Archive for Marketing Plan

A Website is Not a Marketing Plan

piece of the puzzle

Unfortunately, many business owners and online marketers alike assume that if they have a great website they’re good to go.  An effective website is essential for companies to remain competitive today given the number of consumers who shop online, but it isn’t a solution all on its own.  The fact is, deciding on a new website with the hopes of providing a boost for your business before you determine the most effective marketing strategy is like putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.

Who is your target audience, what key terms and phrases are they using in search, and what goals do you hope to accomplish with your website and marketing efforts?  These are the types of questions that need answers in order for your website designer to create a website that is effective and accomplishes its goals.  A website should be the cornerstone of your online marketing plan, however it is not a marketing plan.

Weaving your overall marketing objectives into the design, layout and structure of the site is essential; your website designer should be able to create a site that is not only SEO friendly, but that meets the needs and expectations of your target client from the very first word and the very first line of website code.  Here are a few factors that should be considered:

A clear purpose.  A website should be one component of a measurable and integrated initiative to create a solid link between your clients and your company, products, and brand.  Have no doubts about your purpose, who your audience is, your message, and call to action.  Ultimately the goals of your website should be compatible with the urgent or immediate needs of those who visit your site.

Performance over appearance.  Sure, you want a website that is visually appealing to your target audience, but performance should be your top priority.

Effective communication.  Design elements absolutely help business owners communicate more effectively with customers.  In fact, nearly every element of design is communicating a message or making a statement.  From page content and layout to colors, images, page titles, headers, social media sharing, a blog, etc., your website should be a powerful communication tool.

Thorough, effective keyword research.  By knowing precisely who your target audience is and what you want your website to accomplish, your web designer can perform in-depth keyword research, essential for both SEO and attracting the right audience via search.  Content that is informative, valuable, and engaging is key to online success today – and keyword optimization is important both in terms of the content your visitors see, and the “background” coding throughout your site.

Your web designer should be “in the loop” in regards to any and all marketing ideas.  What first impression do you want your pages to make?  What message should your site communicate?   All of the essential questions should be answered before the design of your website ever begins.  Many companies get it all wrong by building a website first, then trying to determine how to develop leads or customers.  Choose a web designer who is skilled in both design and online marketing – and it’s also a good idea to learn how and why the strategies you use to market your business on the Internet impact your website’s design, architecture and capability requirements.

When it’s all said and done, a website cannot overcome inferior products and services or a lack of a marketing strategy.  To put it in its most simple terms, a website is only as effective as the planning and preparation behind its execution.  Business owners and marketers who believe simply having a website will lead to success have unrealistic expectations.  Make sure your web designer is “in the know” in regards to your marketing plan, and you will get a website that not only looks great, but has the best chance to become the online lead machine that you need it to be.

 

About the author: Phil Singleton is the owner of Kansas City Web Design®, a web development firm specializing in SEO-friendly WordPress websites and custom website applications; and Kansas City SEO®, a full-service Internet marketing services company that provides organic search engine optimization and other online marketing services.  Contact Phil on his Google+ page.

Small Business Marketing and Project Management

marketing project planInstalling and maintaining a small business marketing system is comprised a series of projects. As marketers, we manage two main types of projects – 1) get things “up and running” projects and 2) “ongoing work” projects.

Take blogging for example. You may have one project to get WordPress installed, designed, and configured. Once your blog is up and running you have a series of ongoing, recurring projects to continue create, review, publish and promote content on your blog.

Up and running projects typically get more attention and planning. This may be because of the initial expenses required, i.e. purchasing software or hiring a consultant, or just the realization that we are doing something new. However, it is the execution of the ongoing work project(s) that usually determine the success of the endeavor.

Companies that are focus on “up and running” projects without also focusing on the ongoing work projects are often frustrated that they “spend a lot of money on marketing but nothing seems to work”.

Here are five questions to ask yourself and your team when creating and reviewing both types of marketing project plans.

