In 2018 I took no less than 10 courses in marketing. I went to conferences, took the online courses for branding, Instagram, newsletters and met with marketing professionals to rebuild my website. I was drowning in marketing information and I was more confused than when I started.
I realized my business size landed in the gap of marketing. We are too small to hire a professional marketing manager and too large to let marketing stay as something we do when we are on Facebook. We are in the gap where we must cobble together a plan and fit it together like puzzle pieces. If you are in that $250K to $2mil range, you are in the same gap as me. We are most likely our own marketing team from strategist to implementer and marketing easily slips through the cracks and is last on the to-do list. Talking to other small businesses in my downtown community, I see the panic as they try to figure out how to read the latest algorithm from Facebook to leverage their posts and get more feet into their store. Start talking about a newsletter to them and boom, anxiety attack. There are so many parts to marketing this year that it can become a full-time job, and for next year, it’s just going to get more diverse in options, so let me show how we can unravel this marketing maze together.
What Does YOUR Customer Want?
The narrower your focus, the more successful your marketing will be. I know that may sound counter intuitive, but it works, believe me. Focus on a narrow band and woo them with your marketing. When you have success there, choose another narrow band to entice into your business with unique messages just for them. My initial challenge with this idea was…What market? Who is my main customer? What inspires them to buy from me? My questions were answered, and the world totally changed when I read Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. I love the way he tells the story about building your overall customer messaging. He uses the hero’s journey in creating your messaging. This biggest premise of his method is to make the customer the hero, not your product or business. Your customer wants to feel like the hero in their own life, they want you to be the guide, not the competition. You will discover the entire process of creating all your brand messaging.
Once you know that, the rest of your efforts will reuse these phrases in every aspect of your marketing, thus creating a consistent message that becomes recognizable. This cuts down on taxing your creative brain on every ad, blog, and social media post. He asks: “Does your marketing pass the grunt test?… Could a caveman look at your website (store or marketing) and immediately grunt what you offer?” There are three questions your branding must answer to get any customer engaged in your brand. To get to the grunt.
What do you offer?
How will it make my life better?
What do I need to do to buy it?
The author helps you to sketch the character of your customer and define what they want. When you know what they want, you can define what external problem prevents them from having what they want. These two definitions are key to communicating the empathy and authority your business has over their issue. When you communicate that with a plan to achieving what your customer wants, you now have a winning brand message and a clear call to action. That call to action shows them how they can be successful with your product and how not having it can lead to failure. This is how every successful branding works. Every marketing book and class I have gone through has you create a description or avatar of your ideal customers. This is standard procedure to create those marketing messages. Go ahead and build this around your favorite group of customers who financially support your business. It’s OK if it does not encompass everyone who shops with you, they will be next on your marketing list. Your goal now is to get more of the top-tier customers to help your business grow.
In many classes I have taken, there is a group of business owners that didn’t want to lose sight of the customers that need them but are not the money spenders in the business. These owners are dedicated to serve this group and feel that they are the reason why they are in business. They felt that taking the focus off these customers was being disloyal. It’s not. If you get clear on the customers who want to pay for your products or services, target your marketing to them to create revenue and profit growth, then you can better serve those customers you feel protective of. You are not leaving them behind and there is no need to feel disloyal.
Finding Your Marketing Streams
When you start thinking about where and when to push your brand, everyone talks a lot about social media. It is the least expensive when you do all the posting yourself and feels like an easy win. The conversation must include social media, but to begin and end your marketing there leaves out many more options that frankly can have a bigger conversion rate to sales in your business. Find your healthy mix of marketing streams and don’t try and take on all of them at once. When you cast too big of a net at one time, there is no way to see what really worked and should be repeated. When you are starting your marketing journey, ask every customer what inspired them to come in today. Where did they see you and what inspires them? You can be putting out the best videos to YouTube in the world, but they are only valuable if they are being watched. When I was working on my plan for our shop store, I discovered 50 percent of the foot traffic came from people walking back to their car from local restaurants. That changed my plan from buying ads in the local paper into co-promoting with local restaurants. Think about these standard marketing streams and where your customers may be looking and pleased to find your products:
Social Media – This is its own category and there is a lot of competition for attention. You can find good information about all platforms to help you make your decisions from Pew Research.
Facebook – Do you know that 68% of all adults using social media are on Facebook with 2.8 million active users. That is a galaxy of people and getting their attention is a long game plan!
Instagram – Do you know this photo and video-sharing social networking app has 1bn monthly active users where 60 percent of users log in daily? Not to mention the U.S. leads the chart on Instagram with 110m users, followed by Brazil with 66m, and India with 64m. Also, the larger demographic group are males between 18-24 years, and 90 percent of Instagram users are younger than 35 years old. WOW!
YouTube – Every minute, 400 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube, making it the second most visited site after Google, and the second most popular social media platform with 1.9 billion
Twitter – This chronological feed is most popular with people in their 20’s. This stream is more text-based with limited text.
LinkedIn – A business-to-business social media platform that is growing in popularity. It is geared toward business owners and professionals who are building custom networking groups.
Pinterest –Essentially a visual search engine with over 175 billion items pinned. It is considered a new way to shop for products with 61 percent of pinners, purchasing an item they saw on Pinterest.
Snapchat – Popular with the younger users. It has over 186 million active daily users. If this is your demographic, this has become a powerful marketing tool for social media influencers!
Google Ads – Google is the largest search engine by far and they have a complex programming for advertising. The targeting is so specific, your conversion rate per click is significantly more effective. That sophistication comes at a price, but these are powerful dollars spent.
