Marketing Planning: 3 Expert's Share Their Advice...

Are you thinking of ways to increase leads and revenue at your business?

Do you have a robust marketing plan that you follow and implement successfully?

We asked 3 professionals for expert advice on marketing planning and how you can take your business from austerity to prosperity. So who are these professionals...?

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Alan Martin

Alan Martin Marketing Planning

Alan is an award-winning marketing specialist helping businesses understand how to use social media and email marketing to become more efficient and profitable in all areas. You can find out more about him and his services here.

 

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Luiz Albuquerque

Luiz Albuquerque Marketing Planning

Luiz is a marketer with boundless energy to drive businesses forward. He is someone who is happy to help. He prefers simplicity over complexity, even though simplicity is sometimes quite complex to achieve.

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Nicky Kriel

Nicky Kriel Marketing Planning

Nicky Kriel is a Social Media, coach, trainer and the author of “How to Twitter for Business Success”. She is passionate about inspiring, educating and empowering business owners to use Social Media to grow their businesses.

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1. How important is effective marketing planning to the success of a campaign?

Alan:

I would say proper planning is absolutely essential to the success of any campaign. Whenever I’ve run a campaign for my own business that’s not delivered the results that I had expected, I can usually trace this back to insufficient planning at some key stage of the process.

Sun Tzu once said “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” or a slightly more recent quote from Abraham Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” and finally our very own Winston Churchill said “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”. The list of quotes goes on and on but serves to illustrate just how important planning actually is.

Without proper planning it is easy to miss opportunities and consequently, results are disappointing. I think it is impossible to over-egg the importance of proper marketing planning.

Luiz:

I once read the phrase: fail to plan and you will plan for failure. Here is not exactly the same words but I'm sure you get the point. I did. It's like going to a battle without knowing your strengths and weaknesses, not to mention the importance to know your enemy. Without this basic knowledge, one will always fail, unless he or she is very lucky. And even on that matter we can argue otherwise; to be lucky, some say, you need to position yourself in such a way so to luck can come your way. So even here, planning is necessary. Marketing planning is you envisioning the path ahead.

In digital marketing things are quite accessible to do just that. With patience, knowledge and the right set of tools, one can gather (almost) all the information necessary that will help define proper marketing planning.

Nicky:

So many people approach Social Media in a very ad hoc way, doing a flurry of Social Media activity when they remember and neglecting it when they are busy. You can be so much more effective when you have a plan. Marketing planning itself doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. You need to have a clear business objective for a campaign as well as how you will measure success before you start. You also need to know what content you will post, what time is the best to get the best results and which platforms you will use. Effective use of scheduling means that you have more time free to respond to your customers in real time.

Speak to a professional today for advice on managing your business social media presence

2. What advice would you give to a start-up to start generating sales as fast as possible?

Alan:

Cash is the life-blood for any business and it is particularly vital that this is front-and-centre during the start-up phase. Once you have a few customers the quickest way to get sales is to go back to your existing customers and offer them something else, but what if you are just starting out and you don’t have many customers to go back to? Assuming you know your market and who your ideal customer is, I would recommend interviewing some of your ideal prospects to find out more about the type of solution that they need. The way to approach this is to say something like “I’m planning to create a [insert description of product or service] to help [insert pain point that you solve], if this existed what features/benefits would it need to have?”. This approach not only provides valuable insights into the language and pain-points that affect your customers, but can also lead to advance orders from prospects that like the sound of what you are planning. Once the business has been running for several months, it is likely that it has started to build up a fan base on social media and maybe started to build an email list. This is when you can start to deploy other tactics such as webinar selling, email marketing and social media advertising.

Luiz:

Three simple things: less is more; track and measure the important stuff; and know your customer.

One by one, here it goes...
Less is more: Focus on the most important thing of your business or the most important need of your customer and resolve it remarkably. Do it so well that they will never forget.

Track and Measure: analyse the data that you already have and try to understand what is working as of now and start from there. Make incremental changes and track every single aspect of it, because if you can't measure, you can't improve! Simple as that!

And last but not least, know your customer. Get a real picture of who they are, where they are and what they care about. Empathise with them. This way, you will be able to speak the same language and when that occur, 'magic' happens. Believe me. People prefer to do business with someone they empathise with. This can sound obvious but you would be surprised to see how not so many businesses have done that.

