The business landscape is fierce and if you aren’t clear on the direction of your business, who your customers are and how you’re going to reach them then you might as well get ready to fade into the background while your competitors reap the rewards.
Every business needs to know what sets them apart and how they’re going to let their customers know just how great they are so including a marketing strategy in your business plan is the best starting point for achieving success.
Before You Write Your Marketing Plan…
It’s a bit difficult to simply start creating your marketing strategy if you aren’t too sure about your offering, your market and your key differentiators, which is why market research is such an important step.
When you are done with your market research you should be able to answer the following questions:
- Who are your potential clients?
- Where do they reside?
- What kind of people are your potential clients?
- Will they be interested in and willing to buy the product or service you’re offering?
- Are your prices attractive to your clients?
- Are your products and/or services available at the right time and place?
Divide your research up into primary and secondary categories in order to explore all of your available options. Start with secondary market research, this involves looking at information that has already been published and can be used to get an idea of your industry, market trends, competitors and potential customers. Below are a few ideas on where to obtain secondary data:
- The internet
- Industry magazines and trade journals
- Newspapers and magazines
- White papers
- Pooled data collected from interest groups
Turn to primary data sources if the secondary data didn’t quite give you all the information that you needed to develop your marketing strategy and plan. Primary data is collected from scratch and if you can’t afford to pay someone to do it then it’s simple enough to gather it on your own. You can collect primary data using the following methods:
- Interviews (Web, telephonic or personal interviews)
- Questionnaires and surveys
Developing Your Marketing Strategy
Now that you have a better idea of the market you are targeting you can start writing your marketing plan. Marketing strategies are there to map out an action plan for your business. This plan is not only useful for keeping track of progress and strategic direction but it’s a part of your business plan that investors will be interested in too.
Aim to include the following elements in your marketing plan to reap the best benefits:
If your marketing plan is going to form a part of your business plan then there is no need to create a second executive summary as it will be a repeat of information. If your marketing strategy is going to be a separate business tool then you can briefly describe your business and what sets you apart as well as touch on your vision and mission statement.
Start this section of your plan by explaining the current status of your business. Provide a few details on what you do, how you do it and how long you have been operating to date. Next you can provide answers to the following questions:
1. Who is your market?
This should be quite in-depth so it’s not uncommon to write up to two pages on your target market. Describe who your customers are, their demographics, needs and habits. Look at trends and growth in the market place to give investors an idea of where your business fits in and how you can cater to the needs of these clients.
2. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Take a page to explain what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as where opportunities and threats lay in your specific industry. You can download a SWOT analysis template here.
3. Who is your competition
Define who you are going up against by entering into your industry. What are your competitors offering your potential customers and what are they doing differently to you? Will they be a threat in the long run or won’t this be an issue for your company? Click here to view a competitor analysis example.
4. What are your key differentiators?
How do you stand out from your competitors and what will you be doing to ensure that you continue to be a top name in your industry? Are there any issues that you need to address in order to be successful in the short and long term?
When you develop your strategy, keep in mind that the main goal is to establish how you aim to increase brand awareness, create a relationship with customers and ultimately grow your business.
In order for a strategy to be effective it needs to be realistic, so this means taking your resources, time and budget into account. It also needs to be continuously implemented, tested and changed if required. Your strategy needs to contain the following information:
1. Marketing goals
List your objectives and what you want to achieve in the next month, year or 5 years. Your objectives can include anything from providing your customers with top-notch service to the increased profitability that you would like to achieve in the next 6 months.
What is your current position in the market and what do you need to do improve it? You might be competing against two top brands and you want your business to be one of those brands. How will you do it?
3. Marketing Mix
Now that you know what needs to be done you can explain in detail how you will achieve the goals that you set out above. This information is one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy and it’s important to note that your mix might change every now and then depending on trends and growth in your market. You need to list the following points in this section:
- Product strategy – What will your exact offering be
- Pricing strategy – How much will you be charging clients for your product or service and why?
- Distribution strategy – How will you make your product or service available to your clients?
- Promotional strategy – What will your marketing efforts be in order to create brand awareness and generate interest around your product or service?
The best guideline for deciding how much to spend on your marketing is anything from 1%-10% of your annual sales. This is mainly dependant on the industry you are in as well as how established your business is. The catch is that sales are dependent on marketing and vice versa so it’s important to put enough time and effort into this area of your business.
Go into some detail on the amount of money you will be assigning to marketing, how often you will be engaging in marketing activities and how you will monitor the effects. Some of the financials that investors might want to see and that will be useful as a monitoring tool are:
- Your break-even analysis
- Sales forecasts
- Expense forecasts.
There are many ways that you can also cut down on marketing costs and still get the most bang for your buck. Here are some ideas:
- Aim to attend industry events where you can network with potential customers and partners
- Make use of free online social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook
- Decide whether it’s necessary to hire outside creative help for the project that you have in mind. A headshot for your newsletter and a photo for a magazine advert have two different requirements. Try and do as much as possible yourself, within reason of course
- Your business cards can be an affordable and memorable marketing tool so don’t overlook this
- If you want an online presence there are tons of free platforms that you can use to design a basic website
Implementation and Control
This is the part where you give yourself timelines and deadlines. Define what needs to be done and by when so that you can monitor progress and make any necessary changes. Some of the areas that you can monitor are customer satisfaction, repeat business and the cost of acquiring new business.
Marketing Plan Resources
If you feel that you want more information on developing marketing strategies and devising a plan here are some useful links:
- Download a free marketing template
- (Video) Tips for building a great marketing plan
- Topsy – Search and analyse the social web
- Survey Monkey – Create online surveys and polls
- Access sector stats and trends on the DTI website
- Access South African white papers and reports from the SA Government website
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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