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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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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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.
Your 3 Big Marketing Plays For 2018
Consumers want to know who you are. Enter content marketing.
I’m a firm believer in content marketing. It’s a long play, but the results speak for themselves if you invest and keep plugging away.
Businesses that have invested in content marketing in recent years are reporting dividends from those investments. For example, more than 60% of B2B marketers reported more effective content marketing strategies than a year ago, showing that constant flow and activity within content marketing will increase ROI.
Factors contributing to that success include better quality content, strategy development, more time spent on content marketing, and better targeting in content distribution.
To maintain this growth, marketers need to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of content marketing.
Here are my three big marketing plays for 2018.
1. Great content is expert-driven
Content marketing is moving beyond blog ideas and articles. There is a move towards a trend in which ideas are constantly improved upon, customised for different audiences, and adapted to new formats consumers are using.
Just hiring writers won’t cut it anymore. The content team will need to grow and adapt for the next year and should include people who are talented in:
- Video production and editing (think TV commercials tailored for Facebook)
- Graphic design, illustration, and editing (think infographics, animation and ebooks)
- Audio editing and production (audio articles and podcasts)
- Content distribution and promotion (Where to place it and how to promote it).
So, invest in your content team, consider outsourcing to specialist agencies and provide constant quality content for your customer base.
2. Influencer marketing keeps yielding results
In 2018 it’s not about whether you include influencer marketing in your marketing mix, but the percentage of your marketing budget you put towards it.
- 70% of millennials trust influencer and peer opinions over traditional celebrities
- 51% of marketers say video produces the best ROI
- 86% of women turn to social networks before purchasing
- 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on a social media reference.
If you are in a niche sector, working with micro influencers who have a smaller but higher engagement rate than traditional celebrities might work well for your brand. The key to influencer marketing is someone who is trusted and respected by your target audience.
3. Live video is exploding
Marketers and brands are jumping on the train to embrace live video content. Facebook video sees an average of 135% more organic reach than images. The engagement goes through the roof for live video. According to Facebook, users spent three times more time watching live videos than a video that’s no longer live. They also comment ten times more during live videos.
If that doesn’t convince you that you need to adopt live video for 2018, this may:
- 80% of social media users aged 18 to 35 said they would rather tune into a live video than read a blog post.
- 82% of those users were more interested in watching live video from a brand than reading social media posts.
- Start working with live video now — before your competitors do — to engage your audience.
IN YOUR TOOLKIT
Create engaging content
Here are three tools you can use to easily make all kinds of interactive content for your marketing campaigns.
Apester is a tool that allows you to easily create polls, surveys, personality tests, video quizzes, and a whole lot more to engage with your audience. Embed your creations into your regular blog content to create a truly interactive experience.
Go to: apester.com
Engageform is a super intuitive tool to create quizzes, surveys, and polls. The platform offers an impressive array of visual customisation options to make your content really stand out.
You can also easily embed and share your quiz, survey, or poll on your website or social media. Once people start interacting, you’ll get detailed reports of audience feedback, stats, and lead information.
Go to: 4screens.net/engageform/
Video is probably the most powerful content type marketers can use. But use a tool like Vizia, and you can take it to the next level. Vizia helps you create more engaging videos by adding questions and quizzes to collect feedback while people watch.
The tool makes it easy to quickly add multiple choice questions, polls, and short answer questions into your videos. Vizia videos integrate everywhere, including blogging platforms, e-commerce stores, and site builders. And the best part? It’s 100% free.
Go to: vizia.co
How Laughter Can Be Your Gateway To New Business
If you want to make sales, you need to connect with your clients. This is the secret sauce that great marketing gets right, and it has nothing to do with how big (or small) your budget is.
Like most kids, in my final year of high school I had to make a decision about my future; make a call about my career path. My head proclaimed: ‘Law!’ My guts rebelled: ‘Acting, yeah!’
My folks shrieked: ‘Acting? Do you intend on having a mortgage in your own name in your lifetime? You’ll never be able to afford a medical aid.’ Aside, but purposefully audible: ‘He’s never going to move out of home. Is he?’
So, I made a compromise. I studied a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in marketing communication and when I completed that formality, I chose ‘acting, yeah!’
