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Marketing Tactics

How to Write a Marketing Plan

What is a marketing plan and why is it so essential to the success of your business? Find out here.

Entrepreneur

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Firms that are successful in marketing invariably start with a marketing plan. Large companies have plans with hundreds of pages; small companies can get by with half a dozen sheets. Put your marketing plan in a three-ring binder. Refer to it at least quarterly, but better yet, monthly. Leave a tab for putting in monthly reports on sales/manufacturing; this will allow you to track performance as you follow the plan.

The plan should cover one year. Things change, people leave, markets evolve, customers come and go.

You should allow yourself a couple of months to write the plan, even if it’s only a few pages long. Developing the plan is the ‘heavy lifting’ of marketing. While executing the plan has its challenges, deciding what to do and how to do it is the greatest challenge of marketing.

Who should see your marketing plan?

All the players in the company. Firms typically keep their marketing plans very, very private for one of two very different reasons: Either they’re too skimpy and management would be embarrassed to have them see the light of day, or they’re solid and packed with information — which would make them extremely valuable to the competition.

You can’t do a marketing plan without getting many people involved. No matter what your size, get feedback from all parts of your company: finance, manufacturing, personnel, supply and so on — in addition to marketing itself. This is especially important because it will take all aspects of your company to make your marketing plan work.

Your key people can provide realistic input on what’s achievable and how your goals can be reached, and they can share any insights they have on any potential, as-yet-unrealised marketing opportunities, adding another dimension to your plan. If you’re essentially a one-person management operation, you’ll have to wear all your hats at one time — but at least the meetings will be short!

What’s the relationship between your marketing plan and your business plan or vision statement? Your business plan spells out what your business is about — what you do and don’t do, and what your ultimate goals are. It encompasses more than marketing; it can include discussions about locations, staffing, financing, strategic alliances and so on. It includes ‘the vision thing,’ the resounding words that spell out the glorious purpose of your company in stirring language. Your business plan is the constitution of your business:

If you want to do something that’s outside the business plan, you need to either change your mind or change the plan. Your company’s business plan provides the environment in which your marketing plan must flourish. The two documents must be consistent.

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Questions to Ask Before Determining Your Target Market

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The benefits of a marketing plan

A marketing plan, on the other hand, is plump with meaning. It provides you with several major benefits. Let’s review them.

  • Rallying point: Your marketing plan gives your troops something to rally behind. You want them to feel confident that the captain of the vessel has the charts in order, knows how to run the ship, and has a port of destination in mind. Companies often undervalue the impact of a marketing plan on their own people, who want to feel part of a team engaged in an exciting and complicated joint endeavour. If you want your employees to feel committed to your company, it’s important to share with them your vision of where the company is headed in the years to come. People don’t always understand financial projections, but they can get excited about a well-written and well-thought-out marketing plan. You should consider releasing your marketing plan — perhaps in an abridged version — companywide. Do it with some fanfare and generate some excitement for the adventures to come. Your workers will appreciate being involved.
  • Chart to success: We all know that plans are imperfect things. How can you possibly know what’s going to happen 12 months or five years from now? Isn’t putting together a marketing plan an exercise in futility — a waste of time better spent meeting with customers or fine-tuning production? Yes, possibly but only in the narrowest sense. If you don’t plan, you’re doomed, and an inaccurate plan is far better than no plan at all. To stay with our sea captain analogy, it’s better to be five or even ten degrees off your destination port than to have no destination in mind at all. The point of sailing, after all, is to get somewhere, and without a marketing plan, you’ll wander the seas aimlessly, sometimes finding dry land but more often than not floundering in a vast ocean. Sea captains without a chart are rarely remembered for discovering anything but the ocean floor.
  • Company operational instructions: Your child’s first bike and your new DVD player came with a set of instructions, and your company is far more complicated to put together and run than either of them. Your marketing plan is a step-by-step guide for your company’s success. It’s more important than a vision statement. To put together a genuine marketing plan, you have to assess your company from top to bottom and make sure all the pieces are working together in the best way. What do you want to do with this enterprise you call the company in the coming year? Consider it a to-do list on a grand scale. It assigns specific tasks for the year.
  • Captured thinking: You don’t allow your financial people to keep their numbers in their heads. Financial reports are the lifeblood of the numbers side of any business. It should be no different with marketing. Your written document lays out your game plan. If people leave, if new people arrive, if memories falter, if events bring pressure to alter the givens, the information in the written marketing plan stays intact to remind you of what you’d agreed on.
  • Top-level reflection: In the daily hurly-burly of competitive business, it’s hard to turn your attention to the big picture, especially those parts that aren’t directly related to the daily operations. You need to take time periodically to really think about your business — whether it’s providing you and your employees with what you want, whether there are some innovative wrinkles you can add, whether you’re getting all you can out of your products, your sales staff and your markets. Writing your marketing plan is the best time to do this high-level thinking, away from phones and fax machines, so you can devote yourself solely to thinking hard and drawing the most accurate sketches you can of the immediate future.