Nicky:

The temptation for a start-up is to launch into a sales pitch. The best way to use Social Media is to build relationships because people buy from people. Your objective is to help your customers to buy from you and for all Start-ups, awareness is the primary objective. People can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist. Twitter is one of the fast ways that I know for building awareness without spending money. Twitter works very nicely with LinkedIn for Social Selling. The more visible you are, the more opportunities you create. Of course, Facebook is a very powerful platform, but I believe that either you need to spend money on Facebook or use it organically, but it will take longer to build up a presence.
This is what I would recommend for anyone starting up a business:

  • Create a website, which is where you drive traffic. Anyone landing on your website should know either how to contact you, be able to opt in to a emailing list or buy directly from the site. I personally recommend WordPress sites because you can add content easily and there is a plugin for almost everything you need it to do. If you don’t have a website, use your LinkedIn Profile as your website and LinkedIn Publisher as a way to publish content.
  • Spend time optimising your LinkedIn Profile and connect to everyone you know already and meet networking.
  • Create a Twitter account with a good bio and friendly head to shoulder photo.
  • Use Twitter search, hashtags and Twitter Lists to find relevant people to follow and start chatting to people on Twitter.
  • Use LinkedIn Advanced Search to find potential customers.
  • Spend time listening online to find out more about your potential customers and competitors.
  • Post content that would be interesting to your prospective customers on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Share other people’s content.
  • Join relevant LinkedIn Groups and Twitter chats and contribute to the discussions

When you connect with people on LinkedIn or Twitter don’t launch into a sales pitch, it is just the start of a relationship. It’s like asking someone to get married on the first date!

Find out all the different Social Media Networks Your Business Can Benefit From

 

3.Which digital marketing channels have your clients been the most (and least) convinced of?

Alan:

The key with choosing the right digital channels is to be where your customers are, regardless of whether you personally like the channel or not! If you run a Business to Consumer company, then channels such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter might be where your ideal customers hang-out online; whereas with Business to Business companies it is more likely to be LinkedIn and Twitter or maybe on your blog. It is important that businesses do their own testing though as there are many platforms to choose from and they need to be careful that they don’t want to over-stretch themselves by committing to too many of them and not having the ability to maintain an active presence on all of them.

Although Facebook is sited as the most popular social network used by business, there are a lot of business owners that are becoming very skeptical that this is actually the best place for them. The reason for this is that due to recent algorithm changes, less and less content from business pages is making it into the newsfeed. Many now feel that managing a Facebook page is a lot of effort for minimum return. Whilst I sympathise with this point of view, this is legacy thinking and businesses need to realise that Facebook is a business too, and they need to generate revenue for their shareholders. The key is to think of Facebook, not as a free platform, but as you would any other paid-for media channel and put aside a small budget to test the effectiveness of advertising on the platform. I’ve seen amazing returns on investment with some of my clients and at the moment Facebook ads are underpriced, so this is a golden opportunity for marketers and business owners with the right mind-set.

I would say that a lot of my clients when I first meet them, are not sure that LinkedIn can generate a positive return for them but after I’ve spent some time with them they are usually amazed at the untapped potential on the platform. Other channels that people are struggling to see the business benefits of include Pinterest, Instagram and Snap-chat but each of these has a place for the right business and there are lots of examples of successful companies that are leveraging these newer channels.

Luiz:

Usually two approaches are more successful. One mid/long term and another short term. Finding the right balance between those two is the sweet spot.

Mid-long term #1: creating content that people really care about. Content that answer the fundamental questions of need. It takes more time to implement and to see results but it pays off, no doubt.

Mid-long term #2: establishing a partnership with other businesses. It has to be one that complements your offer.

Short term: Each client is different, but in general Facebook Ads (mainly re-targeting) and YouTube Ads have been very successful. And the majority of this success comes from properly identifying who their best customers are and with that information, or retarget the previously acquired customers and/or find more of the same people via Facebook's Similar Audiences feature.

On the down note, Google AdWords has been a disappointment. It still can drive loads of qualified traffic but it's getting more and more expensive. Opting for the content marketing route takes more time but you become less reliant on expensive paid traffic sources such as AdWords. At the end, it's a matter of finding the right balance of what works for your brand.

