20047609413_1f37163fe8_zThe reasons for constructing a thorough Business Plan for any commercial venture are to increase efficiencies and profits whilst reducing stress and losses. Continuing last week’s article about the significance and function of marketing for all businesses, and it’s associated though different role from sales; this article will give an oversight of the on-line opportunities.

Marketing is fundamentally about the strategy of exciting interest in your product, service or company.Sales, is better thought of as the tactics you employ to achieve actual orders. It follows that without a clear strategy in place, gaining good margin sales will be increasingly difficult, time consuming and unnecessarily costly.

Your marketing messages must convey more than just who you are and what your business does. It must communicate how the use of your products or services is or will be; meaningful, beneficial and enjoyable for the user/buyer. It must demonstrate something that is specific and relevant to the user. Simply being bigger, faster or louder than the competition is no longer enough. Marketing must demonstrate how your business can connect with the user in their world, with their perceptions, and meet their values.

Use of the internet and social media is part of this process of engagement with your market place. Just like printed hard copy off-line brochures or flyers, use of social media also has a cost, both in labour terms as well as monthly fees for software management such as InfusionSoft or MailChimp etc.

Separate cost justification for marketing isolated from strictly ‘sales’ costs is almost a ‘dark art’, in so far as the two functions of a well organised and efficient business should be practically inseparable; working in harmony. It takes clear, strategic and focused leadership from the business owners for this to work. Best practice shows that those businesses with a clear strategic focus, convey a clear, honest and appropriate message to their market.

In a revealing 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision-makers,

  • 73% said that their marketing officers lacked business credibility or the ability to generate sufficient business growth.
  • 72% indicated they were tired of being asked for funds without being given any reassurance how this would generate incremental business.
  • 77% were not interested in brand equity that can’t be directly linked to recognised financial metrics.

To me this report signalled a clear lack of strategic clarity at the head of the businesses and a lack of understanding that marketing can no longer be separated from sales. Marketing is a function of good management not a bolt-on excuse for a party at the race track or footie match.

Effective marketing starts with a considered, well-informed marketing strategy. To develop your marketing strategy, identify your overarching business goals, so that you can then define a set of marketing goals to support them. Your business goals might include: increasing awareness of your products and services, or entering a new market sector etc. A good marketing strategy helps you define your vision, your mission and outlines the steps you need to take to achieve these goals. It is a wide-reaching and comprehensive strategic planning tool that:

  • describes your business and its products and services
  • explains the position and role of your products and services in the market
  • profiles your customers and your competition
  • identifies the marketing tactics you will use
  • allows you to build a marketing plan and measure its effectiveness.

A marketing strategy sets the overall direction and goals for your marketing, and is therefore different from a marketing plan, which outlines the specific actions you will take to implement your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy could be developed for the next few years, while your marketing plan usually describes stepped positions to be achieved in the current year.

On-line marketing will include all of the following;

  • A website
  • A social media presence
  • Content marketing.

It is no longer sufficient to just have a landing web page. The website must entice prospects to linger and learn more about your team, your values, your products and services. A functioning website:

  • should encapsulate the values, capabilities and concerns of your business.
  • It will seek to directly address the issues within your marketing strategy.
  • Any buttons or functions on the site should be limited to achieving your marketing goals.
  • Too many distractions and the site becomes a drain on your resources.
  • It should always include a button or link that encourages and enables visitors to leave their contact name, phone number and email address.
  • For many trades the site will act as a direct sales opportunity, so it should include the ability to order and pay on-line.
  • Apart from PayPal and Google pay, also look at Swipe for on screen secure card payments or PaySmart for regular payments such as monthly fees.

Your presence on social media should be governed by the same logic outlined above; it is the focus that is different. LinkedIn for example is great for locating and targeting specific people within your prospect companies, it is a professional and business orientated platform. If your market is consumer led or aspirational, look more closely at Facebook for one2many value positioning. Create a separate presence for your business and drive it’s activities in the markets you wish to trade in. Ensure you have a link that takes followers back to your website where they can leave their details if they are interested in your products or services.

Armed with prospect’s name and email and/or phone number, you have secured their permission to send them selective and targeted marketing or sales information thus:

  • Step one the marketing strategy,
  • step two the marketing plan,
  • step three the function built in to the website or social media platform,
  • step four the enquiry page leading to sales opportunities.

Content marketing involves creating content such as tutorials, email newsletters, publications, e-books, free reports, or blogs to educate new and existing clients in your area of expertise. If you structure these documents in a way they can be downloaded, once again the function allows you to capture the contact details of these interested prospects

Remember marketing is a function of well balanced management; it leads to sales opportunities for existing as well as new customers. It is part of the toolbox that form the basis of a well researched and implemented Business Plan.

I believe all knowledge that helps businesses progress should be available to all, FREE at the point of need

Thank you for reading this blog and please feel free to add any comments to the discussion.