Small businesses are busy with all the operations required to run a business day-to-day: accounting, managing inventory, staffing, and generating income. Introspection is a luxury many don’t seem to have time for.
But every now and then, something happens that makes your organization’s marketing come to the forefront. Maybe you’re about to expand your business, or a competitor is making inroads into your customer base.
Or perhaps, what was working before simply no longer is.
When it happens, it’s time to get your marketing house in order, to assess where you are in your business, re-examine goals, determine available resources, and figure out how to get from A to B. You need a strategy.
A strategy is critical when it comes to marketing. Period. In the case of social media marketing, this truism is often forgotten in the enthusiasm to jump right in. But strategies must always come before tactics, and social media is another tool to be used to help your business thrive. Undertaking any marketing activity without arriving at a well-thought-out strategy first is like jumping into a boat in the ocean, without oars, a sail or a rudder. It’s a directionless activity that won’t get you anywhere.
So now that we know that having a marketing strategy for all your online and offline activities is integral to success… how do you set yours up? With a marketing plan, of course… a section to be added to your business plan.
- First, establish or verify your market, and your place in it. What differentiates you from competitors? Who, realistically, are your competitors? What are they doing? What are the external forces that affect your organization?
- Next, who are your customers right now? What do they think of you? Be honest — brutally so, because if your current customers don’t absolutely love everything you are and everything you do, getting more and different customers will unequivocally make things worse for your reputation if you don’t fix what’s broke first. Understanding where they think your shortfalls are, and also what they like about you, can help you understand what you need to do in order to get your current business on track.
- What’s your target market in your future planning? Within the confines of your market, is your target audience a reasonable assumption? And if so, where are they spending their time? What media (online and offline) do they use? How can you reach them effectively? What kind of messaging will appeal to them?
- With all this in mind, what are your goals for one year from now? Five years from now? Ten? Be specific — and make them achievable.
- Examine your resources. What staffing do you have, for example, and what kind of staffing is necessary going forward? What are your budget constraints? What do you need in order to achieve your goals?
- Determine how to best talk about yourself in the context of all the above. A proper positioning of your organization is required before a single new marketing initiative can be undertaken. Proper messaging — knowing what to say about your organization in a concise, impactful manner — is a prerequisite for any marketing activity.
- Create a tactical plan that will get you from where you are today, to where you want to be. In detail, what steps need to be taken? What resources — people, infrastructure, outreach tools — do you need to master or obtain? What is your timeline?
- Set benchmarks for success and measure your progress along the way, taking the time to regularly examine what’s working and what needs improvement.
Now you’re ready to implement your marketing strategy — a strategy that should include digital inbound marketing tactics, such as social media and content marketing as part of your overall mix — that’s now aligned with your business objectives.
Lynn Christiansen is a principal at SocialProse Media. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org