Marketing Plan Steps:
- Create marketing goals.
- Know your audience.
- Find the channels with which your audience engages.
- Create the marketing offer.
Create Marketing Goals
It’s easy to fall into a creative mindset and start planning for large colorful magazine ads, YouTube channels, and branding yourself as an industry thought leader. I’m guilty of this myself, because it’s fun! But these creative activities won’t do any good without some preliminary work that will help aim them in the right direction.
Leave creative thinking for the future. Now is the time to focus on numbers. In doing so, think of marketing goals like you would of any business goals.
- How many new clients do you want to acquire in a quarter/six months/a year?
- What percentage of your new revenue do you want marketing to generate?
- Sales of what services do you want to grow and by how much?
- What percentage of customers do you hope to retain?
Asking these questions will help you find the right message and most effective channels. It will also help you create a value proposition that speaks to your audience and will drive them through the buyer’s journey.
Know Your Audience
Before you create your message and valuable content, think about who is going to see it. The right value proposition delivered to the wrong audience at best won’t have any effect and at worst will annoy the people with whom you want to engage.
As an IT industry pro, you may think that you are very aware of who your customer base is. But I encourage you to A) question your confidence and B) do your research every year. Things tend to change, especially in the IT industry.
Event four years ago, MSPs mainly targeted IT Managers at SMB prospects and CIOs at enterprise prospects. Those people were solely responsible for choosing the technology and IT partners for their companies. During this time, the biggest obstacle was convincing the CEO and/or CFO to sign off on the budget. Today, IT departments are not making these decisions by themselves. This study by IDG shows how many LOBs are involved in IT decision making. This means you have to revisit your marketing message, language and channels in order to reach all of the people involved and grab their attention.
The easiest way to revisit your audience is to talk to your existing customers. Their business is influenced by the same trends as others in their industry. By understanding your current customers and how they operate, you can better understand your potential leads. Ask them questions:
- What departments in your company are dependent on what technology?
- How do they usually know when it’s time to upgrade?
- Who initiates the research for the new technology when it’s time to upgrade?
- Who creates and/or approves the budget for the new technology purchase?
- How can I speak to them?
Maintaining close relationships with your customers and asking these questions will help you acquire more valuable data than will any market research you can find.
Business roles are not the only thing to consider when you choose your target audience. To complete the picture, you must think about characteristics of their business, including but not limited to the following:
- Vertical market
- Company size
- Number of locations
Find the Channels with Which Your Audience Is Engaged
It’s usually not good enough to dedicate all your marketing efforts solely to your website and corporate social media accounts. You can get away with it only in one of the following cases:
- You command the top-ranking link for certain keywords in online searches.
- People know about your business and how to find it online.
To make the above statements true of you, you’ve got some work to do. You need to find the online and offline media your target audience reads, professional events they visit, and thought leaders they follow. These resources are essential for your marketing plan.
The two simplest ways to find these resources are as follows:
- Interview LOBs at your existing customers.
- Conduct a simple online search.
After you’ve done your research, organize your findings in spreadsheets where you can store any additional information about these resources, like key contacts or critical dates.
Create the Marketing Offer
Now you know who your targets are and where to reach them, but what do you tell them?
We all know how to engage our prospects in small talk. This handy skill helps sales people gently direct their prospects toward a specific goal, by allowing them to make a personal connection and really listen to the other person.
Unfortunately, this strategy won't help you in marketing. You don't have the opportunity to make a genuine personal connection with everyone who sees your "pitch." With marketing, you’re speaking to a wide audience, and you have only one shot to grab their attention. If you miss, the conversation is over before it’s started. You must figure out how to spark that immediate interest!
The best way to do that is to tell them something relevant to their occupation. Most LOBs don’t think about technology the same way you and CIOs think about it. For them, technology is an important but often secondary tool to get their primary job done. To get their attention, you need to flip your message and put their specific job interest in the beginning. For example, instead of saying “we’ve got the best technology for your job,” try saying “you need specific help with your job – we can help you find the right tool.” It might look somewhat like the following:
- CFOs - Tell them that you know how painful IT budgeting can be and offer a great solution for it!
- CEOs - Tell them that the digital business transformation is not a rocket science and that you can help them with it in 1-2-3!
- COOs - Tell them about the importance of data protection for their business.
- CMOs - Tell them that the magic of gathering and analyzing ALL marketing and sales data is easy, and you have an affordable solution for it!
You’ve Got Your Plan
After you’ve done all the above, you must be able to outline your plan in a document that should include the following points:
- To increase the sales of service XYZ by 15% in the next quarter, (the goal) …
- … we will market it to the CEOs of the 300+ employee healthcare organizations in Texas (the audience) …
- … by offering a free assessment and a digital transformation roadmap (marketing offer) …
- … with a full-page ad in healthcare magazines, banner ads in healthcare news websites, and paid search ads with the keyword “digital transformation healthcare.” (marketing channels)
If you are happy with the plan, then you can budget it. We’ll cover that in the next post.