Your LivePlan Small Business Plan – Marketing and Sales Plan
Having a solid marketing and sales plan for your small business is a critical part of the overall active planning process. After all, if you can’t successfully reach customers and convince them to buy your product or service, you won’t be in business for very long.
The marketing plan section of your LivePlan will be used to document how you plan to reach and attract customers.
The sales plan section is used to document how you will sell your product or service to these customers.
Read on to learn about what you should be considering in these areas and what resources are available to help you develop your marketing and sales plan.
In the digital marketing world we are currently living in there is good news and bad news for small businesses.
As Gary Vaynerchuk, one of my favorite thought leaders in the digital marketing space, loves to preach, we are currently living through the greatest cultural shift in decades, dating back to when AM radio was overtaken by television as the primary form of entertainment.
Every year, more and more people are turning to their mobile devices as their primary method of socializing with others and entertaining themselves.
It is quickly replacing television.
So, the goal of your marketing plan should be to attract your target customers’ eyeballs on their mobile devices, get them to buy your product or service, and share how great their experience is with the world.
The good news is, for small businesses like yours, this is totally achievable if you are willing to put in the work required to actively market.
Today, it is cheaper to reach customers and potential customers, and the ability to customize and focus your marketing efforts is greater than ever, allowing you to spend your limited marketing dollars wisely.
The bad news?
There are two major challenges when it comes to marketing in today’s social media environment:
Challenge # 1: The methods for successfully marketing are constantly evolving and changing.
Social networks regularly change the algorithms that dictate how to effectively market on their platforms and social media sites that are hot today often lose favor with the public relatively quickly.
Who remembers MySpace or Vine?
And where was Snapchat a year or two ago, and where will it be a year or two from now with Instagram and Facebook aggressively copying it’s platform?
Challenge # 2: The amount of other content, or noise as I refer to it, that a small business has to cut through is substantial.
Therefore, you need to be consistent, creative, and willing to take some chances.
Effective marketing isn’t a one size fits all science.
It’s about trial and error and learning over time what works for you and your business.
Some of you possess the skills or have the resources to create a kick ass website.
Some of you are good writers and can market your business using a blog.
Others are good on video and can create a YouTube channel.
And there are countless other possibilities.
The reality is, the best businesses today use some combination of all of the methods and media platforms.
You will learn over time what works best for you and your business and can eventually focus your efforts.
The rest of the marketing plan section of this post will provide a broad overview of where you need to consider marketing your business and highlight some of the best resources on the web for learning how to do it so you can develop a solid marketing plan.
I focus exclusively on digital media marketing.
You may implement other, more traditional marketing methods in your business, but I stick to digital in this post.
If it isn’t already clear to you, I should emphasize that this is a section of your LivePlan that will need to be revisited and updated on a regular basis, as you figure out what does and does not work for you.
The Top Platforms
There are entire books written on each of the major social media platforms, search engines, website options, and on the art of email marketing.
Here, I touch on the top players in each category.
Later in this post, I include links to some of the best resources available for learning how to implement each in order to help you develop a solid marketing plan in today’s digital marketing environment.
While it may be tempting to dive into learning all of the various platforms at the same time, if you are just starting out and are doing it yourself, I encourage you to implement them one at a time and learn through experience what works and what doesn’t.
Each medium has its own learning curve and requires a fair amount of time and dedication to effectively implementing and experimenting.
However, if done right, each can pay huge dividends for your small business.
Facebook and Social Media
It is hard to believe that Facebook has only been in existence for a little over 10 years.
The Company has quickly become the largest social media network on the planet, with substantially more active users than any of its direct competitors.
And its closest competitors aren’t even close.
The vast majority of small businesses in existence today should be using Facebook for marketing in some way, and yours is probably one of them.
Additionally, you should consider choosing a few of the other top social media platforms and learn how to market on them.
There is no one size fits all mix of social media marketing.
What works for you may not work for your closest competitor and most likely won’t work for a small business in another industry.
For example, a business marketing a creative product or service may find success on Pinterest but have no luck on LinkedIn.
A professional services business would likely have the opposite results.
As I mentioned in the opening of this post, figuring out what works best for you will require some patience and trial and error.
However, using social media networks to help market your business is definitely not something you should ignore.
YouTube and Video Content
Video as a marketing tool is increasingly important, as platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat rely on it more and more.
