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…?
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.
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.
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.
1. How important is effective marketing planning to the success of a campaign?
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.
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.
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.
2. What advice would you give to a start-up to start generating sales as fast as possible?
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.
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.
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!
3.Which digital marketing channels have your clients been the most (and least) convinced of?
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.
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.
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.
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?