"What so many small businesses need more than anything is ... a plan."
~ Brian Clark, Copyblogger
Looking for the great shortcut to immense success with online marketing? Sorry, wrong article.
Ready to roll up your sleeves and get busy forging a plan to create the kind of content that will produce a traffic, lead and sales-building inbound marketing program? Perfect. Here we go.
What's the plan?
"The Plan" or "The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing," is a concise and information-packed eBook I produced to acquaint you with the fundamentals of new media marketing. Despite its low price, zero, it's a thorough preview of all the essential elements you'll use to make online marketing the catalyst of your business. Read the sucker.
What's the planner?
"The Planner" or "The Planner for Growing Your Business with Effective Online Marketing," is your essential sequel to "The Plan." It's a strategic workbook. Snag a free copy of it as a PDF and then click the link within it when you're ready to begin planning.
You'll land at a page that's an interactive tool created to help you collect your thoughts. The planner maps everything out for you. I ask a series of questions. You answer them. When I feel you may need an example or ideas to tackle a task, I provide them.
There's more to it than I've written in this post, but the passages that follow will definitely get you primed for the planner.
Define your objectives. The planner begins by asking you to document 3 to 5 goals you aim to achieve with online marketing. It kills me how often businesses monkey around with marketing before objectives are in place. I won't let this happen to you.
Familiar with "SMART" goals? SMART stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Eight common objectives are offered along with a SMART example.
Describe the sales cycle. Where do new prospects come from? How do you define a lead? What's the first stage of a sale in your model? Try? Buy? What do you charge for your product or service? These are fairly basic questions, but worthy of spelling out for me, your team, yourself, whoever is to be involved.
List your marketing assets. You might call this an audit. You'll scour your website and all corporate communications and make a list, We're looking for stuff like this:
Audit your market. You'll perform a competitive analysis. Easy-peasy with the web at your fingertips, right? You'll document your competitors' strengths and weaknesses and define how they are similar to and different from your company.
Develop your value proposition. I know; this can be perplexing. The planner aims to simplify it. It asks you to state the most pressing problem you solve. Your value proposition should include a benefit-just one. I've included a good example to help you craft yours.
Describe your brand's personality. I've turned this into a fun and easy exercise. The idea is to begin thinking about the voice and tone of your marketing communications. Again, I give a detailed example: Starbucks, which I liken to Volvo. It'll make good sense when you see it.
Determine key performance indicators (KPIs). If we're going to grow your business with online marketing, we're going to use numbers to gauge the ascent. We need to know where we are today and then keep a keen eye on the numbers as they get bigger.
No need to panic. The planner lists seven, which should help you form a great foundation for the analytics that will be critical to your perpetual improvement.
Make a content creation roster. Who's going to create your content? You might have internal resources, contractors or gaps to fill. Let's make this clear and address any concerns in the early stages of planning.
Create customer personas. I find marketers either fear or neglect this step. Major no-no. You're going to create fictional characters that truly are the types of men and women who give you their credit card number. I'll tell you exactly what we need to know and how it's done.
Select a content management system (CMS). What's it going to be? WordPress? Another CMS? Do you have questions about content management systems? Let's get them answered.
What looks good to you? You probably have some ideas about what you want your new website to look like. Do tell.
How can you deliver social proof? Are you familiar with this new media term, social proof? Prospects value the testimonials, customer stories, reference accounts, awards and so forth you can offer. The planner should help identify the type of proof points you have or will need to get.
Ready to blog? Do you have an editorial plan? Have you identified who will contribute posts? There's a lot to blogging. We'll want to go over the tactics that will make blogging the cornerstone of your plan.
Identify your keywords for SEO. Two lists are required. (1) Seed keywords, the short ones that define your company (e.g. attorney) and (2) the "long tails," three or more words that will give you a far greater chance of ranking high (e.g. Arizona real estate attorney). The planner offers tips to get you started.
Put SEO tools in place. You'll use tools of the trade to establish and use keywords throughout your site. We'll get a read on what you have, know, or need to have and know to get the job done.
Select social media networks. Yes, social media is an essential part of the plan. We need to look at which networks your prospects are using and how you'll connect with them there.
List industry influencers. Every niche has authorities. On this page, you'll list the companies and individuals with an authoritative voice. We'll also document the publications and websites where the leaders are found.
Plan offers for lead capture. What offers can you put behind forms to capture emails and additional information from prospects? You may have some gaps here, so we'll look at a list of ideas and work to develop the ones with the best potential.
Plan landing pages. It's absolutely essential to create effective landing pages. Do you have a plan in place and a service that makes it easy? You'll also want to serve thank you pages and auto-responder emails to those that complete your forms. It's also highly useful to test different approaches.
ID opportunities to expand your reach. I can offer you a great variety of ideas for expanding your digital footprint and reaching more prospects. On this page of the planner, you're asked what online resources you're using in addition to your own website and blog.
Plan email marketing to nurture leads. The biggest mistake I see inbound marketers make is not having email marketing programs. My questions on this page are designed to gauge where you currently stand with email marketing, your key to converting prospects to customers and brand advocates.
Make analytics choices. Do you have Google Analytics in place? Are you considering a marketing automation solution? You can't manage what you don't measure.
Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing Institute, professes while nearly 95% of companies now practice some form of content marketing, less than half have a documented strategy. Therefore it should come as no surprise, the majority of content marketers still either aren't confident their efforts are worthwhile or they simply don't know.
Start planning to succeed.
Yes indeed, this stuff takes work. It's a complex beast. The only way to tame it is to forge a plan, put it in place, and learn from your successes and failures.
Successful online marketers understand the immense value of planning and strategy. If you don't think it through and put it down, your chances for enjoying great ROI are pretty thin.
It's time to get busy.
And get started on an online marketing plan that will lower your marketing costs and increase your traffic, leads and sales.