Also, always be on the hunt for newer ways to drive traffic. And trust me, there is so much traffic out there that it's quite overwhelming sometimes.

Nicky:

I wish I had a pound for every time someone told me that their customers are not on Social Media or that they are not interested in what celebrities are doing and what people are eating. I would also get rich on the number of people who say that they have tried Twitter and it doesn’t work. Further investigation invariably shows that they are either; using it as a free advertising tool and are spamming out links, or that they’ve only used it for a week or two and given up. Twitter seems to generate the highest level of fear, yet it is incredibly effective at generating business. I love showing people how to start generating business through using it in a more strategic way. Often small tweaks can make a big difference. Any Social Media Channel can be used effectively to grow business if you become a member of the community first and use it to build relationships.

Do you find that your Google adwords campaigns are too expensive?

 

Start Using This Professional Advice To Improve Your Business Strategy

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our marketing professionals for their in depth answers and appreciate their insight into the marketing aspect of a business strategy.

What advice would you say is the most important or valuable for you?

What more would you like to know about marketing in your business strategy?


Professional Advice For Your Business Strategy: 5 Answers From Experts

As a business owner or an entrepreneur starting your own business, you should have some idea of what your business strategy is and how you are going to implement it.

How will you generate brand awareness?

How will you turn awareness into sales?

These questions are all too familiar to business owners from all industries when implementing a business strategy and according to Forbes, can be answered through the use of online marketing.

These marketing professionals give you valuable insights and expert guidance on how you can improve your business strategy today.

So who are these professionals?

Helen Lindop

Helen Lindop Business Strategy

Helen Lindop is an online trainer who teaches online marketing to micro business owners to improve their business strategy. Powered by tea and chocolate, you can find out more about her and her services here on her website.

 

Neila Romdane

 Neila Romdane Business Strategy

Neila Romdane is a French freelance marketer and also a lecturer for the European Communication School in Bruxelles. Neilia is also an author and was a co-writer of a book on Web Marketing called "Internet Marketing 2013".

 

Marian Murphy

Marian Murphy Business Strategy

Marian Murphy is the founder of Flourish With Social Media, a company that provides businesses with social media training, monthly management and consultancy with a business strategy & development focus.

 

1. What do you think is the most important characteristic of a successful marketer?

Helen:

One of the big lessons I've learned from becoming a marketer is that you need a range of different skills to succeed. Some are people skills, like being able to really listen and understand people's challenges so you can find a way to solve them and some are analytical, such as looking at data to see which campaigns are the most effective. But I think the most important characteristics is to be able to identify needs and work through possible solutions until you find one that your customers not only want, but are happy to pay for. Get that right and everything else follows.

Neila:

For me, the most important thing is to keep yourself up to date with competitors and being able to build a great team around yourself. Marketing changes a lot, it is social content and you can't be an expert at everything. As a marketer you have to keep an eye on everything but also bring together the right team players.

Marian:

I think consistency is the key characteristic of a successful marketer. Through consistency, a successful marketer will constantly be evaluating new and existing marketing channels, consistently measuring results using different marketing tools, consistently creating content for newsletters and social media channels that offers value to target customers, consistently connecting with target businesses, consistently following up with new connections targeted, and converting those connections into face to face meetings. Through consistency the successful marketer will generate revenue.

2. What advice would you give to a start-up to start generating sales as fast as possible?

Helen:

I think the best way to start generating sales is by picking a hungry market. It's a lot easier to sell if you have something that people desperately want.

Neila:

You want to start selling your product ASAP! Try different channels, keep track of as much data as you can, split test, and make good decisions fast. Don't be afraid to cut some channels down early in the process and keep the best running. Also, be very clear on the 'why'.

Marian:

One size does not fit all. Every business is individual. There are many aspects new businesses differ on including whether they are selling a product or service, their target market, their target locations, global or local and whether they are selling online or are a bricks and mortar store. Also do they have a budget for Google Adwords, social media advertising or other forms of advertising? If the start-up is relying on online sales, they need to have a fully optimised and mobile friendly website so people can find them easily when they do a Google search. From the 21st April 2015 Google is prioritising Mobile Friendly Sites. Previously it was a ‘nice to have’, now it is absolutely necessary according to experts in web design. Businesses who don’t have a mobile friendly site could be seriously affected. Start-Ups must make it as easy as possible for customers to make a purchase when they get to their site. I have come across a few ‘clunky’ websites of late when trying to make a purchase and it really is off putting. The buying process should be slick and user friendly. The customer should not be searching for how to get to the next step.When using social media channels for business, the start-up should include links to its website making it as easy as possible for people to make a purchase or contact the business to book a service. Every start up should include authentic testimonials from credible sources of their product or service so potential customers can be confident in their purchase.