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Have-To-See Marketing Tips

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Ideally, after writing marketing plans for a few years, you can sit back and review a series of them, year after year, and check the progress of your company. Of course, sometimes it is hard to make time for this (there is that annoying real world to deal with), but it can provide an unparalleled objective view of what you’ve been doing with your business life over a number of years.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Marketing Tactics

Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?

How do you market your company to this generation?

Stuart Scanlon

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According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.

They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.

So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?

1. By being transparent

Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.

Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs

Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.

Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.

2. By offering options

A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.

That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.

3. By being forward thinking

We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.

On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.

1. By being transparent

As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.

2. By offering options

Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.

Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.

Related: The Z Generation

3. By being forward thinking

They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.

The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.

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Marketing Tactics

Free Sample Marketing Plan Template

You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.

Tracy Lee Nicol

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Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.

Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.

Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template

Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:

Download Our Free Marketing Plan Template Here.

PDF-download-marketing-template

Recommended Marketing Reads: 


Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

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Marketing Tactics

4 Steps To Writing Content That Converts

Hook them, engage them and tell them what you want them to do.

Syed Balkhi

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Is your content persuasive enough to convert your visitors into leads?

Some pieces of content you create will drive conversions, while others will be lost in the archives. As a marketer, you always want to write content that is persuasive enough to turn your visitors into leads and thereafter, into paying customers.

Writing persuasive content is not magic. Let’s take a look at some ways to write content that converts.

1. Craft an enticing title

The title of your content is the most important factor that influences engagement. A whopping 8 out of 10 people may not even read your content if the title isn’t captivating enough.

Using Headline Analyzer by Coschedule is the best way to create a magnetic headline that attracts your audience. Just enter your headline and the tool will report back with a score and a grade along with some suggestions to improve.

For analysis, the tool looks at the following factors:

  • The headline type: It capitalises on the type of headline that converts, including lists, how to’s and questions.
  • Word balance: It helps you to curate an enticing title by checking to see if it has the right word balance.
  • Character length: It also looks whether your title is scannable and easy to digest.

Related: How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives

2. Fulfill your title’s promise

Getting clicks on your title is just half of the equation. Ensuring that your content fulfills the promise of your title is another equally, maybe even more, important part of driving conversion. If your content can’t keep the promise your headline makes, your visitors will likely abandon your site without further engagement.

When crafting each line of your content, keep in mind that the purpose is to get your visitors to read the next sentence, then the sentence after that and all the way down to the end of your article.

Aside from providing value, you’ll also want to evoke a desire for what you’re offering.

3. Make it scannable

Most of your website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website, meaning people quickly skim through the content instead of reading word for word.

If your content is hard to scan, meaning it contains long sentences and paragraphs, it’s likely that your visitors won’t stick around. Chances are, they’ll go to your competitors to find content that’s easier to consume.

To create content that is easily scannable, you can follow the actionable tips below:

  • Short paragraphs: Write short paragraphs, preferably 3-4 sentences at most. Breaking down your content into short paragraphs makes it more digestible for your readers.
  • Use attractive subheaders: Readers should be able to bounce around to seek out the pieces of your content that interest them. By using attractive subheaders, you can pique the curiosity of your readers and keep them engaged.
  • Use bullet points: Using a bulleted list is the easiest way to ensure that your content doesn’t strain your visitors’ eye to read through it. Since bulleted lists stand out from the rest of your page, they make the entire piece easier to skim through.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

4. Add a call to action at the end

The best way to convert your visitors into leads is to add a call to action, such as an email subscription form, at the end of every article you publish.

Some tips to speed up the growth of your email list are:

  • Offer a post-specific resource: Create a post-specific resource, and offer it for download in exchange for the email address of your visitors. When the resource is post-specific, readers are more likely to engage with the campaign, in turn boosting conversions.
  • Creating a premium library: To increase both perceived and actual value, you can create a premium library consisting of ebooks and other valuable course materials. You can then persuade your visitors to subscribe to your list by adding a signup box at the end of each article.
  • Content gating: Content gating is a popular strategy to boost conversions on your site. For instance, you can grow your list by blocking a small section of your content for subscribers only, which encourage your readers to sign up for your list.

The best way to create content that converts is to use emotion in your copy and evoke a desire for what you’re offering. By following the above tips, you can write content that converts your visitors into leads, and soon thereafter, into paying customers.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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