The fourth quarter is at its end which means it's that time of year again to review the marketing budget.
You may be thinking that there is room for improvement. Or perhaps last year's advertising was honestly... a total bust.
Either way, decisions need to be made on which advertising avenues to pursue.
We know that marketing is not a light subject for you. Choosing the right advertising can be the difference between a booming year versus a write-off year.
There are a lot of marketing paths available for your business.
How do you find the digital marketing strategy that is the perfect tailored fit for you?
We have consulted a multitude of small to medium sized businesses creating comprehensive digital strategies, catered to their specific business needs.
During this time we've found these two principles to hold true:
1. Proper planning is the foundation for a successful marketing strategy.
Abraham Lincoln says: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
Below we will elaborate on what proper planning entails.
2. Experimentation is crucial to validate the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.
Forge the mindset that it will take frequent testing of different channels, held up to a measuring stick, to find the right distribution of marketing channels.
We will expand on how and how long you should test a channel. We will also walk through what KPI's you can measure. Considering these factors will improve your instincts to know when to move on to a new channel or dive deeper into a working one.
To have success in your marketing, you must keep these two rules of thumb in mind.
In this post, we'll walk through with you the necessary facets that every business should consider when putting together a full fledge marketing plan.
Tip # 1: Ask Why not What
"To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem" - Carl Jung
That is an immutable marketing rule of thumb that should never be broken.
"What marketing avenue should I choose?" is not the question to start with. "Why am I looking to market my business?" is the right question.
Asking this question clarifies the end picture you want to see out of your marketing strategy.
Once you have that end picture, you can then filter which avenues align with your objective.
Start with diagnosing what you are looking to get out of your marketing efforts. Are you looking to increase your leads for your business? Are you looking for brand awareness? Are you looking to revamp your brand image?
Once you can answer those questions, we have a destination to shoot for.
Tip #2: The Five P's
Below are a 5 key areas to consider, 5 P's to help you crystalize that end picture in your head:
1. Profit - This area deals with the Return on Investment (ROI) you're looking to receive. What metric do you have to achieve to check off a successful campaign? There is a world of difference calling it a victory when receiving 30 new acquisitions versus having a brand message reaching 100,000 unique people. Quantify the results you want to see out of your campaigns.
2. Prestige - This topic deals with Brand Recognition. Two similar cups of coffee side by side labeled with Dunkin' Donuts v.s. Starbucks are perceived differently in the eyes of the consumer. One of the coffees can be double the price! What lens do you want your clientele to view your brand in?
3. Protection - This subject deals with customer loyalty. MySpace used to be the top dog in the social media world before Facebook stepped into the scene. You may be top of mind in your customer's mind now but it takes constant marketing vigilance to stay there. Conserve your brand with integrity in your delivery, manage your reputation properly and give consistent messaging.
4. Pain Point - This is a question of your business needs. Simply put, what do you need in your business that you aren't currently getting? How can you help fill that need through a marketing initiative.
5. Pleasure - This area is a matter of luxury. You count your lucky stars that you are booked up until the end of the quarter. Is it too pompous to want your clientele to ask for your most lucrative services? We don't think so. They say that 20% of your customers make up 80% of your profits. What are the characteristics of your ideal client? How can we replicate those clients to fill up your schedule only with the customers that you love dealing with?
The 5 P's is a great guideline to start with. By identifying your focuses within these 5 P's, you can pinpoint your main objectives in a marketing strategy and have a trajectory to work towards.
The 5 P's is a forecasting tool. Forecasting is essential, but we also need an accurate depiction of our current business.
Tip #3: Create Your M.O.S.A.I.C.
This acronym M.O.S.A.I.C., is another framework for you to assess your current business situation:
1. Markets - Take a look at the ideal proximity your business serves. If you're a restaurant it might make sense to target a radius since customers are looking for a nearby location. If you work in high-end home renovations you may need to target based off postal codes of higher end residential locations.