Google: ‘Acting school Los Angeles’.
Result: TVI Actor’s Studio just outside Hollywood, paid my deposit, packed a large, hard-coated Delsey suitcase and moved to The Valley for six months, to ensure that Future Mike couldn’t resent the decisions made by Past Mike.
Those six months comprised: Drinking sake and barbecuing with Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz while he orchestrated acoustic magic on his guitar; eating home-made chocolate chip cookies baked by the sweet hands of Teri Hatcher when Desperate Housewives was the most popular TV series on the planet; smashing Grey Goose on the rocks during road trips to Vegas, ululating: ‘The Goose is looooooooose’, with my housemate Chris; ordering Animal Style Double Doubles from In-N-Out Burger but, most importantly, falling in love with the natural narcotic of stand-up comedy.
What. A. Rush. Pit of your stomach sickness, churning from line delivery, converting into convulsions of laughter, or the agony of the opposite side of the spectrum — the silent onstage assassination. Hopefully it’s the former.
Connecting with your clients
Stand-up and marketing are inextricably linked. This premise is how I live my career.
Every meeting is an opportunity to leverage humour in order to make an impact. Laughter is my gateway drug to new business. Also, the road to branded content creation is paved and then signposted in the fork of either ‘Emotion’ or ‘Humour’.
A decently written story — TV or YouTube commercial — with a quality DOP at the helm, accompanied by an orchestral score, can elevate a mediocre concept to Cannes Bronze status. The line between funny and farcical, however, is so fine.
Consider a comedian standing on stage at a club, squinting out into the blinding lights and judgemental faces of a multi-demographic audience, about to open his mouth and croak on stage for the very first time.
This also happens to be an analogy for the scenario facing the rookie social media community manager before he posts a hashtag-TBT, hashtag-blessed, hashtag-yawn piece of unoriginal content from a calendar, signed off by a marketing manager who doesn’t think their target market is on Twitter because they ‘definitely aren’t’.
Judy Carter, author of The Comedy Bible, simplifies the writing of comedic material into two components:
It sounds too simplistic. It isn’t. We like to complicate things in the world and business, in particular, to make us seem more impressive, smarter, to elevate ourselves. It’s about being a big dick, or as someone far more eloquent than I described it — Ego. **Hat tip to Freud.**
Comedy and communication
Back to comedy and communication. In both settings — whether you are looking to connect with an audience in a comedy club environment or engage with a target market in your next advertising campaign — it is imperative that you determine the key insight, truth or premise of your material.
When I started doing stand-up in US venues, I would open on the topic of accents, as my accent was my obvious USP or differentiator when communicating to an American audience.
‘Hi. My name is Mike and I’m from South Africa. That’s why I have an accent. And, what’s weird about accents is chicks LOVE accents’ — truth (premise). Regardless of the background of my audience — age, sex, location, creed, or affluence — they identify with the statement that I have an accent and consciously or subconsciously they agree with my words or copy (if we are referring to a campaign).
The second part pertains to the acting-out of the funny; the crafting of the humour. This requires a slick delivery and commitment to the idea in order to generate audience laughter.
So, we have the premise, then we transition — immediately — into the act-out to connect the dots between truth and funny within the audience members’ minds. Comedy is dependent on what you first tell, then show your audience, and eventually how your performance becomes a catalyst for their own imagination to carry the chuckle to its limits. When we package these elements together, the execution becomes:
- Premise: ‘Hi my name is Mike and I’m from South Africa. That’s why I have an accent. What’s weird about accents is chicks LOVE accents.’
- Premise part two: ‘You can be Shrek, but if you’re packing an accent, you’re getting some ass!’
Act-out. Left hand behind head. Pelvic thrusts while speaking seductively into the microphone with a Scottish accent á la Shrek, simulating a movement synonymous with making sexy time: ‘Oooooh, that’ll do, Donkey. That’ll do.’
Finding a connection
There are few things more powerful in this world than words that disrupt the audience thought process. Donkey-ass puns, turning Shrek’s line of affirmation for Donkey — from its intended feature film usage — on its head, by making it smartly sexual; generating mass hysteria from a group of previously disconnected individuals, now connected through the universal language of laughter.
