How to put together a marketing strategy is a pretty massive topic for a relatively short blog. There are tons of templates online you can use. Lots of marketing consultants can offer assistance and guidance for a fee.
But if that’s not your bag, then maybe this is the blog for you. It won’t answer all your questions about marketing planning but hopefully this blog will ensure you develop a marketing plan of action that is on solid ground and includes practical activities rather than ending up with your final plan reading like a thesis never to be used and only there to be a place you put your coffee mug.
If you want a marketing plan that works, you need to start with customers. Love em or hate em, they pay our mortgages. So you’d better understand them and, more particularly, what keeps them up at night that you can help them with.
Ask yourself some questions:
- How much do I know about my current customers and their business?
- What motivates my customers to buy my and similar services?
- What Challenges, issues or threats do they have?
- Have I actually asked them what their issues or interests are?
- What problems do they need answers to?
- Where do they go for information, education, communication and entertainment?
There are lots more questions. I don’t have time to detail them all here. But the key is to really grasp what your clients need across their business. Where do they go on and offline for information? Who do they engage with in social media? Can you be present and visible in those situations? Can you provide answers in any of those circumstances?
Competition is rife. Choice is ever increasing. Prices pressure is increasing. So, it’s important to become a ‘trusted adviser’. Can you become the “go to” person in your sector? Why bother? Because it is easier when they come to you rather than you targeting them! And you can do that when you are seen as credible. It’s also much cheaper to acquire a customer in this way than to spend lots of money on advertising, direct mail and so on. I’m not saying you don’t have to spend. Indeed some of the ideas below cost money. However, it’s about focused spend rather than scattergun.
So, let’s take a practical example. A software company wants to target the CTO’s of large financial companies in the UK. This sector is its primary target audience. Now clearly we don’t know the specifics here. However, the question is to try to identify what issues these CTO’s face. Maybe it’s productivity. Maybe it’s functionality. Perhaps it’s an inability to deliver solutions. Possibly complex compliance and FSA issues. Whatever it is, let’s look at where the CTO’s may look for information or ask a subordinate to look.
- LinkedIn – maybe they may ask contacts for recommendations or intros. Perhaps they will review content and posts on a group. Possibly, they will ask a question about others having the same issue.
- Google search – they may task one of their team to review solutions to the problem by some search online
- Industry sources – associations and magazines have to provide input on trending topics. Perhaps they will scour these sites for inspiration.
- Vendor sites – if it’s Sage or Microsoft or some other well known software, maybe they will go to the vendor site and look for accredited suppliers.
- Twitter – maybe they will search twitter for trending topics and see who is majoring on this subject
- Seminars / events – is anyone running workshops, seminars or webinars on the subject matter that they might attend? Is there a forthcoming exhibition?
The above list is not meant to be exhaustive. I’m sure we could add other areas where the CTO might go for information, education and communication on the subject matter.
The questions are:
- How can you be present at their time of need?
- What communications are required for your business to be visible?
- What are the most likely effective channels of the above and what others are available?
- How can we become the “go to” people for advice and input?
Thinking through the marketing plan from a target audience and problem perspective allows you to focus your energy, activity and budget on where it will give most impact at the lowest cost. So, in this instance, you might consider some of the following (again not exhaustive):
- Write some articles or white papers on the problem and solutions generally and not only from your software perspective. Post these on your blog and tweet them plus ensure that they are posted on LinkedIn and elsewhere.
- Create a video talking about the subject and also post online to YouTube and social media
- Have the articles and videos distributed on online PR newswires
- Place the articles as advertorials with back links in key online media magazines for the CTO
- Respond to tweets and posts around the issue in social media
- Run some seminars or webinars around the subject matter
- Exhibit at industry exhibitions
- Run a poll on LinkedIn about the issue and respond to comments
- Host a round table breakfast for CTO’s with a speaker on the topic from a respected source
- Make sure you work towards accreditation in your field (e.g. Become a sage gold partner) as large organisations won’t take risks
- Work hard on your content on your website and off site. Whilst there is some debate about the effectiveness of keywords, it is still crucial to write copy that is relevant for your audience. If you do this, your search ranking on the topics that affect your buyers will rise and they will find you more often.
- Sponsor an event with a number of industry speakers
It’s fair to say this isnt everything you could do and budget dictates. However, the principle is simple. For each of your primary target audiences (buyers / decision makers), work out where they go for information, communication, education and entertainment. Try to upweight your visibility in those places. Do this for each of your prime buyers and identify their issues. Focus on these and find a way of positioning your solutions around these. It will save you money and focus your marketing plan.
Ultimately, the recession means we all need to focus on how to put together a cost effective marketing strategy.
Plan the above correctly and you will see the results. Focus on customers and their needs rather than your products and services and you will increase the level of new business coming to you rather than having to spend a disproportionate amount money of money chasing new clients in the same undifferentiated way as your competitors. Get customers to come to you.