Whether you run an e-commerce store, have recently launched an online startup or you run a local service business that targets people who use the web to search for your services, you need an online marketing plan to attract and convert customers.
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a simple marketing plan that any startup can use.
Initially, I recommend you do a Marketing Audit. Who are you best customers? Use that information to create an ideal customer profile. Next, ask how your best customers found you. Figure out how much it cost to acquire them that way. Also, ask them why did they buy from you? Use that as your primary message to reach more ideal customers. Then, look at what they bought from you first, second, and third. Look at the total lifetime value of your best customers and understand their product purchasing sequence and timing. You can use that information to design a marketing campaign to get ideal customers and then a follow-on campaign to upsell them and provide additional value to them. Then, review your overall current marketing effectiveness. On Google Analytics, see how many visitors you have per month and how many of them convert into customers. Review your current marketing spend and determine your cost to acquire customers for each marketing program and the average customer purchase.
Once you have this data, it’s a good idea to look at your top three competitors. Go to similarweb.com to see how many website visitors they have per month. Then go to their website and look at their products and pricing and estimate their monthly revenue compared to yours. Also, look at alexa.com to see where their website traffic is coming from. Are they getting their traffic from a different source then you? That may be a place you want to do a marketing campaign to see if you can get new customers more cost-effectively there.
Now that you have completed your marketing audit, it is time to create your startup marketing plan.
Here are 6 tips to help you create your actual marketing plan:
- Create Marketing Objectives
From your audit, you will discover what is most important to your business and that will form the basis of your objectives. Your objectives are unique to your business and are statements of what you want to achieve.
They are short-term goals usually covering a period between 3-12 months and they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-related (SMART). An example of a SMART Objective is:
“Increase organic traffic by 20% with Millennials by 31 December 2015”
Now that you’ve created your objectives, you will move on to the next stages of your online marketing plan and focus only on activities or campaigns that help you achieve your objectives.
- Know Your Customers
Your audit will help you identify potential segments that you can target with your products or services. Very few businesses have the financial and people resources to target all segments in the market, so you should pick the segments that you have identified as having the most potential based on your best customers.
There are many online tools you can use to identify your target demographics and where they are based. You can find some of these tools in Google AdWords, such as the keyword and display planner tools. Also, you can use survey tools like Survey Monkey to understand the needs of your target markets.
- Monitor Your Competitors
Having identified your competitors from the audit, now you need to pick three or four that you will monitor and benchmark against your business metrics. This is where your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) become more relevant because you are comparing your progress against business rivals.
The web provides many tools to monitor competitors and one of the popular ones is Alexa. SimilarWeb and Compete.com are other tools that can provide you with details about your competitors’ visitor demographic and geographic data and how they are performing on metrics such as traffic volumes, time on site and popular keywords.
For social media, a tool like Social Bakers is handy to assess and monitor your competitors’ performance in the social sphere, which is now more important than ever.
Use these tools to track your progress against competitors each month to see if your marketing plan is effective.
- Decide On Your Promotional or Go-to-Market Strategy
The strategy section of your marketing plan is an in-depth section on how you reach your target markets with your offers. It covers your positioning in the market and marketing mix tactics like product, price, place, promotion, people, process and physical evidence.
With promotion for example, you will identify all the online channels and tools that are relevant in your industry and some popular ones include PPC advertising, SEO, affiliate marketing, blogging, email marketing, social media and so on.
The tactics you choose as part of your strategy will depend on what financial and people resources you have and this will feed into your budget. It is generally a best practice to run funnel marketing campaigns to acquire customers. Offer one or more inexpensive products so that new customers can get value and get to know and trust you and your company. These entry-level funnel campaigns should ideally be run at a breakeven cost – meaning the amount you spend on advertising should be made back on the initial sales. That will enable you to acquire customers for free online. Then, you can create higher value offers that you can up-sell to your customers to create a profitable business. With this business model, you will be able to fund your marketing campaigns from sales.
- Establish a Reasonable Marketing Budget
Your marketing budget should be large enough to allow you to implement your strategy. If it’s not, then you should prioritize your campaigns and activities and focus first on those that will help you achieve your objectives, while meeting customers’ needs.
Budget setting is a specialized skill and you should get assistance from a financial expert or startup coach if you struggle developing this part of your marketing plan.
- Measure Your Marketing
Finally, your marketing plan should include details of how you monitor your progress towards achieving your mission and goals and what you will do if things go wrong. This is an interesting part of the plan because it lists all the activities and who will be assigned to what activity and what the cost will be.
Remember to get buy-in from key stakeholders and ensure that everyone in your team understands what their roles and duties are. Then, create a Marketing Plan Calendar that lists all these marketing campaigns and activities. Monitor it weekly and change it as needed. You know have a Simple Marketing Plan that you can use to ensure you are attracting and acquiring customers cost-effectively.