The best advertising in the world does exactly this. It takes an insight (premise) that connects with you as an individual, forces you to nod your head in agreement, and then leverages a powerfully constructed set of copy lines or imagery to emotionally move you.
Laughter, goosebumps, or the development of a lump in your throat. Effective communication is something that facilitates catching feelings. Whether you are on stage delivering lines, or at your keyboard posting snaps, tweets or status updates, every character that comprises a word of each phrase needs to be a purposeful paragraph composition — not just a tick box on a to do list of monthly KPIs.
We will delve into real experiences throughout this collection of personal anecdotes, because nothing doth a bigger dick make than an ‘expert’ who has all of the theory and none of the practice.
This article is an excerpt from The Best Dick: A Candid Account of Building a $1 million business by Mike Sharman.
In this his debut business book, The Best Dick, Mike Sharman invites you to share in the hustle. From the enthusiastic, entrepreneurial beginnings of a bootstrapped start-up founder — a relatively inexperienced 26-year old — to a seasoned, professional storyteller, who has built a boutique social media advertising agency that has made more brands go viral, globally, than any other studio in Africa.
Find it at all good book stores for R250.
Get your copy today
Email Tracey McDonald at email@example.com and quote ‘Entrepreneur’ to buy your copy for R200 plus free shipping.
How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives
If you’re marketing on a budget, content marketing is a great way to reach your audience, add real value and gain brand traction – without breaking the bank.
Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that most businesses are still trying to get their heads around. Unlike traditional media advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.
There’s a saying, fish where the fish are. Marketing is the same. You need your message to appear where your audience’s attention lies. I don’t believe billboards or even TV adverts hold consumer attention anymore. People aren’t looking at billboards as they drive past; most aren’t even looking at the road, they’re so busy staring at their mobile device or listening to a podcast.
The traditional advertising model creates ad content that interrupts consumers. Billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements momentarily disrupt what you actually want to be doing — watching your favourite TV show or listening to a song or chat show.
These ads don’t provide any real value to the customer and they don’t offer an immediate reason to even be viewed or engaged with. Instead, they rely on good placement, clever wording and brilliant creativity to capture your attention for a brief period of time.
The rise of content marketing
In response to these problems and restrictions, content marketing is on the rise. As a marketing alternative, it’s not only more cost effective, but it doesn’t aim to interrupt your customer. Instead, it aims to add real value to their lives and businesses by plugging directly into their interests, problems and challenges.
So how does content marketing work? Companies and marketers create content in the form of blog posts, podcast recordings, downloadable guides and infographics, video content and articles that don’t push products, but offer interesting advice, tips and opinions.
The value to consumers is provided in two ways: As educational content and as entertainment content. In both cases, access to this content is free, heightening its value.
Get the most out of content marketing
Here are three ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts:
- Provide content that your customers want. Don’t make the mistake of writing your blog posts about your business. Lesson number one is that people don’t care about your business. Provide valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. This content can be educational or entertaining. It can be a ‘How to Guide’, an in-depth stats-driven article or an entertaining video. Just make sure it’s about them, and not you.
- Focus on content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote or push your product. This is the rule most brands and companies struggle to understand. If you’re going to provide value to your customers, you need to mostly write content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote your products within the content. People are interested in articles and posts that benefit them, not ad posts touting how awesome your products are. Give your customers content that they want, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with engaged and targeted audiences.
- Write cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is content that can be easily found by your ideal customers. It’s content that provides incredible value to customers over a long period of time. How-To Guides, resources, 101 content and instructional videos all fall into this category. It should be content that customers can refer back to, and which has a long lifespan. This also immediately increases the ROI of your content production, as you only need to create the content once, but it will continue to bring returns.
Bringing it all together
As you make your final marketing push for the year and gear up for next year, make sure content marketing forms a vital part of your strategy. Learn to write engaging blog posts, invest in a podcast setup and push video content. No one is expecting your content to be perfect — you are the expert in your area, and have great advice to share. That’s what will keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.
Just remember that this is a long play. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum — but over time, you will notice increased traffic, more leads and more sales.
- Do you know what your clients are interested in, concerned with or challenged by?
- Are you offering advice, tips or opinions that tap into these areas?
- Does your content mostly focus on your clients and not you?
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