Formulate a marketing plan
This step-by-step guide to formulating a plan to market your company online will help your company grow.
Developing a marketing plan and strategy is critical to the success of your company. Marketing is the strategic plan that you prepare for your company that looks at your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Your plan should include the areas in which you have a competitive advantage; the market(s) that you will target your sales focus on; the demographics of your chosen market; and the pricing structure that you plan to use.
It’s important to understand these necessary steps to create and implement a marketing plan for your company. The size of the marketing budget will vary, as will your target audience. Ultimately the development of a marketing strategy comes down to similar steps that can be used for any size company. It must be thorough and thoughtfully analysed and it must be articulated to your staff and stakeholders. Your marketing plan, just like your financial plan, must be monitored and adjusted as needed, and it must also be adaptable to changing competitive environments.
Determine Your Objective
What is the goal of your marketing plan? A robust strategy must first start with a measurable SMART goal that you can quantitatively measure your results against. If you have a company with multiple vertical markets, such as a commercial property group that specialises in residential property development you should have a distinct marketing plan for each business line. They may overlap in places, and actually should, but your market for each is very different and should be treated accordingly.
Perform a SWOT Analysis
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)
SWOT Analysis will help in developing a marketing plan and strategy, as well as allow you to keep an eye on the landscape that your company operates within. The overall steps of analysis are as follows:
What does your company do well? Where do you have a competitive advantage? How strong is the core of your company? (People, processes, etc.)
Where do you need improvement as a company? Where are you at a competitive disadvantage? Do you lack key team members or processes in your core business?
Where do you see opportunities in your business? What competitors are weak in process and staff areas where you are strong? What services could you begin to provide as upsells that are tangential to your core business and appear to be a natural fit? Can you go after their clients? Brainstorm for opportunities and get the entire staff involved – you will be amazed at some of the ideas field staff see in the marketplace that you don’t see in the office.
What market conditions exist to challenge your company? Is your core business in danger of becoming outdated or replaced with the latest technologies? If so, are you developing strategies to counteract these changes and offer revised services? What other potential problems exist (financing, overall economy, changing demographics)?
Analyse your current market
Creating a marketing objective and performing a SWOT analysis provides you with critical pieces of the puzzle:
i. An aim and objective, and
ii. An analysis of areas of specialisation that you see as potential revenue streams.
Your team should ask themselves what market(s) (opportunities) align most closely with your aim and objective? Where does your company have a competitive advantage? At all times, compete in the areas in which you see the potential for growth, that you are active in and that your company has a competitive advantage. This approach doesn’t mean you shouldn’t begin to work in areas you see as having the potential for growth that doesn’t yet have an advantage. The goal of a marketing plan is not to stifle growth but to strategically allocate capital to its most efficient use.
Create a marketing budget for your company
Creating a marketing budget isn’t easy, but you must always be ready to consider the return on investment for any marketing activity that you undertake. As a general rule of thumb, businesses that have been established for over 5 years and have some brand equity and marketshare should spend around 6-12% of their gross revenue on marketing to maintain their current position. For companies that have been operating for one to five years and looking to grow or gain more significant market share should budget a higher percentage – usually around 12-20 %.
Remember, emerging brands are looking to capture new market share and develop brand recognition within a marketplace that has absolutely no idea who they are. That’s why it’s so expensive. Once the brand is established and a portion of the market is brand-conscious that number drops significantly.
Develop a strategy and list tactics to market your company
Once you have created your marketing aims and objectives, performed a SWOT analysis on your organisation, developed a core list of revenue streams that you feel confident in marketing and established your budget, the object here is to determine the channels that you will utilise to achieve your objective. Analyse and re-analyse your target market, and plan to promote to them accordingly. Your current and past clientele are a fantastic resource for developing your buyer personas and creating a mix that will attract them to you as often and as efficiently as possible.
Monitor the results
You have to check to see if your efforts are working. See where you are in relation to last year and monitor feedback from clients. Just like job costs, marketing must be measured as well.
In itself, creating a marketing plan won’t magically bring results.
Created faithfully, a marketing plan will allow you the opportunity to efficiently get to know your company and how best it fits competitively into your marketplace. It is a very competitive landscape, and a well-constructed and thoughtful marketing plan will assist your business in working to allocate resources most efficiently and earn business in markets where you have a competitive advantage.
