Do you plan your vacations better than you plan your marketing strategies?
When I ask prospects about their marketing goals, it’s surprising how often I get an uncomfortable silence, followed by a vague version of “make more money.”
That’s like saying that for your imminent vacation you’re going to “take a trip” without having any further details in mind. Do you head for the airport? The train station? Or fill up the gas tank? Do you pack for Antarctica or Aruba? Do you board your pets for a week, or get someone to feed them for a day? Without a specific destination, planning is impossible.
If you’re unsure about what your current business focus should be, or how to get there, here are 5 steps to guide you:
1. Define Your Goals. The only ways to make more money are: a) sell more to existing customers, or b) find new customers. Which approach is right for you? It depends on how mature your business is, and whether your product line lends itself to repeat sales.
If less than half your business comes from repeat buyers, acquiring new buyers is necessary just to stay in place. To do so, concentrate on improving your conversion rate, reaching more prospects in existing markets, and/or expanding into new markets.
If more than half your business comes from repeat buyers, prospecting takes on somewhat less importance. To grow the business, look for ways to increase your average sale from existing customers, expand your current product line, and/or contact your best buyers more frequently.
2. Brainstorm Tactics. Once you decide on your main objective, brainstorm as many ideas as possible for reaching your goal. At this point, don’t worry about how practical they may or may not be. Eliminate only the possibilities that don’t support your ultimate objective.
Set aside some quiet time to do this work. Review what you’ve tried in the past, as well as ideas you’ve filed away to try another time. Carefully study your website analytics. Take a close look at what your competition is doing. Invite suggestions from co-workers. Survey your customers. Investigate new options that may have emerged since your last planning session.
3. Evaluate the Costs and Benefits. After you’ve developed an exhaustive list of possibilities, whittle them down systematically. List the pros, cons and approximate costs of each. Which has the most potential? Do any qualify as “low-hanging fruit” – virtually sure winners that are easy to implement? Are other competitors using similar approaches? Can you improve on what they’re doing? What will it take to break even on a test of each approach? How much income are you likely to generate, both short- and long-term?
After you’ve thoroughly considered the pros and cons of each idea, your short list will start to become apparent.
4. Consider the Path To Purchase. Before you dive in, think through all the steps required to complete the sale. Are there any weak links in your path to purchase?
For instance, if your goal is to increase your website traffic, and you have a tremendous bounce rate (the percentage of visitors leaving your site after viewing only one page) or a huge problem with shopping cart abandonment — take one step back. Fix the site problems before you start driving traffic.
Similarly, committing to multiple lead-generating trade shows might not be wise if you don’t have a system in place to collect names of prospective buyers and follow up with them afterwards. Get your ducks in a row first to ensure you make the most of every opportunity.
5. Develop the Plan. Only after you’ve done the necessary background work can you develop a solid plan, secure in the knowledge of where you want to go, and why. Determining budgets, timing, offers and other strategic factors will be much easier after you’ve laid the proper groundwork.
To keep the business growing, always keep testing. Setting aside 20% to 30% of your marketing budget to try new things helps build a base for future growth.
Plan your marketing as methodically as you would a big vacation, and your decisions will be easier, your implementation smoother, and your chances of success greater.