-term goals and objectives
- Operations: management, sales and delivery (if you are delivering a product or service to customers)
- And much more …
Depending on your industry and the type of business you are in, you might want to consider other aspects of marketing such as brand identity, customer service, social media and web analytics.