3. Which digital marketing channels have your clients been the most (and least) convinced of?

Helen:

I teach very small business owners to do their own social media, and this type of client is often convinced by word of mouth. So if a business contact of theirs is doing well with a channel they'll naturally want to know more about it. Their familiarity and confort level with a platform is important too, some micro businesses love Twitter and use it very effectively to get clients or PR, others tell me they can't see how anyone could possibly get anything of value from the hundreds of random tweets on their screen!

Neila:

That's a hard question I am working with startups most of the time on their community strategy. My job is to create or identify and scale the community inside their users.I would say that the best social channels to create traction has been Facebook especially with Facebook groups. For me Facebook is the best place to watch out for conversation while Twitter is better to listen to the community. For 'likes' use Facebook but for compliments and complaints Twitter is the place to be.

The least would probably be all the "new" social channels like Vine or Snapchat that are more Content generation or curation channels than return on investment (ROI)ones. It's very hard to measure the impact on sales.

Marian:

Clients working B2B would rate LinkedIn very highly as it is very business focussed and does not include posts they consider minutiae that you can find on Twitter or Facebook. They find it of great value to be able to connect to decision makers who they can then follow up with a call or a visit. Feeling comfortable on LinkedIn as they do not have to show their personality or emotions.Clients who are working B2C dealing with the general public would rate Facebook for its more laid back, personable focus where they can ‘shoot the breeze’ and get to know their customers in a more relaxed and intimate way. They can ask their audience for their opinions on various aspects of their products or business so it is a very interactive experience for both the business and the audience. It also provides a better visual stage for imagery and video.Creative businesses e.g. artists, fashion designers, garden designers like Pinterest and Instagram to display their work in a more visually focussed way. I also recently interviewed an artist whose favourite channel is Twitter for its spontaneity and for building relationships.

4. What's your most used tool in online marketing? Why do you prefer this tool in particular over it's competitors?

Helen:

I've been using Hootsuite since I first got my Twitter account in 2009. My theory is that I use the simplest and least expensive tool that does the job well and only upgrade when I need to. My clients are working with small budgets and I want to use what they use so that my training is as relevant as I can possibly make it. So I haven't actually needed to upgrade from Hootsuite yet!

Neila:

I am big fan of IFTTT and I don't really know any competitors for them. I am working with startups so it's very important for them to start their automation early. They have small budget and no time. Every tool that can help like canva, buffer or tweetdeck are welcomed!Otherwise I would like to mention Slack which is the best tool to communicate between members of a team.

I like Plag** right now as a new social network app and I am trying different technique, to test content that's a great tool.

Marian:

I use Hootsuite as my social media dashboard where I can manage all my social media accounts from. I became qualified as a Hootsuite Certified Professional so I could teach my clients how to use it or to set up their social media channels to save them time and have a dynamic view on what was happening on all channels. It also has very in-depth reporting, content generating and many other fantastic features. There are other social media dashboards which I have looked at but I found Hootsuite well established, very stable, innovative and was very reasonable with its monthly fee.

5. If there was one piece of advice you could go back and give yourself before starting out in online marketing, what would it be and why?

Helen:

One of the hardest aspects of online marketing has been striking that balance between testing out new ideas on the one hand but having enough focus to stick with a plan until you see results on the other. Make provisions for trying out new ideas in your business strategy and open up the possibility of first mover's advantage. There are so many possibilities in online marketing and it changes so fast that in the early days I didn't know what to try for the best. So my advice would be to have a clear goal, whether that's a number of subscribers on a mailing list, sales or visitors to a website and then track your results against that goal for a defined length of time, say three months. What I actually did was try something new every week! I learned a lot but it took a long time to see many results.

Neila:

I would advise myself to write a blog, I still don't do it. Especially because I work with British startups and English is not my first language but it's the best way to get familiar with content/seo and market yourself. Be sure to add dedicated time for blogging in your business strategy!

