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Opinion: 5 steps for small-business owners creating a marketing plan

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Big or small, every company needs a marketing plan. It’s easy if your marketing team is a well-oiled machine planning, implementing, reporting and analyzing all month behind the scenes with jaw dropping results each quarter.

The reality is that for small businesses, it’s easy to let marketing take a backseat. We’re spending every waking moment on the things we started a business for in the first place – boots-on-the-ground sales, ordering parts, or fulfilling orders.

Of course, you know the best way to grow your company is by being proactive marketing yourself, but how do you find the time? No one can make it happen without a little elbow grease. Start by making a plan and setting aside a few hours each week.

A helpful exercise to complete is to map your customer journey. What pain points are causing potential customers to look for your solution? Is the person who makes the purchase different from the person who uses it or researches it? Does implementing your product or service take special training to help it succeed in the long run?

Looking at your offering from the customer’s point of view can help you find ways to connect with your audience in the steps below.

First, take stock of the situation you’re in.

What marketing activities have you tried and what results are you getting? Jot them down on a quick chart. Are your Facebook fans engaged, or are you posting into the void? If you have a website, is it bringing you sales directly or do potential customers use it to do research about you? Any good plan starts with a good overview.

Second, what are your objectives? How do they play into each of the steps in the customer journey – awareness, consideration, purchase, implementation, and retention? Are you making it as easy as possible for customers to work with you through each stage?

A salon owner’s Instagram objective could be to reach new clients. Another objective could be to keep her fans updated on current hairstyle trends she can offer them.

Third, what is your strategy for reaching your objectives? Our salon owner could reach new clients by offering to take photos of clients and then asking them to post the image on Instagram, tagging the salon. A step further would be to give the customer a coupon code to share with friends. To meet the second objective above, she could post photos of celebrities and their hair with comments about how her staff is trained to pull it off.

Fourth, how exactly will you implement your strategy?

Make a precise plan ahead of time so that when you have a free second, you can just go down your checklist to make it happen without thinking too hard. Schedule recurring tasks in your calendar. Gather all the resources you need in one place. Make sure that anyone else involved knows what is expected. The salon owner could have a sign at every booth asking customers to check in on Facebook, so when the stylist asks them to, the idea isn’t new to them. She could set a goal to have 30 percent of customers post their images. At the end of the day, she could make it a habit to spend five minutes making comments on anything she’s tagged in.

For the second objective, sitting down for 20 minutes at the beginning of the week to collect images and write the content ahead of time can save her time. Creating calendar reminders to make the posts will help her post regularly.

Fifth, you need to measure and adjust. Compare your results to the baseline you set in the first step. If your results are out of this world, you can dedicate more time to more of the same tactics. If you didn’t meet your objective, look at what changes can be made to meet them next time.

The trick to scaling any activity, from marketing to production, is having good systems in place. Remove any friction between yourself and completing the tasks as you planned. Creating templates, scheduling recurring tasks and working in batches can help even the most resistant marketer reach more people with a more effective message.

Jahana Uchtman is the founder of Springfield-based Your Digital Marketing Assistant where she helps small businesses connect with customers online. She can be reached at jahana@yourdigitalmarketingassistant.com.

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