Get your website on top of Google
How often do you click through to the second page of Google’s search engines results?
Never? No one does.
It’s a fact, less than three percent of searchers make it to the second page.
It is not surprising then that most businesses are interested in getting their company at the top of the first page of Google. Everyone has an opinion on how to market your company online and get your company listed at the top of the search engine results. Here are a few proven methods to make it happen.
There are a few different areas of the search results you can rank for.
There are three opportunities to rank your content on a page of search results: PPC ads at the top of the search results, organic listings at the bottom, and local listings in the middle.
- How do you get your Pay Per Click (PPC) ads on the first page of Google?
- What do I do to use search engine optimisation (SEO) to get on page one?
- Can local search engine optimisation (LSEO) help get more page one listings?
What goes into Google’s ranking algorithm?
Initially, you should understand what the ranking factors are that Google is looking for. With more than 200 actual ranking signals here’s what you should focus your attention on if you want to get your company on page one of Google’s search results:
- Websites that are mobile-friendly
- Web page content quality
- Page speed
- Social signals
- Quality backlinks
- Optimised images
How can I get on page one of Google for Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns?
If you want to get on the first page of Google tomorrow, investing in paid search is the way to go, but you should also invest in long-term organic SEO methods such as Inbound Marketing. SEO campaigns can take up to several months to deliver results, so you’re unlikely to get more organic (non-paid) traffic, qualified leads, and sales early in your investment.
PPC ads have always been a faster and more cost-effective way to get more leads and sales online. Most marketers and advertisers accept that many people have “ad blindness” towards PPC listings – meaning they purposely do not click on paid ads.
If you look at the Google results page, the top quarter and bottom quarter are all PPC ads. The more relevant the content that the ad is linking to combined with a higher budget and cost per click for the ad then the higher up the page you will appear. In searches, PPC outranks organic search results, which is very beneficial to companies that are willing to invest. Therefore, if you’re not investing in PPC, you’re giving those clicks to your competition.
Can I improve my organic Google rankings with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and get my website to appear higher in search engines?
Paid ad results claim the half of the search results page, and you will need to rely on search engine optimisation if you want to rank higher in search engines for free.
Your goal should be to get in one of the first three organic positions. Getting in those positions can be tough. The most effective way to get in one of those top spots is by adding content to your website. High-quality content, that also has context, increases your rankings and also creates a better user experience for your clients. Also, the more quality information you have on your site, the more likely others are to reference it. When other people link and reference your website, the search engines interpret your website as more authoritative and will, therefore, display it more prominently in search engine results.
There is much more to SEO than just adding content to your website, however. From a technical standpoint, you also need to make sure the search engines can quickly crawl, understand, and index your website. Improving your site speed, using a search-engine friendly site navigation menu, creating a well-structured XML sitemap and building a responsive site for mobile and tablet users are all things that this involves.
What do I have to do to get more local leads from Local SEO (LSEO)?
Location data is used by Google to display local companies. It’s vital to get in those local listings, between the PPC ads and the organic listings, if you are looking to attract local business.
To show up in the local listings on the first page of Google, you need to optimise your name, address and phone number (NAP) citations across the Web. The more local citations you can build with consistent NAP information, the better. If you are a local business, you NEED to get savvy with local SEO.
What else can I do to get to the top of the first page of Google?
Google loves to display a wide variety of media in its search results – including videos to improve its end-user experience. A video is 60% more likely to get ranked in a search result than a landing page on the same topic.
Embedding videos on your website via YouTube is a great way to increase the chances that you will show up in related search results,
You can also use YouTube ads as a great way to bypass organic search with lower cost per video view results.
Optimising the images on your site can help you get on the first page of Google when it displays image results.
Putting press releases out for your business can potentially score you a spot in the News section of Google, particularly for branded terms.
I’m sure you already know of social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There are other social sites you should join to increase your chances of showing up on the first page of Google. Need assistance with monitoring your social channels? Click below to download our Free eBook on how to monitor social media in just ten minutes a day!
Marketing your company online
Modern marketing contradicts more traditional marketing strategies
Outbound marketing strategies typically include trade shows, direct marketing, telemarketing, anything that ‘pushes’ the promotion onto the prospect. Inbound marketing does the opposite; it ‘pulls’ the audience in with resources that prospects are searching for.