  1. What does DONE look like? – Having projects that drag on forever can be just as bad as projects that declared done but don’t meet the (intended) requirements. Make sure all of the stakeholders share a common vision of what done looks like.
  2. How are you going to get to DONE? – what are the deliverables of the project. Who is responsible for each deliverable? Map out the order of the work needed to produce these deliverables.
  3. What resources do we need? – time, money, expertise, technology – list resources needed to complete the project. Yes, we have an abundance of free / cheap tools available for marketing, but don’t forget about the time, skills, and knowledge it takes to implement those tools effectively.
  4. What could derail your plans? – we all know stuff happens, have you taken some time to think about what you will do when it does? How will you handle being late, over budget, or when key personnel are unavailable? You don’t have to obsess over these questions, but you don’t want to be caught off guard, particularly on your more important projects, by assuming they will never happen.
  5. How will you measure progress? – personally, I prefer to stay away from percent complete reporting and consider tasks to be either complete or not complete. This is a tip I picked up from my software development days; it helped us get away from projects or tasks that were perpetually “90% complete” and identify which tasks needed special attention or redefining.

What questions help you make sure your marketing projects are on track and successful?

What to look for when hiring marketing help

searching for marketing helpAs a small business owner, you realize the importance of marketing but struggle to “get marketing done”. It’s time to get some help, but what should you be looking for when hiring either an employee or a consultant? For many small business owners, the first question to answer is what type of help do I need? Do I need a marketing manager or a marketing leader?

Do you need a marketing manager? Titles vary, but for this post let’s assume that a marketing manager is a the person who goes to work with a set of tasks that need to be executed in a repeated fashion to deliver a desired result. They “do marketing” usually through a combination of performing activities themselves and managing projects involving other staff and outside vendors.

Of course, not just any marketing checklist will do (if only it were that easy). Someone needs to create the strategic plan. Someone needs to take the owner’s vision for the business and translate that into the practical list of tasks for the marketing manager. Let’s call this person the marketing leader.

The marketing leader must also be able to look at things from the customers point of view and challenge you (the owner) to change your products and services to serve them better. As the business owner, you must be willing to listen to these challenges and know when to accept them and when to stand your ground. This can be difficult; if you are not willing to listen and be pushed a little, you are better off not spending money hiring a marketing leader (whether a full time position or consultant), as you will certainly view the money as “wasted”.

The situation that seems to cause the most frustration in small business is when there is a person assigned to marketing but they haven’t been given a strategic plan or specific set of goals to follow. They are always busy but no one seems to be happy with the results of their efforts. Owners feel frustrated because they aren’t seeing the results they need, but they are not sure how to correct the problem.

Luckily, this is also one of the easiest problems to fix. Working with a marketing leader to create a strategic marketing plan allows you to give your marketing manager the direction they desire along with the criteria for them to know when they are doing a good job. It is a true win-win situation as the employee is much happier at their job and the business owner get the results they were expecting.

So the answer to the question “do you need a marketing leader or a marketing manager” is you need both. However, once you understand the roles of each, you are better prepared to make informed decisions about how to spend your time and money. Many small business owners can work with a consultant for a short period of time to create their strategic plan and then use existing or more affordable resources to carry out the day to day activities.

Marketing Momentum

markting momentumIn sports and business, we like to talk about momentum or the “Big Mo”, the idea that once we get things moving in the right direction it is easier to keep moving, move faster, and do so with less effort.

How do we create momentum in our marketing? The key to building momentum is consistency. One of the best ways to build consistency is to live by a marketing calendar. By sticking to a planned routine of regularly scheduled marketing activities (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) you can build a marketing system that grows your business and leaves your inconsistent competitors behind.

What does the opposite of momentum look like? Let’s look at referrals as an example. Many business owners will begin a new year by resolving to attend more networking events in the hopes of receiving more business from referrals. They often start out with a flurry of activity – joining new groups, scheduling lots of appointments, going to lunches and after hour events, etc.

By the middle or end of the first quarter, it is very common for one of two scenarios to arise that breaks our marketing momentum and sabotages our marketing success.

Sometimes we experience success relatively early out of the gate. We get some business from referrals and then we stop our networking activities to “do the work”.

In the second scenario, success doesn’t come immediately, so we quit right before our efforts are ready to pan out. We don’t meet anyone at the first few networking events so we stop attending – only to decide to “try again” months later.

