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
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?
4 Ways To Implement Strategic Marketing Without Breaking The Bank
Marketing your start-up is all about the right strategies, not how much money you spend. You need to build your reputation from the ground up. Here’s how you can get started.
Building a fledgling business is as much about increasing your client base as it is about building a positive reputation around the business and its expertise. Many experts and seasoned entrepreneurs argue that clients buy from people they trust and building that trust hinges on various parameters.
Take Steve Jobs, Wendy Luhabe, Richard Branson and many other leading business minds whose brands are built on years of credibility and trust. The truth is that equal attention needs to be given to great products and building trust within your client base.
Here are five skills that we’ve used to build our reputation at WordStart.
1Sharpen your writing skills for media and general communication
Create media coverage. Write on a company platform (like a blog) or for established media outlets. This will position you and your business in ways that get people to listen and share your knowledge.
Having your name next to an article on a respected platform can lead to useful connections with relevant contacts. A series of media features and industry commentary also help to position your business and team as experts in your field.
2Share industry trends
People will generally do research in and around an industry to find insights and trends, sometimes before they buy anything in that industry — and even afterwards. When I search for information on photography, Canon appears more than any other brand and they tend to set the scene on which device to buy.
Imagine your business is construction and that homeowners endorse your skills as a home improvement specialist. Packaging your knowledge into industry trends is also a great way to use your own lessons about the industry as you grow and it also helps you to connect with potential customers. Useful information with your name on it can increase your sales and client base.
3Edit. Edit. Edit
Something that cannot be stressed enough is that your writing in client documents can tarnish your brand. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of grammar in their documents.
It can be difficult to reread and rewrite documents that you use in the business, but that is precisely what can lead to the loss of new and existing business.
Pay attention to how your business uses language and edit that work. When in doubt, read it again and be sure that nothing was missed.
4Practice public speaking and search for opportunities
After you have written for various publications, you increase the likelihood of being invited to speak at conferences and seminars, which means that people put a face and voice to the written expertise. In some instances, the speaking engagements can be paid for by conference organisers which can be an additional revenue stream.
Public speaking, especially industry-related speaking, will increase the likelihood of selling more products or services and this will separate you from the competition. By increasing the trust customers have in you, you can improve the likelihood of them buying from you.
Once a business is positioned as a team of experts with the ability to speak for their industry, opportunities open up for that business to create unique content. Industry leaders who are able to help the public to connect the dots through the information they share are regularly on guest lists.
Is there anything you can share that your industry peers and the public may find eye-opening? There may be a conference organiser looking for you.
5Educate the market and build a client base
One of the advantages of being part of an industry is that you have inside information that the general public does not have. This presents an opportunity for you and your business to become a self-nominated industry mouthpiece.
When an individual and business share news about an industry, they can create a new client base because the public associates them with that information.
One of the best cases in South Africa is Discovery’s Vitality rewards programme, where you earn points for being healthy. This does not mean that Momentum, Bonitas, Sanlam, Sizwe and other players do not have similar or even better offerings. Vitality is more visible and more vocal about the fact that leading a healthier life can get you rewards.
A great reputation may lead to positive word-of-mouth for your business and increased sales over a longer period than a single marketing message.
Cut The Bull That Comes With Women Saudi Drivers
If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.
Women belong in the kitchen, right? Wrong! Now they can drive in Saudi, and you know what that means? They can fetch the groceries too!
Bet the Feminists clicked on this article looking to wage a social media war. No need. The afore mentioned thinking is exactly how the quick acting social media teams of major car manufacturers are acting after King Salman announced the lift on banning women drivers in the kingdom.
Whether we think it’s progressive is not the debate here right now. I personally think its great that such a country who has long ‘protected’ its women from the horrors on the road now believes that women are capable of taking care of themselves out there. The issue? Let’s take one step back and mention one South African social brand so you can see where I am heading. Take Bic Pens with their infamous 2015 #HappyWomensDay post reading, “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, Work like a Boss”.
What does a Pen in South Africa and a Car in Saudi Araba have in common you ask? All their CEO’s have a twig and two berries (66% of those car manufacturers who ‘praised’ Saudi Women drivers on social, are white men) and they didn’t get there without some form of business knowledge.
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.
Thinking before Tweeting
There is nothing like a good tactical on Social Media. Every brand wants to be Oreos during the super bowl when the lights went out. Every Marketing Manager wants to be the one to get his or her clever execution out first because time is of the essence.
Did the car manufacturers do great tactical work? Absolutely!
Did the car manufacturers think about the role they didn’t play in the fight for the cause? Absolutely NOT! They just saw another opportunity to capitalise on ‘to be relevant’.
This ever-connected digital world we live in comes with an opportunity for brands to build deep relationships with their customers. Sure relevance is key, but do (straight, white, male) brands have a place in that conversation now that the hard work is done (by strong Saudi Women)? Was fighting for women’s rights to drive in Saudi ever part of their Brand DNA before the last week of September 2017? Nope, they just see an increase in sales come June 2018.
Common amongst those tactical auto brands’ values were customer service promises, the comfort of people in cars, and sustainability. Only one vouched for the respect for diversity, while another strived for integrity, vowing to keep its doors open to men and women alike. While I can understand that a Trans National Corporation needed to respect culture and politicophere of Saudi to be able to operate there, was there not an opportunity to lead the charge and help the 10- year fight for equality on the Kingdom’s roads? Would their auto brands need to advertise after being part of the battle after that?
The irony is that The Women to Drive Movement started with a 2007 YouTube video. Did none of these brands have an ORM tool that picked this up? I wonder if any evaluated the risks vs the returns had they supported the movement.
Sullivan Principles Anyone?
Back in 1977, The Sullivan Principles was a part of the world’s Corporate Social Responsibility as brands applied pressure on apartheid, South Africa. The corporate protest came with the thought that if business divested in SA, apartheid would eventually be cash-strapped and collapse. At the time General Motors was the biggest employer of Black South Africans and eventually was the first to pull out.
In 1999 the new Global Sullivan Principles was unveiled by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the preamble reads:
“The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities; and to assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby, helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality.”
The first part of the new Sullivan Principles reads:
(We) “express our support for universal human rights and, particularly, those of our employees, the communities within which we operate, and parties with whom we do business.”
If brands actually invested in the people and their lives first, the customers will follow. Do this and there would be no need to be super tactical when it comes to the celebrations of the marginalised. We need brands to value ethical and corporate social responsibility they have in the markets they operate in. We have seen that the likes of General Motors can have an impact on a country, especially in South Africa (let’s drop the fact that they have divested again for the purposes of this).
Bottom line is advertising, marketing and brands have the power to shape the world years before a few people can go at it alone. Yes, businesses need to make money, but see the bigger returns when you are a part of something. The returns will be greater than the PR value you got on that meaningless, thoughtless, and unearned tweet. I promise you.
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