The platform that put sharing video content on the map, YouTube, is still the dominant player for searching for video content.
In fact, YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the planet, behind only its parent Company, Google.
The good news about video content is that it can be created with little to no financial investment.
Smartphones today have cameras built in that are powerful enough to create content like this music video, which was shot exclusively on an iPhone but would have likely cost tens of thousands of dollars or more to produce only a decade ago.
Record regular videos of yourself sharing information that will provide value to your customers and potential customers.
You don’t have to overthink it.
Just hit record, capture something valuable worth sharing, and put it out on Youtube and other social media platforms.
Of course, not everyone is comfortable putting themselves on video.
If this is the case for you, find other ways to add video to your marketing arsenal.
Break out your smartphone and record your customers talking about your business, hire a company to create animated explainer videos for your business, or find some other unique way to create video content.
Do your best to put out video content regularly, because it is hard to predict what video content will really stick.
You could put out one piece of video content that could get shared enough to take your business to the next level.
WordPress and Your Business Website
I think the small business website is a marketing tool that is often underutilized by owners.
Most small businesses opt for a cookie cutter website or invest very little in having one built.
And they don’t actively keep it updated with information their customers and potential customers, employees and potential employees, and other stakeholders care about.
You don’t have to fall into this camp.
Spend a little bit of time learning how to create a website and you can set yourself apart from your competition.
WordPress is a content management system that powers over 25% of the internet.
It is the most popular website management and blogging tool in the world.
If you are just starting out and are not too technically savvy, creating a WordPress website on your own may seem like a daunting task.
However, if you intend to produce a fair amount of content to market your business, want to create an email list, or don’t want to be limited by a cookie cutter template offered by other options, WordPress is probably your best option.
It’s worth noting, I built this website on my own on WordPress, and I’m an accountant by trade!
I’m confident you could too if you choose to.
A solid E-Mail list is considered by many online marketers to be a Company’s most valuable marketing asset. It can be the main communication medium between a company and it’s customers.
If you want to be taken seriously, you need to have email with your Company’s domain name in it.
Not much will ruin your chances of being taken seriously quicker than telling someone your email address is Name@aol.com instead of Name@YourCompanyName.com.
Google offers G Suite, the most trusted and popular solution, for about $50/year.
Their offering gets you your own custom email address and access to a variety of other popular tools for small businesses.
Its a must have solution for just about any small business.
Get a customized email address and implement a marketing funnel that uses social media platforms or your website to steer people to your email list.
This way, you can communicate with them at little to no cost.
Once you have your own email address and an email list, you can begin to explore advanced email marketing techniques.
There are lots of tools and resources out there that can help you take your email marketing to the next level.
Google and Search Engines
Google is the most popular website in the world.
If you can figure out how to get your website and content to show up when people search for information related to your business on Google, you will have a big leg up on your competition.
You can do this by using Google AdWords, the paid advertising option, or by educating yourself on the science of organic search and search engine optimization (SEO).
Of course, you can also use a combination of these two methods.
And you can implement the same methods on Yahoo!, Bing, and other search engines.
Both have a fairly steep learning curve, but can pay huge dividends.
You can learn more about both using the free online resources I recommend in the next section of this post.
The Top Resources and Thought Leaders
There is no shortage of valuable content on the web for learning how to market your small business online.
Fortunately, a lot of it can be had for free.
There is also a lot of garbage out there.
You can waste a lot of valuable time searching and coming up empty without a little bit of guidance.
Following are some of the thought leaders and resources I find valuable and think could help you develop a solid digital marketing plan for your small business.
Social Media Management
Hootsuite is an excellent tool if you will be marketing on multiple social media platforms.
You can manage all of your content across multiple platforms in one central location.
Schedule posts, engage in a dialogue with your followers and more.
Getting started with Hootsuite is free here.
Neil Patel – NeilPatel.com and QuickSprout.com
General Digital Marketing
Neil is a prolific blogger and his email updates deliver frequent, fresh content to your inbox on a very regular basis.
I am amazed, and honestly a bit skeptical, at how many blog posts he cranks out.
Whether it is always Neil writing the posts or not, his emails are almost always well received by me, as they typically include valuable content.
One of Neil’s most epic pieces of content is the Advanced Guide to Content Marketing.
It was one of the first guides I referenced when putting together The Embarkment and, although it is a few years old at this point, still holds up as an outstanding comprehensive guide.