Long before purchase and immediately before purchase, your buyer personas are seeking information. Provide them with the information they seek, and you’ll stay top-of-mind when they’re ready to buy. Inbound marketing and branding is a great way to build awareness and establish your company. Not only will your company be top of mind for the client when they are deciding on their service provider, but when done right, they’ll think of you as an industry expert, which increases your chances of being hired for the project.
The best way to build trust and respect for your brand is with thought leadership. Excellent thought leadership brings consumers to you when they are searching for information. To establish yourself as an expert in your industry, thought leadership is crucial for considered purchases. Your content should be educational. Avoid promotional tones. Create quality educational content that builds trust in the form of case studies, whitepapers, videos, and surveys.
A blog for your company is a must. It’s another way to expand your thought leadership strategy. Frequently update your firm’s blog to attract the attention of both peers and clients. Blogs are also a great way to generate valuable leads. Creating a call to action (CTA) below the fold on your blog allows your prospect to download your offers and keep up to date with relevant news and content. By capturing their contact information, you will be able to deliver relevant content to convert visitors to qualified leads. A blog is also beneficial for building your SEO rank: it builds your indexed page count, provides new and relevant website content, increases traffic to your website, and uses keywords associated with your business.
Social media is one of the most interactive marketing channels. It allows you to talk directly to industry professionals, clients, and potential employees. Social media serves as a great way to update followers with updates about your company and to respond to discussions. It’s also a great way to share your content, further increasing traffic to your website. When creating a social media strategy, keep in mind which channels you will use. The most frequently used social platforms are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but companies could also do well on Google+, YouTube, Instagram, or even Pinterest. Daring companies can try Snapchat, Tumblr, Periscope, or some other platform – just make sure your target audience exists, and you create content that users want to consume. Make sure to post frequently; dormant accounts hurt your brand image. Also, consider adding links to your social platforms on your website and links to your site from the platforms. This will enable end users to jump on the platform to access your website and vice-versa.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Most searchers don’t look beyond the first page or even the first three results. That being said, it’s critical for your business to improve its SEO ranking. Be sure to optimise both locally and beyond. Review your website to make sure it’s search engine optimised, maintain consistent citations, and update your page with new content frequently. Your social media presence increasingly plays a role in your SEO as well. Search engines may look at this along with engagement when determining your rank within your category.
If your SEO is weak, it will take time and money to improve your rank. It’s smart to consider PPC advertising until you have a strong organic ranking, allowing your company site to rank on the first page of search results and, with enough money, at the top of the search page. In some commercial searches, PPC outranks organic search results, which is very beneficial to companies that are willing to invest.
Be them Live or Virtual; events are another way to establish thought leadership and generate qualified leads. A cost efficient and effective way to discuss industry pain points and topics is via a webcast. With consumers increasingly preferring audio and visual content this is a great way to connect. Webcasts and other events allow the consumer to participate, which helps to build your relationship actively.
Use CTAs on all content. Always have registration forms and contact forms on your website and blog. This allows your content to create conversion. Create content that uses action verbs or offers incentives for registering or entering business. Be sure to place CTAs somewhere where they’ll be seen, without distractions, and can be clicked on. Track their effectiveness and their placement, then make updates based on your findings. You can do this by using Inbound Marketing software or by consulting with an ‘Inbound Marketing Agency’ who will be able to assist you in ensuring that you see a return on investment for your advertising efforts.
Integrate with PR
Unlike traditional PR- pushing press releases and statements onto the consumer, inbound PR allows your audience to find your company’s stories and news. This can be from web searches, social media posts, or site content.
Word of mouth
Good content creates word of mouth. Spread the word through social sharing by encouraging your target audience to discuss findings with a colleague and spreading your name to someone new. Creating shareable content gets you in front of the eyes of your audience’s audience.
Are Your Marketing Tactics up to date?
Don’t fit the common assumption of being behind on technology and new marketing tactics. Allow your marketing strategy to evolve. Inbound marketing is an increasingly preferred marketing method, and it makes sense, it’s interactive and pulls the client to your company, rather than your company pushing promotion onto them. Great content builds awareness and establishes your brand as an expert. Do consider employing the services of an agency who can service all of your inbound marketing needs.
Integrated Inbound Marketing
Finally, integrate your inbound marketing with outbound. Cross-promote using both methods. Promote your website, content or social media channels at trade shows. Or share your attendance at an industry trade show online. Have the two marketing strategies work together. This will lead you to create your most effective marketing strategy.