Email Marketing – This is the cheapest way to build your marketing. Starting with a mailing list created with
the customers in your store, you can target sales with almost no cost. Make
sure your email is purposeful and specific or you quickly land in the spam or promotions category.
TV & Radio Advertising – This is a bigger ticket item that many businesses skip over, yet there are more options to check out. Podcasts, YouTube videos and shows, Pandora, Spotify, and other streaming music apps.
Print Advertising – Magazines, newspapers, flyers, postcards are all in this stream. The traditional way of advertising could work for some niche markets (if that’s your case), which it works for in a lot
of cases, but don’t miss the opportunity to also expose your brand in wider markets. Well-placed and purposeful ads can support all other marketing as well and be the final push a customer needs to finally buy. Pick what excites you and is easier for you to tackle. If you hate social media to the core of your soul, don’t start there, have fun elsewhere.
Turning it Into a Plan
This is the hardest part, turning all that you know into an executable plan. When I was rolling all my ideas into a workable plan, I had a wall of post-it notes, color-coded and I kept re-organizing them into insanity. Then I grabbed Breakthrough Marketing Plans by Tim Calkins and hit the jackpot for creating a useable plan. The author is a clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and admittedly, this marketing plan book is tailored for creating a corporate marketing presentation. I was able to cherry-pick some powerful points, and it brought all of my sticky notes into alignment. I was able to sort through what was a goal/objective, an initiative, and a tactic, then align them to make sense. This framework called GOST it’s simple to follow:
Primary Objective – Strategic Initiative 1 – Tactic
Strategic Initiative 2 – Tactic
Secondary Objective – Strategic Initiative 3 – Tactic
The GOAL-OBJECTIVE is what you are trying to achieve
This is not a value or principle, this is the desired result, preferable in financial terms or specific numbers. The question your plan needs to answer is “How are you going to make money here?” Our primary objective is to increase our customer base by 100 stores to increase revenue to $1.4million in 2019. Our secondary objective is to retain 90 percent of our current customers in 2019. These are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-specific) goals.
The Strategic Initiatives are the heart of the goal
They are what you will do to achieve those goals. The author says that a good strategic initiative has several characteristics:
Characteristic 1: It is clear and in plain language.
Characteristic 2: It is action-oriented and should start with a verb.
Characteristic 3: It is measurable so you can evaluate it to see if you are making headway against your initiative.
Characteristic 4: It should directly support the objectives and have linkage across the plan.
You only need three initiatives, as any organization can only do a few big pushes within a year. Any more than three, something gets dropped. Less than three you may not get the bandwidth of ideas needed to achieve your goals. The Tactics are your specific actions. These are the programs and ideas that will bring your plan to life. They are what needs to happen. The ad campaigns, social media plans, blogs, website, product improvements, and promotions you plan to do. They must align with a strategic initiative or they will be an effort that is not in line with your objectives. In practice, our marketing plan for our wholesale business looks like this:
Increase our customer base by100 stores to increase revenue to $1.4 million in 2019 Secondary Objective
Retain 90% of our current customers in 2019
|Strategic Initiative 1|
Rebrand our website to www.coventrywholesale.com
|Tactic Redesign our front page to keystone into retail site Create Matching Catalog|
|Strategic Initiative 2 Align our Social Media and Newsletters visually and with targeted content||Tactic Astrology blogs and posts Fine tune email lists to types of customers Evergreen articles for re-sharing|
|Strategic Initiative 3 |
|Tactic Coventry Welcome Kit Coventry Oracle Training Email campaign for lost customers|
We also have a brand plan and a retail direct plan, and everything
links together with a master plan.
Pre-planning Your Content
Our wholesale marketing plan described above, combined with a yearly promotion calendar enabled us to plan content for a year. Blogs, ads, posts, images, new products launched, etc. We hired graphic designers and social media experts as needed to create a seamless brand. Our box stuffers match the site that matches the upcoming catalog, the point-of-purchase signs we are designing.
Other businesses have hired writers for a year of blogs, ad designers, marketing teams to post and PR pros to do the heavy lifting. When you have a measurable plan, it feels like an investment to spend the money. There are tools like Hootsuite and sprout social that you can plan your posts through. Many website blogs have scheduling and sharing tools for when your blogs publish. There are so many options out there for planning, you can set-it and forget-it.
When to Pivot, Punt & Work on the Fly
Having base content pre-written and ready to go gives you the freedom to add in time-sensitive blogs, ads, and social media posts. You can already see your theme and pivot off of that to make it relevant to any current events or changes. Scheduling software can easily be updated as needed, allowing you to make adjustments on the fly instead of creating brand new content from scratch.
Measuring Your Results
Marketing isn’t successful until you know it. You could have 100,000 followers, but if they don’t convert into sales, is that a number to be proud of? The last thing you want to do is waste your time. Making the measurement of your marketing results is key to your plan. The easiest marketing to measure is digital. You can track hits on your site and where they came from, how many opens and click-throughs on your newsletters, and who visits your social media. Print and media ads are harder to measure. Coupons, value-added giveaways, contests, and events all help measure your marketing efforts. Having a schedule of posts and ads and matching them to your sales is a great start to your measurements and in the end, is the only result that really counts. Marketing’s job is to drive sales. If you are having an uptick in sales, something is working. Timing your marketing initiatives one at a time will be the biggest test on what works and what doesn’t for your business. Start your metrics in the simplest form and as your marketing gets more dynamic, your measurements will grow with them.
Your plan does not have to be large and complicated to be successful. In the end, it has to invite people into your business to spend money with your products. Remember, this when crafting your strategy – simple is better, measure your results, have fun, be creative. Stay true to your branding. After this marketing lesson, I hope you tell all those buyers that are looking for a store like yours where to find you!