2. Other's in Industry - Play the man, not the ball. You could lose out on a lot of opportunity if you're solely focused on running your own marketing efforts without a scope on your competitors. Scout out what your competitors are doing online. This allows you to strategize on how to differentiate yourself.
3. Services - All business owners have this aspect down pat. By identifying the your most lucrative service you can prioritize your advertising to get you the best jobs and most ideal clients.
4. Advertising - There are a multitude of avenues to take in advertising. There's no cookie cutter solution for every business owner. Matching your advertising to your business goals can make all the difference in a business.
5. Internet - What is your digital marketing? Do you have a website? How's your social media? Digital Marketing is the online word of mouth. Be brutally honest with yourself on your current digital presence and improve from there.
6. Customers - It's one thing to find more clients, but it's a whole other story to find your IDEAL client. My suggestion is to take your top 3 favourite clients and identify the favourite traits and characteristics of those clients. Knowing what you're looking for allows you acquire more clients in that realm. Wouldn't you love to have a business working with only fun clients?
Tip #4: Plan For Every Step of The Funnel
The common mistake that amateur marketers tend to make is focusing on solely the conversion stage of the funnel.
Planning for every step of the funnel ensures that you aren't missing opportunities to nurture all your potential leads down the funnel.
Different channels have a stronger bend towards serving certain steps of the funnel.
For example, Google AdWords is usually a powerful tool for the conversion stage. If I optimize my AdWords campaign for keywords with a high buying intent, I can capture many leads that are ripe for a purchase.
Content Marketing can be a powerful tool to walk people through the brand awareness and consideration stage. By introducing your product or service through valuable content, you can drive qualified traffic to your site.
If you value building Loyalty and Advocacy with your clients, put effort into developing a referral program or a rewards program.
Each of these channels are unique in their own right and aren't tied down to one specific step of the funnel. It's your responsibility to fit in the right channels to the right gaps in your marketing funnel.
Tip #5: Choose the appropriate channels
Here's a quick high level overview of a few of the channels available and the primary benefit for your business. Keep in mind that there are multiple ways to leverage each of these marketing platforms but for the sake of brevity, we can only review a few key benefits.
Google AdWords: A powerful channel for capturing leads that occur later in the funnel. If you're product or service has high search intent, then this is the platform for you.
Facebook Ads: Phenomenal hyper targeting tool. If there is a specific demographic you are looking to target, there's no other platform with the ability to zone in on that audience.
Email Marketing: An effective and cost-effective tool to nurture your leads. Combined with a tool like Mailchimp, you can categorize your leads into the different stages and send email messages accordingly.
SEO: One of the most sustainable and long term focused marketing plays. Once established, it can mean consistent flowing traffic that you can continue to build on.
Display ads: A tool that's primarily used for building awareness with your potential customers. You can follow your customers on websites to keep top of mind.
Content Marketing: Creating a content ecosystem through blogging, Guest blogging, pillar pages, cluster content...etc. Is a cost effective and powerful way to market to your users by leading with value.
Sales: If the nature of your business model is B2B and your average revenue per customer is high, you might benefit from running a sales team. Ensure you do your due diligence finding a sales rep with top notch people skills and winning sales mindset
There are obviously many other platforms you can tackle. These are just a few to consider amongst the sea of marketing channels available.
Knowing your business and knowing your channels will help you to find that match made in heaven.
The key methodology you should take here is an experimental approach. When first choosing your channel, ensure that you run tests in short spans of time (a month or two max) with a small budget (a thousand dollars max) with each channel. This allows you to feel out a channel while looking for signs of life.
Once you’ve seen some traction from a particular channel, then dive deeper into optimizing that channel, and eventually automating it. By automating the process you’ll free up mental bandwidth to think on new channels, repeating the testing process over again.
Here's an example of Mint.com's marketing tracking spreadsheet, a wildly successful finance software, that grew their user base from scratch to over a million users in a short span of 6 months:
Nothing fancy right?