Practical ways to use Social Media
Do you quickly want to build online traffic to grow your company?
Publishing on social media will do just that for you. Social media publishing is the practice of sharing content that your buyer personas would find relevant, and that results in building relationships and trust with them online. It is an integral part of inbound marketing.
Part of an excellent marketing campaign is intersecting your target buyers where they are. Where are your buyer personas in today’s world of the Internet? They are online. Let’s look at five hot trends you can use to boost traffic and leads by using social media in your company’s marketing strategy.
Social Media – Share Relevant Information
Your goal in publishing on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, should be to engage your buyer personas using short, easily digestible and exciting bits of media. Share information that will educate your prospects and position you as an authority in your field. Photos, infographics, links to interesting articles, links to other posts, Twitter re-tweets, and your insights are great to share. Your goal should be to project a real, relaxed (socially), easy-to-connect-with image. Do post a photo of your new project, sharing what plans you have, or a picture of your office party, or your latest achievement.
If you are not having fun with social media, it is unlikely it will be working for you (because you are not social).
Use the rule of thirds:
1/3 of your social content should promote your business, convert readers, and generate profit.
Another 1/3 of your social content should surface and share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or similar companies.
And finally, but by no means least, 1/3 of your social content should be based on personal interactions.
If you had an ongoing conversation with your wife/husband, your best friend, or your colleague at work, but then said nothing to them for the following two weeks, wouldn’t that seem strange? Same with social media. When and how often should you post? Each social network’s culture will determine how often and how much you post. Twitter and LinkedIn limit you to a certain amount of characters while Facebook readers will be looking for more extended content.
Want to automate your publishing? Use a social media dashboard, like Hubspot. You might want to consider hiring the services of an inbound marketing specialist to help you to master this crucial step in the advertising of your company.
Create a Style Guide
Companies get busy trying to keep up with contract milestones – not to mention keeping up with social media publishing. Create a style guide or a styles chapter in your procedures manual to help keep your organisation on track.
Your style guide should:
- List styles for each social media channel
- Feature a publishing calendar.
- Include a timetable to check metrics.
Test, Review and Revise
Unlike the ever-changing marketing trends of, say, an electronics company, social media marketing trends for many companies change more slowly. Within a short time-frame, you’ll identify what is working to develop leads and what is not.
As social media moves at a faster pace than your website does, post your blog article on social media more than once but not at the same time. A decent article written for the your industry is not going to go stale very soon. However, social media becomes outdated very quickly. Twitter, for example, deletes your old tweets after you reach your allotment of 3,200, so keep things fresh by posting often.
What would one qualified lead be worth to you? A certain percentage of your potential clients who engage with you on social media will convert. Would you find it useful if you could track this return on investment (ROI)?
You can track ROI manually or by using tracking software such as Google Analytics (it is free) or some in-depth software packages that you’d have to pay for, such as HubSpot.
What to review:
- Average monthly visits.
- Referrals from social media to your website.
- Conversion rates.
- Customers generated.
Recommended Social Media Platforms:
Video is becoming people’s preferred way of interacting with a company. Creating videos you want to share on Instagram can be as simple as pointing your phone toward a job site and then uploading to Instagram. Posting visuals to potential clients is a more dynamic way of showcasing what your company has to offer.
LinkedIn is one of the best social channels for building new business for your B2B companies online. Finding potential clients on LinkedIn is similar to how Yellow pages used to work – your search can be as specific as searching for someone by name or company, or as broad as looking for industry and region. Use your profile to post news and deals about your business. You can make connections, join trade groups, comment on other peoples’ posts and make one-on-one relationships.
Your Facebook page is excellent for posting industry news, company news, and offering special deals. Asking followers to spread the word about your business is an easy way to help new business find you.
Your community is becoming more active on Twitter every day. The best way to build business is to find other companies you’re interested in working with, start following them and retweeting their posts. Building connections over Twitter just by retweeting or commenting on someone’s post is an easy way to build connections, fast. When people follow you back, you can then direct message (dm) them to try and set up meetings, or ask them if they want to learn more about how you can benefit their business.
Key take-aways from this chapter
- Share consistent content that will educate to engage your buyer personas
- Measure your results and don’t be afraid to tweak what’s not working.
- Social media is a vital channel to create content for companies.