This stop and start progress kills progress in any endeavor, not just marketing. When we break our marketing rhythm, we kill our momentum. Reviving that momentum takes an enormous amount of energy and time. Worse yet, we are spending that time and effort just to get back to where we were rather than making further progress.

Plan, Do, Review, Improve

Once you have set your goals use your calendar to plan the marketing behaviors that will help you attain them. Write these behaviors on you calendar as action items and do them. Use your calendar as a review tool in order to make sure you stay on track and hold yourself accountable. Don’t use your calendar to beat yourself up by highlighting your failures, commit to continuous improvement – track what you need to do, hold yourself accountable, measure the results and adjust (improve) accordingly.

Consistency Over Quantity

Pick a few marketing activities, do them well, and do them consistently, and watch your business grow in 2012.

 

photo credit: Emil Manolov via Flickr

Marketing Catalyst Online Marketing Resource Center

Regular visitors here know that I my job is to help business owners consistently attract their ideal customers by installing the Duct Tape Marketing system in their business. The Marketing Catalyst is one of the main ways we do this (the other is our Managed Marketing programs).

Recently we added a new online marketing resource center to the Marketing Catalyst program. The resource center is a private website that hosts all of the course outlines, workbooks, audio, and video files as well as links to external resources – everything we use when helping customers implement the Duct Tape Marketing system in their business.

Having these resources online provides a number of advantages over the previous, paper based resources we offered. Using multimedia, we can cater to the way you like to learn. The online resources are much easier to update – an important feature in today’s rapidly changing marketing world. Having the resources online also makes it easier for you to share with your employees and co-workers and keep them informed about your businesses marketing goals and plans.

Another nice feature of having these resources online is it makes it easier for me to show you what the program is like by offering you a free trial. The free trial gives you full access to Session #1. You can also see the outline for the other sessions in the program, giving you a feel for what you will accomplish in the overall program. To get your free trial, simply click on this link.

For more information about Duct Tape Marketing and the Marketing Catalyst program, watch this short video featuring John Jantsch, the founder of Duct Tape Marketing.

Please contact me if you have any questions or need help accessing your free trial.

Blogging With An Editorial Calendar

One of the reasons I’m such a big fan of WordPress (it’s one of the main tools we use in delivering our Managed Marketing Services) is because there are so many great tools that and plugins that are developed and shared by members of the WordPress community. Today I want to tell you a little bit about one of those tools – the Editorial Calendar plugin.

Regular readers here know that we Duct Tape Marketing consultants believe in using a calendar to keep your marketing system on track. Mapping out your topics, events, announcements, etc., on a calendar is a great way to make sure you create blog content on a regular and consistent basis. The Editorial Calendar plugin gives you a nice, visual way to do just that right inside your WordPress dashboard.

WordPress already has a handy feature that allows you to write posts today and schedule them to appear on your blog in the future. This is great for people who like to bang out several posts in one sitting and then release them throughout the week (or month). The Editorial Calendar makes this a little bit easier by providing a visual calendar, which makes it more intuitive for those who want to publish a post every Monday and Wednesday for example.

Personally, I like like the drag and drop calendar interface because it allows me to plan my schedule, but then easily rearrange it as needed. For example, I may make a plan to write about certain topics as part of improving my search engine rankings for a particular set of search terms. I can map out my post topics for the coming month that will focus on those terms. Let’s pretend I publish new posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday night, the news is all-a-buzz of a new mega merger that results in the new TwiGoogleBookLink+ social network. Of course, I have to write about that and publish it on Wednesday. I have two posts (the mega merger news + my original post) or I can quickly drag my original Wednesday post to a different day.

If you combine the Editorial Calendar plugin with the ability to leave a post in Draft mode (so the public never sees it) you can come up with creative uses for the calendar beyond just scheduling blog posts.

Here is a short video from the plugin’s author demonstrating the features of the editorial calendar plugin:

The WordPress Editorial Calendar Screen Cast from Zack Grossbart on Vimeo.

Marketing Metrics – 3 Tips for Improving Your Marketing Plan

MarketingIterationWe are halfway through the year already, so now is a good time to review your marketing plan. Hopefully, you review your plan on a frequent basis. If not, today is a good day to start.