The magic is in the fact that they track their channel's traction.
Once they see signs of life in a few select channels, the marketer/ founder can dive deeper into the effective avenues.
Only when they hit a point of exhaustion in a particular successful channel do they decide to test a new channel.
One way to create a healthy distribution of these channels, is to consider the marketing trifecta.
The Marketing Trifecta is composed of three components: Earned, Paid and Owned Media. Each one of these categories are important and have their own benefits.
Earned media is generated by created outstanding content. When consumers share, repost, review your content with a positive outlook, you're earning your online reputation. Say you publish an awesome blog piece that is going viral, this is earned traffic.
Paid Media requires you to put skin in the game, but can be a powerful outlet. The benefits of paid media is that you can control the fluctuation of traffic and have immediate results as soon as you pay for the ad. An example of Paid media is a PPC ad.
Owned media are your owned and operated properties such as your website or social media channels. These are the foundation to your marketing tactics. By optimizing your owned media by providing the best user experience, you can convert leads well.
All three components are important. Take these categories into account when putting together your marketing channels.
Tip #6: Make the Most of Your Budget
Every Business owner dreams of their brand becoming a household name.
In an ideal world, we'd all love to execute on all the pie in the sky marketing ideas we have.
The bad news is, our budget constraints pull us back to reality. The good news however, in a digital world, there are a lot of advertising avenues on the budget spectrum.
In fact, some channels require strictly sweat equity as opposed to capital.
So how do we determine an appropriate amount to invest?
Once I establish my budget amount, how do I know where to put my money to get the best ROI?
Here are some important questions to ask yourself when considering your budget for advertising:
What is your CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)?
How much time (and where is it best spent) do you have to take over your own marketing initiatives v.s. outsourcing?
How much expertise do you have to take over your own marketing initiatives v.s. outsourcing?
How much would you have to beat out your competition?
Are there inexpensive marketing hacks you can implement?
If you're really unsure of the right amount, I want to provide you with the right reference point.
According to Harvard Business Review, the average SmB allocates 5% of their revenue to marketing.
As mentioned above, experiments are a great place to start with your existing budget. You can get away with less than a thousand dollars and a month’s time on each experiment. This way, when you put more skin in the game, you at least know which avenues I’ll generate the best ROI (and hopefully increase that budget!).
Budget is the realistic foundation for your marketing efforts. Allocating your dollar spend in the right place can be a big difference maker. Combine these questions with the questions of which channels to use above, and decide on your marketing strategy.
We share this blog piece because we have seen countless business owners miss the mark of their potential due to a poor marketing foundation.
There are a lot of marketing mistakes being made.
So many business owners and marketers today will have an attachment to their marketing strategy for the wrong reasons.
They are familiar with radio ads because they have been down that rabbit hole for years. They spend too much time focusing on the granular details of SEO, when that's not generating the best return. They will develop an elaborate website, when what they really need is lead generation.
When driving, you don't choose the road before you choose the destination. I won't say that I love to drive on Lougheed because there is a higher speed limit and less traffic and take that road. I'll enter in my GPS the location I want to get to and then choose the roads from there.
At the finish line, after implementing your marketing initiatives, what would a successful campaign look like for you?
Choosing the right or wrong marketing strategy is the TSN turning point for business owners. Any business rises and falls on their customer perception. Use these principles to choose your marketing strategy wisely and take your business to the next level.
Need some professional guidance on your marketing strategy? See how we can put together a comprehensive plan that’ll blow your competitors out of the water.
Schedule a free digital audit today!
About the Author
Joel is the Founder of Canvas Creative Digital, a digital marketing business helping nonprofit organizations acquire new donors and the founder of Model Millennials, a Millennial lifestyle blog and podcast. Prior to these projects, he was the Head Sales Coach for British Columbia at Yellow Pages in charge of developing growth plans for two departments and dozens of sales reps.