Six Steps to Creating a Marketing Plan that Delivers (for Any Size Business)

Whether you’re the owner of the local ice-cream shop or a multi-million dollar financial planning service, if you want to turn prospects into customers, crafting an integrated marketing campaign is critical.

So, let’s start at the beginning. What, exactly, is integrated marketing? In basic terms, it’s simply communicating a consistent identity from message to message, and medium to medium, and, more importantly, delivering consistently on that identity.

Follow these six steps to design an integrated marketing campaign for your business.

1. Understand your target audience.

A business can’t be all things to all people. That’s why it’s critical to understand your target market before diving into a full-blown campaign designed to attract customers.

To really understand your target market, you need to conduct research. But, depending on the size of your business, research doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming. Simply spend some time talking to your current customers (or sending a simple online survey) and determine how they arrived at the decision to do business with you and why (hopefully) they keep coming back.

Once you understand these driving factors, you can determine what channels and types of content are best to reach your target customer.

2. Define your brand promise.

How can you help your ideal customer overcome his or her challenges?

When a potential customer learns about or interacts with your company, what one aspect is critical for them to understand about your offering?

Are you the cheapest? (Wal-Mart)

Do you have the best customer service? (L.L. Bean)

The fastest delivery? (Amazon)

The highest performing product or service offering? (Apple)

Are you the most knowledgeable in your niche? (Edward Jones Investments)

Do you profess to have the widest array of offerings?

And, how do you stack up against others in your market or niche? How do you differentiate yourself?

Consider the following categories…

  • Electric vehicles. Think Prius vs. Tesla ($25K bare bones vs. $80K self driving)

  • Airlines. Delta vs. JetBlue (high service vs. self service)

  • Discount retailers. Target vs. Wal-Mart (fashion-forward vs. price conscious)

  • Home furnishings. Ikea vs. Restoration Hardware (affordable and basic vs. pricey and trendy)

  • Fitness centers. Planet Fitness, courting the middle-ager looking to lose a few pounds or a Gold’s Gym catering to young body builders and fitness enthusiasts?

  • Supermarkets. Whole Foods targeting the upper middle-class, health conscious or Aldi with their eye on middle America, budget-conscious shoppers?

3. Craft your message and proof points.

Take the time to really think through this part of your strategy. Again, talk to customers as you develop your overall message and the underlying proof points to support your message. Conduct A/B testing on email campaigns, social media posts and digital ads to see what messages resonate.

This step is critical to success. Don’t rush it.

4. Identify which communication channels will be most effective at reaching your target audience.

Today’s marketers are certainly not lacking channels through which to deliver their message. Social media, print and digital advertising, direct email, online marketing, content marketing, one-to-one sales, one-to-many platforms (like webinars and speaking opportunities), public relations, trade shows and events, catalogs and flyers, even radio and television. The sum of all these channels is greater than their parts – providing they speak consistently with one voice all the time, every time.

However, understanding which channels are most effective at reaching a specific target audience is crucial to success. Not all channels will be a good fit for your campaign. For proof of this statement, stop to consider how your grandmother makes buying decisions vs. your college-age daughter.

Demographics, such as age, race, gender, education, income, marital status, occupation, location, etc., are critical in deciding which channels are best. And, sometimes, you simply have to incorporate trial and error into your marketing plan. With a bit of analysis, you’ll quickly understand which channels perform, in terms of customer acquisition, and which do not.

Also, depending on the size and scope of your business, you may determine that, given your current product offering, you have multiple audiences and therefore multiple messages that must be delivered via different communication channels.

5. Deliver on your company’s promise.

Every day. At every touch point with your customer or prospect. If you profess to be the “easiest to do business with” but your website is clunky and your customer service non-existent, customers will quickly hone in on the inconsistency and seek out someone else to solve their challenge.

6. Be consistent. Review progress. Adjust tactics.

The great thing about today’s digital channels is that they offer some pretty powerful tools to measure a campaign’s success. You can and should include very specific calls to action in social media posts and targeted email campaigns. And, there are a host of ways to slice and dice how visitors to your website found you as well as their search behaviors within your site. All of these tools can help you continually optimize the content you offer and your ongoing integrated marketing strategy.

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