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hether your business is still a glimmer of an idea or you’ve got years of experience, a critical part of ensuring ongoing success lies in your marketing plan. With small businesses constantly facing challenges like shifting customer awareness, market instabilities, and competition from larger, household names, keeping your company top-of-mind for your target customers and prospects is a must. But marketing to those audiences can’t be done sporadically or spontaneously; it requires a plan. Here are 5 ways you can ensure your marketing goes to plan– and that your plan drives measurable results.
1. Be mindful of the budget
Your budget is the financial centerpiece of your business plan – and should also be top-of-mind when you are considering your marketing. While there are a variety of viewpoints around the percentage of revenue (for instance, the Small Business Association notes that while the standard is usually 7-8% for small businesses, small business marketing budgets can actually vary from 2% of sales all the way up to 20% when driving awareness for a new business, product or service), the reality is there is no “one size fits all” solution. Newer businesses or businesses trying to reach new markets will need to invest more than established businesses.
Regardless of exactly how much you set aside, dedicating a percentage of your projected revenue to your marketing with an automated Novo Reserve ensures you are able to reach your audience regularly and consistently throughout the year– a key component of any successful marketing plan.
2. Know your audience
You’ve got the dollars set aside for your marketing plan, so how do you begin? Start by identifying your ideal customer or supporter– what do you know about them? Every marketing tactic you choose and message you formulate will be done with this target market segment in mind, so having a clear vision of exactly who you’d like to reach is key. One easy way to do this is by thinking about the “regulars” or favorites who already support your business– what do they like, what resonates with them, how do they interact with you and your brand? Experienced marketers often think of this type of work as building a “persona” to ensure your marketing stays engaging and relevant to your target audience.
3. Test, evaluate, and test again
Digital marketing has expanded significantly over the last several years. While email marketing is still a powerful tool for small businesses (55% of consumers rank it as their preferred way to hear from businesses), the landscape also includes multiple social media platforms, virtual events, SMS text messaging, and more. So how do you determine what your marketing mix should be?
The biggest way to reach the exact mix and messaging that works for your audience is by testing, refining and monitoring. Utilize any and all reporting available to you to determine engagement (like clicks, responses, shares), disengagement (unsubscribes, unfollows, negative feedback), and conversions (sales, event attendees, etc.). When you try something new, always check the impact it had and let that inform your next move, whether it’s changing your messaging or expanding into a new digital channel.
4. Plan for what happens after the purchase
Your relationship with your audience doesn’t stop when they become a customer, and your marketing plan shouldn’t, either. Just as your marketing outreach seeks to turn prospects into customers, you should also include efforts aimed at turning your customers into your advocates– loyal supporters who will share your content and evangelize your brand.
Consider segmenting your customers from your prospects in your digital communications so you can communicate with them differently and nurture them into powerful word-of-mouth marketers for your business. Asking them for feedback, featuring their stories in newsletters and social media, and offering them exclusive deals or access are all good ways to help foster that relationship.
5. Be open to change
If there’s one thing small business owners have to be, it’s adaptable. And while your marketing plan should give you a general path to follow through the year, it also needs the ability to adapt. (For example, think about how much everyone’s marketing changed during the pandemic!) Continually learning from your tests, gathering inspiration and information from small business experts, and keeping an eye on market trends can all help you fine-tune your plan quarter to quarter or month to month.
Ultimately, your marketing plan will be a one-of-a-kind strategy that represents your unique business and brand, as well as your unique customers and their needs. Putting the time, effort and budget toward a proper plan can help ensure measurable return on investment from your marketing efforts– and success in the future.
Dave Charest is Director of Small Business Success at Constant Contact, the online marketing leader trusted by millions of small businesses. In his role, Dave acts as an educator and an advocate for small business leaders, marketing professionals, and nonprofits by providing them with practical marketing advice that can help them achieve their goals. He is a dynamic leader, speaker, creator, and award-winning marketer who strives to inspire small businesses by simplifying the complex world of online marketing.
Constant Contact delivers for small businesses and nonprofits with powerful tools that simplify and amplify digital marketing. Whether it's driving sales, growing a customer base or engaging an audience, we deliver the performance and guidance to build strong connections and generate powerful results.