Do you get overwhelmed with the idea of creating a marketing plan? If so, you’re not alone. We talk to so many people that don’t have a plan, or at best carry some ideas around in their head. And, these people also admit that they aren’t consistent in their marketing and they don’t really have a way to track whether it is working or not.
These admissions show why it is so important to have a plan written out – it can be old fashioned – on paper, or it can be digital… just create one and use it! In this tip, we want to give you the pieces you need to put a simple, actual marketing plan together and show you how to use it.
First, Set Your Mission and Your Goals
What are your business goals? What do you want your marketing to accomplish?
- Do you want to build brand awareness?
- Stay top-of-mind with your customers?
- Introduce or tease about upcoming products and services?
- Educate your audience and build credibility by providing key tips and resources that relate to your area of expertise?
- Showcase how your business engages with or gives back to the community?
- If you’re a non-profit organization – expand your donor base?
Once you have these answers acting as your guiding principles, you can work on the following next steps.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
Who is your ideal customer? If your answer is “everyone”, that is the wrong answer… sorry! Your target market is the group of people that have a specific need that your business has a specific solution for.
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, ask yourself the following questions. Dig deep here because you need to identify the psychographics of your customer, not just general demographics. What makes them tick?
- What are their demographics? (Where do they live, age, income, gender)
- What type of person are they?
- What do they like to do?
- How do they typically make purchases?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What are their wants/needs?
- What are their fears?
Segments of your target audience
Potential customers move through different stages of awareness. First, from being clueless that they have a problem that you can solve to, in the end, becoming your customer. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, take time to read through our tips Are You Missing Big Targets and Using The 5 Stages Of Awareness To Boost Sales. These will fill in the details and will strengthen the foundation for your plan.
It is important to structure your marketing plan in such a way that it speaks to your target audience at all these stages. By doing this, you woo them to your product or service and the purchase step is a lot smaller because they have come to know and trust your company.
Step 2: Choose the Best Content Channels
There are a ton of online marketing options available (there’s more than just Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest). The key is to understand your customers so you know which channel(s) will be most effective.
As you work through the questions we shared above, you should have identified where your market hangs out online. This is critical because it doesn’t pay for you to be pushing your marketing message on a channel that they aren’t using.
Step 3: Decide on the Type of Content for Each Chosen Channel
As you identify which channel (or two) your market is actively engaged on, the next question is what type of content do they like the most? This doesn’t mean that you will only post videos or pictures, but that you will make sure that when you do, your message will be strong and clear in the video or picture.
Another important thing to understand when deciding the type of content is that you don’t want to push the exact same post out to all of your social channels. We see too many people putting the exact post on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn… 3 different channels with different purposes and ways that the audiences engage.
The best way to share the same topic across multiple channels is to pick your main channel and write the posts and create the images for the month. Then, take that content and rewrite it for the other channels, and create separate images for each of the posts on each channel. That way, for the people that do follow you on multiple channels, they aren’t getting turned off by seeing the exact same thing across the channels.
Our recommendation if you’re not already actively marketing on a channel is to pick one… the one where you feel you can best engage your audience, and put the majority of your focus on it. It takes time and effort… a lot of time and effort to get the engagement train rolling on a channel.
So, if you’re doing 1 or 2 posts per week on three separate channels, that’s not going to cut it. And, if you try to do 3 or 4 posts per week on all the channels, you’ll burn out – because that’s a lot of content in a month.
Instead, put the effort of 3 or 4 posts per week into your main channel, and then maintain a presence on the other channels with 1 post a week. Once you’ve got traction on your main channel, you can start building your second channel.
Step 4: Create a Content Marketing Calendar
Identifying the social media channel and type of content is just a third of your overall marketing plan. There’s more to consider.
- Owned media is your website and your email list – these are assets that you have 100% control over.
- Shared media is your social media channels.
- Paid media is the marketing that you pay for; online paid ads, print ads, TV or radio.
Let’s get started. If you don’t have a marketing calendar of your own, feel free to grab the template that we use with our clients. We’ll walk you through the process with the goal that the upcoming quarter (from whichever quarter you’re starting with) is complete so you can start working on content. We want this template to be workable for you, so once you’ve got the principles, please make adjustments to the calendar to make it your own.
