Every Business Plan includes a Marketing Plan. Sounds scary and official, especially in Title Case! But it’s not. Marketing is something every one of us knows how to do. Because marketing is simply communication.
Internet marketing is an online conversation.
The rules of good writing apply.
Have a purpose. Be specific. Show don’t tell. Use an active voice. Know your audience. Avoid jargon. Be positive. Revise.
You did learn practical business skills in high school English class! We all fail to follow these rules when writing quickly, but if you repeat them incessantly in your head, as my mom did aloud every day, you will communicate more clearly. I’m violating the heck out of “show don’t tell” with this post, but hey it’s an introduction and I’ll show examples in other posts.
So the marketing plan… let’s break it down into basic investigative questions, the same questions you’d ask yourself before writing anything.
Why why why? I always start with why. Why am I writing this? Why are you reading this? Why are you starting a business? Why do you want a web presence?
Anyone who knows me knows that I’d rather play outside than sit in front of a computer, and is likely wondering why I’m doing this. My long-term goal is to write a book. The upcoming workshops are my market research. Yet I’m still asking myself “why” every day, especially when it’s sunny outside and I’m staring at a screen.
Who are you? Who are you talking to? Who are your friends? Who are your competitors?
- About – You should be able to summarize your business or organization in two sentences, and have a longer edition of “Our Story.” You need this all over the internet, and in press releases. Your About should include, and help you understand your most relevant keywords — which will also help you categorize your business and know what to write about on your website and social media.
- Audience – whenever you are writing, designing, sharing, always think, “who’s my audience?” and target your message accordingly. Microtargeting is a fancy word for communicating directly to a specific audience. When creating a Facebook ad, for example, you choose an audience based on demographics and/or interests. Your entire marketing plan should target specific demographics and interests.
- Partners – social media is really social networking. Have a list handy of companies and organizations that share your audiences, your interests, your demographics. Some will be strategic partners (eg a trade organization.) Some will be neighborhood friends (eg the local coffee shop.) Tag tag tag. Promote events together. Run contests together. Cooperative marketing is much more fun than slogging it alone.
What are your goals? Sure, we all want to make money with our businesses, but be specific! Are you online to communicate with existing customers? Acquire new customers? Non-profit fundraising? Find employees? Do market research? Crowd-source ideas?
- Keywords and Keyword Phrases – you’ve already started thinking about keywords in your WHO. Once you lay out your specific goals you can get detailed on your keywords. Spreadsheet it! Put it on Google Docs for you to constantly revise and share with your staff. Tools like SEMrush, KeywordShitter, and BuzzSumo are helpful in gauging search volume on keywords, finding related keywords, and knowing the current word buzz. Check your competitors’ and partners’ websites to see which phrases they are targeting. Ask your customers how they found you, what they were searching for, which words come to mind when they think of your brand. This keyword list is the foundation for your website content, pages and posts.
- Pages and Posts – which content/keywords should go on a website page? Which content/keywords should be the focus of a blog post? Website pages are where you put the long-term, core components of your business. The blog is where you get specific with timely topics. Example: Rolling Fatties’ restaurant menu is a page accessible on the top menu of their website, while “How to Cook Oat Groats from Maine Grains” is a blog post. In an ideal web world, food related blog posts would be excerpted on the menu page (it’s on Fatties co-owner Polly’s “to do” list, but feeding us customers is a higher priority!)
Where is your audience, geographically and on which platforms? Millennials on Instagram? Gen Xers and grandparents on Facebook? Networkers on LinkedIn? Travelers using Bing? Are there enthusiast websites or Facebook groups relevant to your work?
- Google – everyone uses Google and Google knows everything about everyone (we’ll save Analytics for another post.) This is why SEO matters. This is why Google My Business is your number one marketing priority. This is why your keyword list is the foundation of your online marketing plan.
- Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, social media is where you engage in conversation with your audience, where you build community, where you network with your partners. Sometimes it’s as simple as responding. Always respond. The more comments, the more people you reach. As with SEO (aka doing what Google wants,) the various social media algorithms are based on trying to show people what they want to see. The more you engage, respond, comment, the more people that you will reach, especially those with shared interests. Interact as your business: comment on partners’ Facebook posts as your page, participate in groups as your page, like and comment on Instagram photos, YouTube videos. You build followers by being visible.
Integrating your social with your website will aid your community building efforts. Embed Facebook posts or YouTube videos in your blog posts (copy the embed code found in share options, as I did with the Orange Cat post.) Put those pretty Instagram photos on pages, see the bottom of the Cold Spring Ranch homepage. Get that “Our Story” YouTube video front and center. Increasing your social engagement boosts your SEO efforts. Omnipotent Google sees all.
- Online Communities – before there was social media there were internet forums where fans of a sport, hobby, lifestyle, or any interest gather. These online communities are the perfect space to get to know your audience, do market research, and build your customer base. The advertising is generally inexpensive, but better than advertising, participation only costs you time. Finding these enthusiast websites will also help you build your keyword list. A few examples: ScubaBoard, IH8MUD, Expedition Portal.
WHEN & HOW
Every business owner is overwhelmed by what they could be doing to improve their business. You can’t do it all. You’ll never finish. Setting priorities is a skill that you need to hone to remain sane. Be realistic. Add a few hours or days to the time frame for any task. It will always take longer than you think it will.
While priorities should be set according to your goals and the best way to reach those goals, we’re humans with emotions. You can’t sustain the passion for your venture with a cold, rational approach. Sometimes you need to do what you want to do. I like to write in the mornings. So I write blog posts in the morning. I have no brain capacity in the evening, so I scroll through Instagram liking and commenting with emojis. Eventually you have to do the tedious stuff, but it doesn’t hurt to save it for when there’s nothing you really want to be doing. Or find a partner who finds those tasks interesting. I got lucky on that front.
Ask Me Anything: Marketing Plans are dynamic documents. Let’s talk about yours!
(In the comment box, please. Email feels too much like work.)
Recommended Reading for Good Writing: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott