Only a few more hours until the clock strikes midnight and we find ourselves in another year. Do you know what you want to accomplish in 2011? And I’m not talking about your year-after-year resolution to “get in shape” or make a few extra bucks. Have you taken the time to sit down and truly figure out what you want to achieve for you and your business?
If you’re serious about building a strong, sustainable business, you understand the importance of planning. However, that’s often easier said than done. Hectic schedules and day-to-day business tend to get in the way.
Have no fear! Even if you haven’t put a strategic marketing plan in place for 2011, it’s not too late to get started now. So, what are you waiting for? Here are simple five steps to kick you into high gear and help you develop a marketing plan that will generate results for your business.
- Start with goals
Before you can put a plan in action, you need to know which direction you’re headed. Although this may seem like an obvious step, it can be often overlooked.
Take the time to write down specific, measureable goals for your business. Start with the larger goal in mind. Then, take it down into bite-sized chunks and look at what benchmarks you need to achieve on a monthly basis to accomplish the overall goal.
Not only will this exercise help you determine the best marketing strategy, but it will help hold you accountable along the way.
- Look in the mirror
The best marketing strategies in the world can’t help a business that doesn’t have a killer product or service. Before you do anything else, make sure you’ve got something spectacular to offer your customers.
I know, I know – we all think our own business is the best thing since sliced bread. But, ask your customers. Do they feel the same way? Does your product or service solve their problems or give them the results they’re after? Do your customers receive top-notch service?
If you’re not sure about the answers, talk to your employees and your customers. Getting their honest feedback will likely highlight some ways you can improve your offerings and make your business shine.
- Master the basics
There are a couple of marketing basics that are so essential, it’s like milk and bread. Branding and a websites fall into that category. If you want to move the needle for your business this year, you must have these in place.
A rock solid brand is an integral to a successful business. More than just a logo, a brand is the personality of your business. In other words, your brand communicates who you are and what makes you different from the competition. If you haven’t nailed down your brand message, now is the time. Don’t wait another year to get this right.
In today’s digital world, an amateur website just won’t cut it anymore. A well-written, user-friendly website is a must for businesses. In a world that’s constantly competing for eyeballs, make sure your site hits the mark and doesn’t leave them quickly moving on to the next one.
- Turn up the volume
Social media is definitely the new kid on the block. But before you rush off to sign up for a Twitter account, take a look at your current marketing efforts and determine what is working well for you.
For instance, if word of mouth is your top business generator, build a referral strategy that rewards your biggest fans for spreading the word. Or, if your email list responds well to your campaigns, look for ways to grow your list by encouraging your readers to share it with their friends.
Whatever it is, continue to focus your energy in this area and look for ways to amplify it.
Oftentimes, the most profitable marketing effort we can employ is by taking a strategy that is working really well and turning up the volume.
- Stretch yourself
Once you’ve hammered out ways to improve already successful strategies, you can begin to venture into uncharted territory. Social media is the considered marketing frontier for small business and it can be a great way to engage customers, generate leads and provide customer service.
But, before you take the plunge, do your research. Determine what you want to accomplish through social media. Find out where your customers hang out and look at what is working well for other businesses in your niche. A misguided social media effort will suck up a lot of time and produce little in return.
If you’re not sure where to start, employ some help. Talk to trusted colleagues or hire a consultant to assist you. They can help point you in the right direction to make sure you don’t waste time or money.
Do you have a marketing plan in place? What’s your biggest marketing challenge for 2011? Share your thoughts or questions and we’ll discuss it in the comments. The floor is all yours!
Written by Laura Click
Laura Click is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a marketing and social media consulting group dedicated to building strategies to help small businesses grow. You can learn more about Laura by connecting with her on Twitter and checking out her blog.
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