You have an incredible service or product that you want to shout from the mountaintops. But sometimes it feels like you’re barely being heard. To really spread the word, you need a comprehensive marketing plan. So where do you start?
The main objective of a marketing plan is simple: to spread awareness about your business. As a total digital marketing nerd, my favorite way to do this is exclusively online!
The internet has blessed us with an abundance of free marketing options at our fingertips. I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite digital marketing platforms, along with a game plan on how to best market your business amongst a sea of competitors and a ton of virtual noise.
Yes, it can be done. So let’s do this!
I’m going to assume you already know your business mission, values, and goals. (If not, I recommend reading about the 5 building blocks of branding to discover yours.) But beyond the basics, it’s important to do some research into your brand positioning before you begin any marketing plan. I also recommend putting your entire marketing plan into a Google Doc.
Do a SWOT Analysis
Just that phrase alone brings me right back to sitting in college classes for my Communications degree, but this analysis can be kept simple. You just need to survey your industry and note the following:
- The “S” in SWOT stands for your own business’ superpowers. What are you the best at? What is your unique value proposition? What does your audience like about your brand? What is working for you and giving you an edge?
- Now, what do you need to work on within your business? Or, where do you fall short compared to others in your industry? What do you need to strengthen?
- This is my favorite part because it forces you to open up your thinking and get creative. Where are some holes in the market that you may be able to fill? What new audiences can you appeal to? What new social platforms are proving to be worth your time? What new tech could you take advantage of?
- Threats are potential 'outside' hazards to your business that are beyond your control. This could include direct competitors, a changing landscape, a dip in the economy, or a current event.
Once you’ve performed your SWOT analysis you’ll have a clearer picture of the overall business landscape and be armed to tackle all the dreamy possibilities out there to make yourself stand out.
Set Your Goals
You can't make a plan without having a goal or two in mind first, so take some time to think through yours. My CEO at Here Comes The Guide Meredith Monday Schwartz is an expert at goal setting, and one of her best tips is to phrase your goals in a binary way. This means it should be a Yes or No answer as to whether you reached that goal. Your success must be measurable.
I also think it's helpful to have both short-term and long-term goals. What do I want to achieve this quarter, and where do I want to be 1 year or even 5 years from now?
Setting these goals will help drive you in a focused direction as you put clear initiatives and strategies in place to get yourself closer to where you want to go.
Define Your Target Market
Hot take: I really hate the business practice of giving your ideal client avatar an entire name and persona. I don’t need “Bianca, age 36, working mom who likes coffee and cocktails” to be my target market. I don’t need their name and status. I need their motivations. Their values. Their core desires!
The mission of your marketing is to reach the people that your business can help. So here are the types of questions I like to ask:
- What do they do?
- What do they value?
- What do they struggle with?
- Where do they spend most of their time online?
- What podcasts do they listen to?
- What are they passionate about? What lights them up?
Everything about your business—from the platforms you post on to your brand color palette—will be influenced and strengthened by knowing your ideal client’s motivations!
Let’s get our internet-stalking hats on! But before we dive in let’s get one thing clear: Doing competitor research isn’t about copying. It’s about differentiating.
You want to see how your competitors have positioned themselves in the market, which segment of the market they’re appealing to, and what YOU could do better.
Check out their branding, their website, their social media, and their overall digital footprint to then determine the best way to set yourself apart from what they’re doing.
This part is all about getting that competitive edge. Diving into this research will help you gain a better understanding of how you can stand out from your competition.
Choose Your Marketing Channels
Another one of my hot takes: Every business needs a website. But beyond your website, what other online platforms would benefit your business in terms of brand awareness? This may include:
- Social Media, including Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, and Facebook
- Streaming, including YouTube or Vimeo or even podcasting
- Business Networking Sites like LinkedIn or Facebook Groups
- Blogging and Content Marketing to come up in organic search results
- Review Sites like Yelp or Thumbtack
- Local Sites like Nextdoor or Google Business Profile
- Email Marketing
- Paid Advertising, including Google AdWords or website directories
- Online Speaking Engagements, including virtual summits or webinars
I could go on and on. And the best part is that you take advantage of many of the above options for free.
Choose *just* the online platforms that speak to you and your unique service or product, target market, values, and mission. Even if you’re only found in 1 or 2 places, but you use them extremely well, it can be a real boon for your business.
Once you’ve strategically chosen your marketing channels, you just need to SHOW UP. Show up and speak directly to your ideal client, illuminate your strengths, promote your superpowers, and deliver authentic, value-packed content throughout your chosen digital channels.
My passion for digital marketing stems from the fact that it enables and empowers you to meet your ideal clients where they are. You can deliver curated content to get in front of them on a regular basis. And each time you make an impression, it moves that needle closer and closer to your goals.
It’s important to note that digital marketing doesn’t just “stop” once you’ve posted something. The real magic here lies within the engagement opportunities. You must be proactive and engage: respond to any comments, follow up, interact with content and create interactive content, answer questions in public forums, and simply participate in the give-and-take landscape online.
The final step is to monitor the progress of your marketing plan to ultimately measure the success of the goals you put in place. Set timelines, keep an eye on your analytics, and track any key performance indicators like website traffic, social media growth, or conversion. Continue to tweak and adjust accordingly over time.
We’re lucky that we live in a world where we can grow our businesses, create meaningful relationships, and make a real difference in the lives of others—all from the comfort of our home offices.
Digital marketing, ftw.