I don’t think highly of really detailed marketing plans for small businesses.
Long marketing plans are a waste of time because they get forgotten. And also, things change so fast that they often quickly become irrelevant in their initial form.
However, I DO think you need one, because…
…getting clarity around the basics is super important.
The thing is:
Your business marketing plan probably isn’t going to be as unique as all that. After all, there are only so many channels to get to market and only so much money in your budget.
Not to mention hours in your day…
So here’s how you can get an actionable marketing plan done in just 7 minutes, by just answering a few questions and leveraging the wisdom of those who came before you.
Minute One: Preparation (Not 100% Necessary)
Get a glass of water and drink it (helps the brain work better). Grab yourself a nice, blank piece of paper. Stand up and take it out from the printer tray if you have to. Get a pen. Turn off any distractions like the phone, talkback radio (seriously?), or podcasts. Turn off your computer monitor and clear a space to work on your desk (you should really clean that up, just sayin’).
Minute Two: Ideal Customer (100% Necessary)
Ask yourself the following question: Who is your target market? If that means nothing to you, try it this way: who is your ideal customer? Mine is “established small business owners within half an hour’s drive from my office who know they need to get their website and marketing act together but haven’t got the time or the inclination to do it themselves”.
I say “established” because I need them to have healthy revenue already. I don’t like working for clients who desperately need a miracle!
I say “within half an hour’s drive” because I usually service my clients in person and, you know, traffic sucks.
None of this means I absolutely WON’T service someone who lives far away or who is just starting out in business. It just means that I TARGET my marketing on those who are the best fit for my business. You can’t market to “everyone who wants what I do”. You absolutely must narrow it down.
Minute Three: Value Proposition (Fear not, all will become clear)
Ask yourself: What problem do I solve for my Ideal Customer? How can I put that into a sentence?
This is your “value proposition”. (Apologies for the buzzword.) You need to learn how to communicate your value proposition to your ideal customer in a short, snappy way. You cannot expect to do well in your marketing if you cannot clearly explain why anyone should care. If you have a lot of points of value, as in to say, if there are many cool things that you think your customers might care about, try to narrow down on the one thing that you find they really come to your business for the most. The thing that THEY resonate with the most, not the thing that YOU think they SHOULD resonate with the most.
For example, I think my clients need a well thought out marketing strategy. They come to me because ‘I need a website and I want to deal with somebody local that I feel I can trust”. So this is what I lead with:
The Website Experts Who Come To You
From there, we end up working on a marketing strategy anyway. But I had to work hard to find the right words to get the phone to ring in the first place.
(By the way, if the preceding steps, which are both the most difficult and most critical, took longer than a couple minutes, then I apologise, but it will be worth it. Also the rest of the steps are pretty straightforward and not that different in structure between clients, just a matter of choosing what you feels works for you and your customers.)
Minute Four: Channel Selection (No, not TV)
Ask yourself: what Channels am I going to try to use to reach my Ideal Customers with, using my Value Proposition? Here are some suggestions:
- Google (free organic results, maps, etc)
- Google Ads
- Social Media (Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn/whatever)
- Email Marketing
- Other People’s Websites
- Snail Mail
- Public Speaking
- Print Advertising
- Content Marketing (for example, blogs like this one)
The list goes on really, but these are some of the common ways that small businesses approach prospects to try and get their attention.
But which ones should you choose?
Well, this may take some trial and error, but for now just choose the ones that you have already started using, or thought about using and then add “email marketing” to the list.
Basically, whatever industry you’re in, building an email database of interested prospects and former customers is paramount (perhaps with the exception of (fashionable, trendy) markets aimed at teenage girls and very young women — social for them). The money is in the list. For real.
Minute Five: Audience Building (AKA ‘Lead Capture’ but that doesn’t sound as cool)
Speaking of emails, how are you going to capture the emails (and other relevant data, like phone numbers, specific interests,) of hot prospects that you hope to turn into Ideal Customers?
Here’s how you do it…
You somehow get their attention via channels (so last minute), then you intrigue them enough to get them to your website, there you either hit the jackpot and they phone or buy straight away OR they agree to exchange their email and give you permission to follow up with them. Usually this is in exchange for something nice, like an e-book, 10 Tips On How To Be A World Champion High Jumper or whatever, or perhaps some other kind of offer, like a free sample or demonstration. Whatever. The point is “make an offer”.
Nah, you say, I don’t like email stuff like that, it’s tacky.
OK you know what?
Get over it. Just because YOU don’t like giving up your email or getting marketing emails, doesn’t mean that your Ideal Customer doesn’t. If you have the RIGHT OFFER and product for THEM, then they should be thrilled to get your emails.
So: What can you offer them in exchange for an email address and their permission to follow up with them?
Minute Six: Follow Up (Or Be Forgotten)
Once you have their email address, you can’t just email them twice a year. You need to do it at least once a month or even better, weekly.
But what the heck are you going to send them?
More information about how you can solve that problem that’s bugging them, that’s what. So this means case studies, product features, blog posts (relevant ones), videos (relevant ones) and occasionally (not every single time) special offers that call them to buy stuff.
Quick, write down some ideas, or just copy mine.
Do NOT write down “founder story”, “family company history” or “staff xmas party photos”. Seriously, unless you’re a REALLY good storyteller, nobody gives a crap about that stuff.
Minute Seven: Ker-ching Baby!!! (aka “sales conversions”)
How do your customers buy? Do they need to call you? Do you send them an invoice by email? Do they use your ecommerce? Pay cash in store?
How can you drive them from “just lying around, loving all your free content baby” to “Hot damn! I gotta gets me one them there [insert what you sell here] and I gotta gets me one NOW!”
That is to say, what is your call to action? What is your sales conversion strategy? What can you offer them to encourage them to take a deep breath and reach for their wallet right now?
Hint: it’s probably not a discount.
Think scarcity. If they can only get it this week, and they really want it… well we ALL know what THAT feels like!
OK so maybe it really takes more than seven minutes to write a super simple marketing plan, but hell, it doesn’t need to take all day and it certainly doesn’t need to fill up more than half a page or so.
And you know what?
That’s good, because it’s going to change over time. Perhaps quite often. So there is just no point in spending ages writing a twenty page thesis. Now, get out there and sell something!