Marian:

Set up an email newsletter – I have started one recently but I wish I had done this from the start. Part of your business strategy should be finding ways to stay in the minds of business people you meet along the way at least every month. I am now interviewing different businesses about their experiences and successes using social media and publishing it on my newsletter. Other businesses have found it really insightful and of great value to them. Publishing a newsletter every month is also a great discipline for creating new articles of value to my audience which I can use both for my blog and social media channels.

Start Using This Professional Advice To Improve Your Business Strategy

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our marketing professionals for their in depth answers and appreciate their insight into the marketing aspect of a business strategy. What advice would you say is the most important or valuable for you? What more would you like to know about marketing in your business strategy?


Reduce Adwords Spend With These 4 Powerful Tactics

Every business owner is looking for ways to make their budget stretch further.

If you're using, or thinking of using, Google Adwords to market your business, then you'll want to implement these 4 tactics to reduce Adwords spend straight away.

Less spend equals more money for clicks - and more customers through the door!

1. Analyse Your Cost Per Revenue

Because Adwords is effectively one large auction house and the demand for clicks on Google rises continuously, your campaign spend will keep going up.

There are ways to reduce Adwords spend and at the same time maintain campaign performance – we'll look at cost per click (CPC) and two options to reduce costs.

For example, a CPC of £1 with a conversion rate of 2% and a value of £250 will result in a cost per revenue (CPR) of 20%. This means that for every pound spent on Adwords leads you see a five pound return.

You could reduce Adwords spend with a CPC decrease. When improvements to the CPC campaign causes a drop to £0.90 this will result in a CPR of 18%. This creates the possibility of reducing the budget by 10% without affecting return.

Tip: Choose long tail keywords. They're often inexpensive and highly targeted.

Alternatively, increase the Conversion Ratio and value. When the CPC remains at £1, because you've made considerable improvements to your website, the conversion ration increases to 2.2% meaning the conversion value rises to £275. The CPR also decreases to 18%. Again, this creates the option to reduce the budget by 10% without affecting return.

Tip: Improve your Quality Score by re-working your ads and paying extra attention to your landing pages.

2. Lower Your Cost Per Click (CPC) To Decrease Your Spend

Following on from step 1, when the Quality Score has gone up, you can safely lower CPCs without risking a decrease in traffic. However, if your Quality Score isn't perfected, there are still possibilities for lowering your cost per click. Try:

  • Lower the CPC of expensive keywords
  • Pause expensive keywords or reduce the budget and use the reduction on less expensive keywords
  • Use Exact Phrasing or Phrase Matching for expensive keywords and avoid Broad Matching – the former tend to be less expensive
  • Avoid bidding on expensive keywords: often you will find that with a little research, a different keyword with equal or slightly lower traffic costs less, but yield the same or better results

3. Reduce Adwords Spend By Avoiding Expensive And Irrelevant Actions

If your campaigns run 24/7, you're likely spending more than you need. Research when your target audience uses Google - weekdays, weekends, day time, evenings - and schedule your campaigns accordingly. This will reduce Adwords spend as clicks won't occur at times when your target audience is online, searching for your solutions.

This is especially relevant for campaigns with larger budgets and higher spends per ad group. Campaigns to improve your brand awareness can be run at times outside of the core activity time frame of your audience - as long as you keep the overall budget relatively small and the average spend down.

4. Exclude Visitors And Devices To Reduce Adwords Spend

Utilise negative keywords to prevent your ads being shown on search query results which have little or no direct value to your business. This will not only reduce Adwords spend, but also increase your click through rate.

You may also want to exclude visitors from irrelevant locations with geo-targeting. If your business operates exclusively in London, it makes sense to show your ads only in search query results from London.

If your web-infrastructure isn't optimised for mobile devices and similar, exclude those devices. However, if your website isn't mobile-friendly, you should seriously consider getting it fixed as more and more customers are using smart phones and tablets to access the internet. You wouldn't want to lose out on those opportunities.

Excluding visitors and scheduling your campaigns has an immediate effect but, unsurprisingly, if you're looking to reduce Adwords spend while safeguarding results, you're in for a long-term game.

However, with a little perseverance and lots of attention to detail you can make your Adwords budget go a lot further.

Is your Google Adwords campaign running at peak performance?