Marketing plans can sometimes seem like a complicated juggling routine, but they aren’t just for large corporations. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from a comprehensive plan – and in a world that’s growing increasingly digital, your marketing plan must factor online marketing into that equation.
Marketing online will allow you to reach a larger audience while providing you with valuable data that’s easily accessible thanks to digital technology. So, what’s the best way to create an online marketing plan for your business?
What Goes into an Online Marketing Plan?
It’s important to evaluate what resources you have at your disposal and a classic marketing tool can help with that – the concept of owned, earned, and paid media.
In general, “media” are just platforms that we use for mass communication, including websites, radio, and everything in between. This marketing technique looks at the forms of media that your company owns, what you’ve earned, and what you pay for.
You own your website, for example. You own your social media pages. Owned media requires next to nothing in expenses and you’re in full control of what’s presented on those pages. An online marketing plan will utilize search engine optimization to enhance your owned media. It will also feature quality branded content to increase your overall exposure.
Earned media includes online reviews, shares on social media, press coverage and more – and it generally comes from what you do with your owned media. If your website is creating great content and the social media pages gratify your followers, you can be sure that earned media will play a role in your marketing plan.
Paid media are the places where you pay to be placed in front of potential customers. This could include traditional advertising like television commercials or text ads in a newspaper. In an online marketing plan, paid advertisement helps to increase a brand’s exposure by supplementing the content that you create.
Ideally, an online marketing plan ties all these forms of media together. SEO is used to enhance owned media and created content is carried to new eyes through paid media and enhanced further through social media sharing external media coverage.
Who is Your Audience?
An effective marketing strategy relies on a business connecting with the right customers. Not everyone will be suited for every product, after all, and you can lose out on a lot of sales if you don’t know to whom you are selling.
Some businesses have an easy time identifying their target audience. For example, a wedding dress company knows exactly who’s buying a wedding dress. For most businesses, however, identifying target audiences requires a bit of research. Start by collecting information on your existing customer base. Do they generally fit into a specific age range? Do they have similar interests? Conducting a quick survey at the end of a transaction can be an easy way to collect this information.
Some businesses may have multiple target audiences, each with their own likes and dislikes. Rather than grouping these segments together and targeting them with the same marketing message, creating a buyer persona for each segment can help you to properly reach your customers.
A buyer persona is a generalized representation of a business’ target audience. For example, perhaps imagine a business that sees a lot of young parents buying their products. Their buyer persona for this audience might state that the parents are in their early 30s, that they recently purchased a new house for an expanding family, and they’re looking to provide their young children the best childhood possible.
Buyer personas take demographic and psychographic information to provide a real example of who you’re selling to. It tells you where your customers are and how to approach them effectively. It’s also much easier to communicate with an actual person; without buyer personas, all you have to work with are some numbers on a page.
Set Relevant Goals
Creating an online marketing plan relies on the targeting the proper audience, but its continued success requires setting goals and identifying a definitive purpose. Doing so will allow you to measure the success of your marketing plan while also keeping you focused on the things that will allow your business to succeed.
When creating goals, there’s an acronym that marketers use: SMART. The goals you set for your business should be:
- Specific – Specific goals will describe precisely how you plan to achieve a goal. It’s nice to say, “I want to sell more products,” but what methods will you use to accomplish your goal?
- Measurable – Measurability is vitally important. If you cannot see where a plan succeeds or fails, you can neither adjust nor replicate your accomplishments.
- Achievable – We all have big goals in life, but they’re never accomplished in one gigantic leap. It’s the same with business; business goals should look for incremental improvements on the way to accomplishing even bigger goals.
- Realistic – Your goals should identify things that your company has the means to do. If you lack a large advertising budget, focus your efforts on things that you have the means to control.
- Timely – Adding a time frame to business goals is extremely important and allows you to properly measure results. Without a proper – and consistent – time frame, it also makes it more difficult to track the adjustments you might make along the way.
Marketing plans can be complex, finicky things, and most tools like buyer personas and the acronym above are meant to simplify the process. In the end, the best marketing plan will be one that’s tuned into your business’ strengths and allows you to capitalize on your target audience.
Alex Briggs is a Public Relations Specialist for HigherVisibility.