Reviewing your marketing metrics is an important part of reviewing and adjusting your marketing plan. Here are three tips that may help you get more from your marketing metrics:

Identify metrics to discard- I’m a big fan of metrics, so this one may seem a little odd. Once businesses start using metrics, I find that not having enough metrics is rarely a problem. It is common to have too many – to be measuring for the sake of measuring. If we have metrics that never spur us to action, why are we tracking them? Focus on the ones that help you improve your business.

Focus on what you can control – Metrics often focus on outcomes that you can influence but don’t control – sales, web visits, event attendance, etc. Don’t forget to also measure the activities you do control – things like blogging, participating in social media conversations, networking, etc. If you are doing the activities (networking) and not getting the desired result (sales), then it is time to evaluate your assumptions, skills and tactics to make the necessary adjustments.

Look for metrics that predict – Most metrics, particularly those tied to financial data, tell us what happened in the past. While this may be useful information, there is little we can do to change the past. What if you could find measurements that would help us see what is coming and take advantage of that knowledge? Do you receive more referrals when the number of referrals you give increases? What does the increase or decrease in the number of customer complaints tell you about next month’s sales expectations?

The planning process is more important than the plan. Use metrics in your planning process to improve your marketing and make the second half of this year even more successful than the first.

Professional Service Marketing Is a Process, Not A Checklist

Marketing Implementation CycleImplementing a system for marketing professional services is not about creating a checklist of to do items and then moving in a linear fashion through the list, checking off one item at a time. It’s not a “set it and forget it” type of process.

Rather, it is an iterative process where you create, edit, evaluate, improve, and delete over time.

Let’s look at creating marketing materials as an example. In Duct Tape Marketing we advocate creating a marketing kit, a collection of educational marketing materials that can be used in a variety of settings. When you begin installing your marketing system, you create a baseline set of materials that go into your marketing kit. Creating a marketing kit is not an item that you check off of your list and never visit again. With each campaign you look to your marketing kit for materials you can use. You identify new materials you need to create. When you create materials for a campaign, you should consider how you may be able to re-purpose them and and add them to your kit. As your kit grows, you will find pieces that you no longer use, or no longer fit your marketing strategy as it grows and matures.

The same thing goes for lead generation campaigns. You don’t sit down and implement all of your lead generation (referral, advertising, and PR) campaigns at once. You typically pick one campaign, get it up and running, and then put it into “maintenance mode” so it continues to execute while you begin to implement your next campaign.

In my opinion, the only way to keep this iterative process on track while managing all of your other responsibilities is to 1) set aside time (use a marketing calendar) to consistently work on your marketing system and 2) have a process in place for reviewing, evaluating, adjusting, and implementing the next steps in your strategic marketing plan.

Think of marketing is something you do, rather than something to get done.

Strategic Marketing Plans – More important than ever

In Duct Tape Marketing, we are always stressing the core principle of “Strategy Before Tactics”. I believe this is important now as it has ever been. I say that because I also believe it is easier than ever to get caught up in the “marketing idea of the week” syndrome.

Everyday we hear about a new tool that will make it easier to get our message out, easier to connect with customers, and easier to sell more stuff. The problem is, without a strategy, every idea sounds like it “could work” and if we are not careful, we can spend all of our time chasing shiny objects without actually being effective in marketing our business.

Your marketing strategy lays the foundation for everything else you will be doing in your marketing (and your business). It defines who you serve, what problems you solve, and how you solve them differently from everyone else.

Then comes the tricky part – putting your strategy into action. In order to get from strategy to implementation, I believe every professional service firm needs the following components in their marketing system:

