Plan before you advertise. Without a marketing strategy you’re wasting your time and cash


A problem that many small to medium enterprises face is a lack of knowledge when it comes to marketing. You believe you’re in the business of selling what you do, and that could be coffee, IT service, insurance, whatever. This type of thinking is what keeps some entrepreneurs broke or barely getting by.


You’re actually in the business of marketing what you do, and that is a significant mindset shift. If you want to grow your business rapidly, you need to change your thinking.


Early on in my career, a mentor explained to me that prospects only know how good your business is after they buy from you. Before that, they only know how good your marketing is. Your goal is to become a damn good marketer because the best marketer wins every time. The quality of your product or service doesn’t matter. It alone won’t increase foot traffic through your door.


You need a plan. It used to be that creating a marketing strategy was an expensive and time-consuming process which often resulted in a brick-like booklet that you’d page through once and never look at again. I know because mine sat in the bottom of a drawer for three years. Eventually, I got rid of it. To simplify the process of creating a marketing strategy, I developed a nine-step framework for crafting a plan that fits on one page and can live on your office desk or pin board.


For me, an effective strategy is one you can see every day and use daily. Let’s get started.


Step 1. Find your niche audience


Your target market cannot be everyone. Be ruthless when determining who your niche audience is. Not everyone will be interested in what you’re selling and marketing to disinterested groups is not only counterproductive, but it’s also massively wasteful. You’ll dilute your message and the effectiveness of your marketing.


When figuring out who your niche audience is, these are some of the critical questions you want to ask yourself.


Who are they?

What’s their age?

Where do they live

What keeps them up at night?

What are their daily frustrations or desires?

Do they know that you even exist?


You need to get into the mind of your prospect and figure out what makes them tick. It’s only by truly understanding who you are marketing to that you can create a business message which will break through the noise and deliver a high return on investment.


Dominate one niche, then move on to another.


Step 2. Craft a compelling message


Advertising is everywhere. We’re bombarded by it daily, and in most cases, we’ve adapted to shut it out. We choose network tv over traditional broadcasters and switch radio stations at the hint of a promotional spot. For those of us who still purchase printed publications, we skim read, glossing over full-page advertisements in favour of meaty, engaging and thoughtful articles.


But if an ad does catch your attention, the question is why? While a glamorous or stunning image might draw the eye, it’s the message that makes you act. And unfortunately, the marketing messages of most small business are boring, bland and unlikely to inspire action.

You need a unique selling proposition (USP). Ask yourself why they buy and what would make them buy from you?


By doing this, you’re not throwing together a few things and hoping to strike it lucky, you’re marketing on purpose, and that’s hugely valuable.


Step 3. Choose your media


Figuring out which media you are going to use to reach your target audience is undoubtedly the most expensive stage in marketing. It’s why you want to be strategic in your selection. Unless you have access to a fountain of cash, television commercials won’t form part of your strategy.


On a limited budget, it makes sense to invest your hard-earned money in measurable media. Digital advertising such as programmatic banners and social media ads, websites, content creation, and email funnels to name a few are excellent choices because you can track their performance. Analytics will quickly show you what works, and what doesn’t, and then cut the losers from the winners.


What you don’t know will hurt you so watch your ad spend and the return on investment.


Step 4. Capture those leads


I’m a huge advocate for direct response marketing and lead generating advertising. Forget about selling in your advertising. Instead, focus on getting your prospects to opt-in to a newsletter. Do this because at any given time only 3% of your target audience is ready and willing to buy NOW.


If you use a hard sell ad, you’ll exclude the other 97%, which is just ludicrous. Through a lead generating advert you increase your addressable market to 40%.


Get your prospects to give you their contact details, and an ethical bribe is a great way to do this. It could be a free treatment or a try before you buy, whatever. Get them on to your mailing list, and then market to them until they buy or die.