Again, a lot of this content was created several years ago and you should keep that in mind.
Regardless, it is an excellent free resource for anyone just starting out and looking for a solid foundation in the area of digital media marketing.
Rand Fishkin – Moz.com
Rand, or the Wizard of Moz as he is known in his inner circle, co-founded SEO company Moz in 2004.
His trademark mustache makes him an easily identifiable thought leader in the digital marketing and SEO space.
If you decide to really get into online marketing, you’ll find his weekly Whiteboard Friday series to be invaluable.
Fishkin and Moz also published The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, which is a great primer in SEO for any beginner just getting started.
Finally, if you’re looking for some help to develop or implement your digital marketing plan, Moz maintains a free directory of digital marketing professionals who work with small and medium-sized businesses like yours.
Michael Stelzner – SocialMediaExaminer.com
Michael’s website, Social Media Examiner, is the largest social media marketing resource on the web.
It boasts an email subscriber list of 600,000 people and publishes regular content on all things social media.
If you want social media to be an important part of your marketing plan, you should reference the material on Michael’s site and consider subscribing to the Social Media Examiner email newsletter.
Start with their comprehensive Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
Finally, if you enjoy attending conferences, they put on one of the largest in the industry each year.
Find out more about Social Media Marketing World here.
Chad White – EmailMarketingRules.com
Chad is currently the Research Director for Litmus, an online email testing and analytics company.
But he offers his personal insight on email marketing strategy and the state of the industry on his own blog at EMail Marketing Rules.
Additionally, Chad published a book on the subject.
EMail Marketing Rules (the book) is a step by step guide on what works in EMail Marketing and is based on years of Chad’s personal experience.
A lot of the material on Chad’s personal blog links directly to Litmus content, the company Chad works for.
There is also a lot of valuable content on the topic of EMail Marketing on their site.
For instance, check out the Litmus State of EMail Report: How to Build Successful Email Programs in 2017.
Once you have decided and mapped out how you will reach your customers, you can begin to consider how you will sell to them.
If you’ve got no sales, you’ve got no business.
Seems simple enough, right?
When you are just starting out, the main goal of any marketing efforts you lay out in your marketing plan should ultimately be to get people to buy your product or service.
The purpose of the sales plan is to describe how you will convert a lead from your marketing efforts to money in your pocket.
You may need to employ a sales funnel to sell higher ticket items, or products or services that require your customers to put more thought into their purchase decision.
If this is the case for you, use the sales plan section to detail how you plan to typically get from sales lead to closed sale.
Some businesses require long, drawn out sales funnels. Here is an example of a pretty basic sales funnel to illustrate the concept.
If you are operating a small business selling lower priced products or services and the purchase decision isn’t a big challenge, the sales plan may simply describe a basic overview of your sales methods.
You can describe how the sales transactions occur and what forms of payment your business will accept.
Of course, if your sales process is really simple, you can elect to exclude the sales plan section from your plan altogether.
For small, highly transactional businesses, like a coffee shop or hair salon, a brief mention of the methods of payment your business will collect may be sufficient and this can be included in another section of your plan.
The decision to include a sales plan is, like everything else in your business and business plan, ultimately up to you.
It’s one of the perks of going into business for yourself!
I strongly believe there has never been a better time to be a small business owner than right now.
The number of ways to attract and communicate with customers has never been greater, which should translate to more sales for small business owners like you.
However, the number of of marketing platforms available and amount of advice on how to implement it all can make the process of developing a marketing and sales plan seem overwhelming.
I suggest you pick one medium at a time and do your best to become proficient at it.
If you have the financial resources available, hire some help; especially if you want to utilize more than one or two platforms when you are just starting out.
It probably won’t happen overnight, but if you employ a little bit of patience and are willing to experiment, you should discover that digital marketing is a huge weapon for your small business.
Using it effectively should lead to sales volume that would not have been possible just a few years ago, when the various digital marketing platforms didn’t exist.
I emphasize, the initial marketing plan you come up with will probably need to be modified several times, as you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The same goes with the rest of your business plan.
If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of developing an effective marketing plan, I know what you are going through.
But you can get help from a group of marketing experts and the support of other LivePlanners going through the same thing by signing up for the next LivePlan Online Workshop.
The next group is forming now and you can sign up here.
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