- Start by identifying any holidays or events that you could potentially send out a marketing message for in the grey section – row 4. (Tip: In a Google doc, holding down the Alt key (PC), Option key (Mac) and hitting the return key will give you a new line within a cell.)
- What are 4 “big bucket” topics you can break your content into? Add them into Row 6 for each of the quarters of the year.
- Take each of the big bucket topics and break them into 3 smaller topics – these become your topics for each month. Add your monthly topics into row 7.
- You can break the monthly topics down into weekly topics if that helps create clarity around your message. Another option is to change the weekly topics to the type of post: educational, testimonial, story, sale announcement, etc. Adjust lines 8-11 to your needs.
- Beyond your regular monthly topics, are there things you want to promote throughout the year? Special sales, do you have a new product/service launching, a trade show? These should be entered in lines 15 and 16.
- Now it’s time to figure out where and when you’re going to do your marketing activities.
- Are you sending out an email to your list? If yes, how often a month and on what day does it get sent? Fill in the detail on rows 18 and 19.
- How often do you add new content to your website? This content should tie into your topics, but it also should be aligned with the keywords that you want to rank for on the search engines. The detail goes on rows 20 and 21. We recommend at least one new piece of content every month.
- Which social media channels will you post to? How often, and what days of the week? Fill in the details in rows 23-28. We list a number of channels to get started with, you can delete the ones you don’t use or add one that we don’t have listed.
- IF you do paid advertising, think ahead to the campaigns you’re going to run and fill in the details on rows 30-34.
Build out your calendar by adding key info in each cell. For example, holidays might be Thanksgiving in November’s cell. Promos – what is it, for how long. Email – title, send date. Landing page – topic, launch date. Social media – content type (post, audio, video), frequency (daily, 3x/week). Print ads – where, size, topic, cost. Etc.
The goal is to have a roadmap for your marketing plan that is unique to your business. Once you have your plan, build a process of how to implement it.
Step 5: Allocate Resources
In the world of content marketing, resources are everything you will need to make your marketing a success. It includes the time, the effort, the content itself, the manpower, and even the channels that you are going to use to carry your content across. It should also include some feedback mechanisms and analytical tools that see if your content is serving the purposes you originally laid out.
When preparing your content marketing plan, it is important to allocate enough resources to each item to make sure the process won’t be delayed or suspended. Be sure to factor in not just the budget and time to create your content, but also to monitor and evaluate your process and the results.
Remember, marketing follows a cycle. If you allocate a specific amount of time to a process, it is important to keep assessing that process to make sure you have built in enough time for you or your team/consultant to meet their deadlines. After all that hard work you put into your marketing calendar, you want it to stay on track!
Use Scheduling Software
Once you have all of your content planned, you want to think about how you’ll be implementing it. The tedious way of doing it is to manually post to each channel on each day that you want a post to show up. If you do it this way, we can guarantee that your calendar will drop dead in about the same time that the majority of people quit going to the gym after January 1.
In order to be an effective tool, you need to have a process for your marketing in order to make it as easy as possible.
There are a lot of different social media management tools that are free, or you can upgrade for multiple channels or more options. After working with a number of tools, we’ve found one that is a complete sweet spot for us. Metricool not only is easy to use, it integrates with a ton of channels and integrates reports. A rule that Christy has is that using a tool shouldn’t be rocket science… it should be easy and it shouldn’t cost 3 arms and a leg. And, Metricool nails the “easy” on all sides, and the cost to feature ratio is fantastic.
But, we realize that it may not be a fit for everyone. Here are a couple of articles that take a look at the top platforms.
A content marketing plan will definitely make your work easier and even free up some time for you to focus on the more demanding aspects of your business. The best part is that, as you focus on engagement, it will generate leads and create new business!
Now is the time to create your plan for next year. While you’re at it, plan ahead and schedule posts so you can enjoy your Thanksgiving and Christmas break.
Your Online Partner… for Success
Trying to put a marketing plan together can feel like a futile exercise in trying to get out of your own head. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with Christy, check out her calendar and get your plan rolling. There’s no charge for the first consultation.