Step 5. Nurture your leads


We have this saying in marketing that the money is in the follow-up which is why the lead nurturing stage of your marketing strategy is so vital. This is the relationship building phase, it’s the process of taking people from being vaguely interested in what you have to offer to desire it and want to do business with you.


Using email funnels is a great way to deliver value, remain at the forefront of your prospect’s mind and become someone they look forward to hearing from. Best of all, this is something that you can automate. Once you’ve created your sales funnel, technology takes over and handles the rest.


I do, however, caution you against making sales the focus of every email, it’s a massive turnoff. Start with sharing engaging videos, helpful tips, and humorous articles. Make your content likable, but most importantly it must be of value.


Step 6. Let the sales begin


At this point, you can begin to motivate your prospects to become paying customers. If you’ve done your job correctly, they’ll be pre-framed, pre-motivated, and pre-interested.


Rule number one

Never position yourself solely on price. It’s a losing strategy. There will always be a competing brand or company that is cheaper than you. If you’ve positioned yourself correctly (remember the unique selling proposition I touch on in step two), the cost of your product or service won’t be a factor in their buying decision.


Rule number two

Customers buy with emotion, not logic. Most are terrified of risk. So look at how you can reverse their risk. Ways to do this include offering something outrageous like a double your money back guarantee or a try before you buy. The key is to give them the confidence to make a purchase.


Start ringing up those sales.


Step 7. Make every interaction with your business world-class


Our experiences define our future purchasing decisions. If we receive poor customer service from one brand, we’ll likely move to their competitor.


To make sure that every interaction with your business is a first-class experience,

  • continually wow them,
  • make it easy for them to deal with you,
  • develop a sense of theatre around your products or services, and
  • build systems.


Don’t just sell what they want, give them what they never knew they needed!


Step 8. Turn first-time buyers into lifelong customers


In marketing, the real money is in your existing customer base. They already know and like you, and trust your product or service. Now you want to get them to do more business with you. And really there are five ways to increase your customer lifetime value.


  1. Raise your prices. If you’ve delivered a stellar product or service, your customers won’t mind the price increase.
  2. Upsell by offering free add-ons. You’re not dropping your price, but your customer still feels like they’re scoring.
  3. Focus on ascension, moving customers onto a higher priced product.
  4. Increase the frequency of your customer’s purchases. Give them a reason to come back, like a voucher because people hate to waste something free.
  5. Reactive dormant customers. Reconnect and start ‘wooing’ them with a compelling offer.


Step 9. Orchestrate and stimulate referrals


In my opinion, the best strategy for getting what you want is to ask. While word-of-mouth is the highest form of praise, it yields slow returns, unless you make referrals part of doing business with you. There are ways to do this without sounding desperate.


To get your customers to actively promote your business to friends, family, and colleagues, put in place systems. It could be a leave-behind note which acknowledges the importance of the customer and appeals to their ego – something like this.


Mr. Customer, it’s been such a pleasure working with you. If you know anyone who’s in a similar situation to yourself, we’d love you to give them one of these gift cards which entitles them to £50 off their first consultation with us. One of the reasons we’re able to keep the cost of our service down is because we get a lot of our business through referrals from people like you.


Another great idea is to seek out complimentary businesses and set up a joint venture. If they help to send qualified leads your way you can agree on a finder’s fee or commission. Alternatively, you can offer discount vouchers to their customers and vice-versa. The result, you tap into their customer base, and they get access to yours. It’s a win-win strategy.


That’s it, the nine steps to crafting a successful marketing plan. To start creating your marketing strategy download the 1PMP Canvas now.


What is currently your greatest marketing challenge?


By Allan Dib


About the author 


Allan is an Australian entrepreneurial success story. He’s started, grown and exited several companies including a telecommunications company which was named in 2011 in Business Review Weekly’s Fast 100 list. The 1-Page Marketing Plan is his first book. Through his company Successwise, he provides clear and simple marketing frameworks for success.

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