  1. Marketing Content – that is educational, builds trust, and a system for publishing it consistently.
  2. Lead Generation Tactics
    1. Inbound tactics – these are all of the tactics (SEO, local search, social media, etc.) that help you “get found” by people who are looking for the products and services you offer.
    2. Outbound tactics- while inbound marketing gets the lion’s share of the press these days, there is still a place for outbound marketing – as long as it follows the 2-step or direct response approach.
  3. Follow Up System – more complex and\or expensive your products and services tend to have longer buying cycles. It’s important to make sure that once someone finds you, you maintain your “top of mind” status so that when they are ready to buy, they remember you.
  4. Technology tools – can help us be more efficient with our time and resources. Technology can help us be more effective, but it won’t do the job by itself. Technology touches overlaps with all of the other items on this list so perhaps it shouldn’t be a separate item. I do believe that the fewer of these tools you have and the more the work together, the better off you will be.
  5. Analytics & Reporting – In order to be effective, your marketing system needs to have feedback loops built in so you know what’s working, what isn’t, and what to do about it.
  6. Review Process – Marketing systems, like businesses, are not built overnight. The only way (IMO) to implement a long term marketing plan while being flexible enough to handle the day to day challenges that arise in business, is to have a well defined planning and review process that you follow on a consistent basis. If you want accountability in marketing, you need a standardized review process.

The other big piece to getting all of this implemented is having an integrated web presence that acts as your marketing hub and ties these components together.

I also believe you need a sales system, but that’s a little outside of the scope of this post.

Did I miss anything? I’ll be expanding on each of these items in upcoming posts, so let me know what you think.

Sales and Marketing Plan Pro from Palo Alto Software

Disclosure – I am part of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. Duct Tape Marketing and Palo Alto Software are Strategic partners. The marketing plan piece of this tool is based on the Duct Tape Marketing methodology. Long story short – I’m biased – but I’m not getting paid to write this.

The folks at Palo Alto Software are launching a new product today called Sales and Marketing Pro. This software builds upon their Marketing Plan Pro software – expanding to include more help for managing your sales planning and execution. Just like Marketing Plan Pro, Sales and Marketing pro combines great planning software with plenty of deals from “best in class” strategic partners who provide the tools you need to go from plan to implementation.

Sales and Marketing ProHere is the dashboard (click on the image for an expanded view) that you see when you launch Sales and Marketing Pro. The dashboard is divided into 3 main sections:

  1. Sales
  2. Marketing
  3. Toolbox

Sales

This section contains software tools to help manage your sales process. If you need a customer and contact management system, Palo Alto has teamed up with Batchbook to give you six month’s access to their social crm program for free. You’ll also receive a free, customized training session to help get you up and running.

Setting and managing sales appointments is one area where it is easy to spend a lot of time better spent elsewhere. That’s why I was happy to see that Sales and Marketing Pro includes a 3 month free trial for Appointment-Plus. Once you start setting appointments without the back and forth of multiple emails to find a mutually agreeable time, you’ll wish you had used this service sooner.

Want to focus on your sales forecast and milestones without having to create a complete marketing plan? The Sales Plan section allows you to do just that by breaking out the sales related sections of the full marketing plan software.

Marketing

Sales and Marketing Pro still helps you create a Duct Tape Marketing style marketing plan just like you can with Marketing Plan Pro. Start with the Basic Marketing Plan to get up and running quickly. Later, you can change to the Standard Marketing Plan as you need to add more detail to your plan. The software is loaded with examples and audio files to guide you along the way.

In addition to the planning software, Sales and Marketing Pro includes other marketing tools to help you implement your plan. Email plays a big role in small business marketing and Sales and Marketing Pro includes offers from Vertical Response to help you with your stay-in-touch marketing campaigns. Also included is a 3 month subscription to Email Center Pro – a  very cool tool that helps you stay on your email communications with your customers. If you have more than one person that handles email accounts like “info@” or “customerservice@”, then you will want to take a look at Email Center Pro.

And if you still need a website (you have one, don’t you?), they have even included a free domain name for 1 year along with a 3 month trial website hosting account from Network Solutions.

Tool Box

The toolbox is a collection of resources that will help you implement your sales and marketing plan.

In the Sales and Marketing Library you will find a collection of articles on everything from pricing, to customer service, to creating a marketing forecast. The library also includes 2 eBooks – one about social media and one about search engine optimization. Rounding out the library, there is a special offer to purchase a copy of the Duct Tape Marketing book for only the cost of shipping.

Sales and Marketing Pro is currently selling for $99.95 which includes free shipping and a 60 day money back guarantee. Learn more on the Sales and Marketing Pro website.

Stayed tuned as I plan to have a webinar demonstrating Sales and Marketing Pro along with some giveaways of the software.