Everyone likes to talk about creating a marketing plan. It’s the fun part of marketing, the creative aspect of your planning process. But strategy without execution won’t help your business succeed. In fact, marketing execution is how you achieve results.
Marketing strategy without execution is a waste of time. Marketing execution without strategy is a waste of money.
The four stages of the marketing process
Successful businesses create a marketing system that help them stay on top of marketing activities. It is too easy to fall into working in your business and forget that we need to work on our business. Working on our businesses keeps us visible so that we continually attract new clients. We only realize the issue when our pipeline dries up and we’re wondering where the next client is coming from. And with people being more selective in how they spend money, you want to be sure that everything you do provides another reason why someone should do business with you.
To create that marketing system that helps you stay consistent with your marketing, you can break the activities into four stages: plan, execute, track and measure.
Having a great marketing plan is critical to your success. Your marketing plan:
- Is the road map for achieving your goals and guiding your decisions throughout the year.
- Details what types of marketing activities you will do over a 90 day period to achieve your goals.
- Helps you understand how each activity aligns and supports other marketing activities.
- Ensures you remain consistent with messages, branding and strategies.
It’s not difficult or time consuming to write a marketing plan – just a few hours is all you need. Once the plan is in place, it will continue to guide you throughout your marketing journey.
Further Reading: Crafting a Simple Marketing Plan for a Small Business
Tools to help you plan
If you need help creating a marketing plan, there are many templates available. However, look for a template that is specifically created for a small business and not a corporate enterprise. Make sure the template is simple and asks the important questions.
I personally like a spreadsheet model that allows me to lay out my mission and purpose, target market, product or service offerings and the pricing and packaging strategies.
This part of the marketing plan seldom changes unless:
- You are evolving the business, adding new products and changing your model.
- The market environment is changing (i.e. new competitors, changing economy, etc).
It is important to review this part of the plan quarterly to make sure things haven’t drastically changed.
Once you have the above identified, then create a second worksheet for your action plan to lay out your outcome goal, marketing goals, the performance-based projects and tasks to achieve my goals. Visually this is a hierarchy that flows from the outcome goal down to the tasks.
The real key to success in marketing is the ability to execute the plan, working each activity until you have attracted more clients than you can handle. I’ve seen many businesses put together a plan then don’t follow through, wasting so much time and missing real opportunities to build a successful business.
Execution is what you do on the field of play. In order to be consistent in your efforts, you need to put an action plan together that lays out the projects and tasks that will lead you to your outcome goal. Your action plan is what you commit to doing in a two week period only.
By breaking things down into “sprints” with specific projects and tasks, you are more likely to get more done because you aren’t overwhelmed with too much on your to do list.
Tools to help you execute
Everyone is different in how they work, but here are some tools that can help you be more productive.
- Block time in your calendar to work on your marketing projects. Treat that time as you would a client meeting. Book whatever time you think you need, shut off the phone and email and commit to working on the project that was assigned. Make these appointments at the same time so they become a habit.
- Engage an accountability partner – Working solo can make it too easy to forget to market your business. Have someone hold you accountable. Knowing you will have a weekly meeting with someone who will ask what you were able to get done helps keep you focused. This could be a marketing coach who can help you build out the right plan or another business owner that can provide valuable input and keep you moving forward (and vice versa).
- Plan your day the night before – Reviewing what you got done today and planning what you are going to work on tomorrow (and block time to do it) will help you stay focused. Keep your two-week action plan visible to keep reminding you of what you committed to work over the two weeks.
Develop a system for tracking your results. Have a way to measure your activities to ensure they are working and worth continuing.
Digital marketing makes it much easier to track your marketing activities. But even if someone randomly calls you, you could simply ask how they found your business. You can also put the question on your website as part of the contact form.
You need to establish what your metrics are for each of your marketing activities as goals. Then track your results and adjust as needed.
Tools to help you track
For online marketing, things you should be tracking include:
- Website traffic – Use Google Marketing Platform to track website traffic. Track your traffic from paid search ads using Google Ads.
- Keyword ranking – Keywords Everywhere and Keyword Surfer browser extensions help you generate keyword ideas. SEO Powersuite enables you to run reports to see how you are ranking for your important keywords. There is a free version available.
- Inbound leads – Keep track of visitors that convert to a lead via your web forms.
- Email opens – Mail service provides track opens and clicks on all of your email marketing campaigns.
- New business from new customers – Track your leads to conversion by calculating the customer conversion rate. You can calculate this by taking the number of new customers and dividing by the number of leads.
Knowing what’s working and what’s not will help you make budget decisions when you get an opportunity and you need to “find” some money in the marketing budget.
Measuring your marketing is key to seeing what works and what doesn’t. The two week sprint model encourages continuous feedback loops. By looking back at the data over the two weeks, you can determine if what you are doing is actually delivering results. Then you can keep doing what you’re doing or make adjustments.
Although your outcome goal is firm and fixed, your performance based projects and tasks can be flexible and adaptable when necessary. By looking at your results every two weeks, you can change what you are doing, update something that isn’t working well or stay the course.
Ways to measure your marketing
There are many types of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to measure your effectiveness. For small businesses, you might want to measure website traffic, visitor to lead conversions or cost per lead. All of these are good ways to measure marketing campaigns and are simple calculations.
However, return on investment (ROI) is a better measurement because it shows exactly what each campaign is contributing to your revenue.
To calculate ROI, take what you spent on a marketing activity and subtract it from the sales revenue generated by the campaign. If you spend a $1000 and generate $10,000 in sales, your ROI is 900%.
Marketing is a process that never ends and it takes time for marketing activities to bear fruit. Don’t expect instant results from your marketing activities or you’ll get discouraged and give up too quickly.
Every activity plants a seed. Every activity reinforces the previous one. Persistence and patience are the keys to successful marketing. If you implement the two week sprints, use the data you collect from the feedback loops and adjust where necessary, you’ll find that your marketing becomes more effective. Being flexible and adaptable with your plan helps you make adjustments that increase your success along the way.
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