Fundamentals Of A Powerful Business Marketing Plan
One of the foundational principles that all businesses have in common, no matter their industry, model, or market, is that they all have to put their offerings in front of customers. No customers, no business – it’s that simple. And it’s as true for nonprofit organizations as it is for for-profit companies. You need a powerful marketing plan if you want to keep your company in business.
Because marketing is so central of the life of your business, we’re going to be talking about often here.
Clearing Up The Confusion About Marketing
Another reason to talk about marketing is because it is so widely misunderstood. Take a quick trip down your Facebook news feed right now and I can almost guarantee that there is at least one “expert” promoting his or her “hacks for bringing 10x customers to your business” or some such thing. They buy a ton of ad space on Facebook.
With that much noise, it’s easy to get confused, especially if you don’t have a background in marketing. When you don’t understand what each term really means, words get conflated together. Just this morning, I saw a new business builder on a Facebook chat group asking the group to explain why she needed a “funnel magnet.” I can only guess that she heard those words used on a webinar or a presentation, and didn’t really understand either of them. Looking over the comment stream, it became obvious that she had zero customers and no real idea who she should be talking to. She was putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
Lots of Excitement, Little Knowledge
I see this kind of thing all the time. People get excited about a new marketing gimmick without really understanding the business principles behind them. Part of the reason I created Venture Studio, the blogs, the podcasts, and the classes (like the upcoming “Unchained Entrepreneur Mastermind”) is to help would-be entrepreneurs understand the systems that make business work, so they can steer their own business, instead of being run over by it.
So, let’s cut through the clutter, the gimmicks, and the fads, and get down to the principles of how a business marketing plan works. Let’s start with the basic terms: advertising, marketing, lead generation, and sales.
What Is A Marketing?
Marketing is a process of getting people from the place where they have never heard of you to the place where they are ready to give you their money. It’s really that simple. Actually, if you’re doing it right, it goes way beyond that, but that’s a topic for a different article.
Many marketers describe this process with the analogy of a funnel:
- At the top of the funnel are all the people who have never heard of you.
- Some of those people will hear your message.
- Out of that group, some will stop and listen all the way to the end.
- A few of those people will give you their contact information to learn more about you.
- As you communicate with them, some will choose to purchase your product or service.
- Eventually, some will be so happy with your product or service that they will tell others about it.
Some people might skip several steps and reach right for their credit card, but for most businesses, people like that are the exception to the rule. Most people will take steps toward you over time, as you earn their trust. For the purpose of this article, let’s refer to this whole process as “marketing.”
As we’ve discussed before, the function of most businesses is to solve problems for people. The problem might be, “my car has stopped working,” or “I’m hungry.” No matter the problem, most people go through a decision process that looks like this:
- First, they recognize that they have a problem. It might be a simple inconvenience or something life-threatening.
- Next, they decide they need to find a solution.
- They evaluate the different available solution options.
- At last, they make a decision and take action.
- Over time, they evaluate the pros and cons of their decision.
They might go through this process in seconds or over months. No matter the time involved, an effective marketing process makes your solution seem most appealing as they approach a decision. But a powerful marketing system can even make them aware of the problem in the first place and control their sense of urgency to solve it.
Now, let’s take a look at each of the parts of a business marketing plan individually. To do so, let’s imagine that we are bringing a client named Susan through our funnel.
Any tactic that gets your name and message in front of people who have never heard of you can be described as “advertising.” It can be a Google Ad, a web banner, a radio spot, a TV commercial, a space in the newspaper, or a sign on the side of your truck. There are thousands of ways to promote your business. In short, if it creates awareness of your business (or reinforces that awareness), we’ll call it “advertising.”
Our advertising got Susan’s attention and planted the seed of our brand in her mind. If we did it right, we also connected with a need she knows she has.
I know this sounds elementary, but there are people all over the Internet mixing up these terms, so I want you to be clear.
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A “lead” is a person who has expressed interest in taking the next step in your business marketing plan. One common way of creating a lead online is to offer something of value in exchange for someone’s contact information (typically, their email address). I like to use free eBooks, white papers, or other value-added pieces for this process. The offer goes something like this: “Click below to download our latest eBook: ‘Three Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make Everyday That Shipwreck Their Business.’” Below the headline is a space where they can give us their email address. By entering their email address, they are giving us permission to contact them with more offers. They become a “lead” in our system.
Over time, if we have done a good job, Susan will determine that she has a strong desire to do something about her problem as soon as possible. She gives us her contact information, allowing us to share more of our messaging with her. Now, she is a “lead.”
Sales and Negotiation
Sales and Negotiation is one of the Seven Pillars of Business Success. At some point, you have to “close the deal” with your leads or they will fade away without ever giving you any money. Some people believe that a lead will always be a lead, as long as you send them marketing content. I disagree. People lose interest in things that don’t provide them value. If you are getting 1,000 hits a day on your website and no-one is adding your product to their cart, then you are lacking in sales and negotiation. Until you fix that, your business will stall.
This is where you bring Susan from, “I must do something about this problem now” to “this is the company I trust to solve my problem” to “here’s my credit card.” Your ability to lead a new prospect from the pain point to a sale is the strength of your Sales and Negotiation function.
Practicing What We Preach
When we launched Venture Studio, we decided to do the things we tell all of our clients to do. First, we ran a campaign to create awareness that included a 4- to 6-week course on the various aspects of entrepreneurship.
Then, we started by inviting people to join a free community on Facebook. We promoted it as a group of like-minded entrepreneurs from all over the world that would:
- Hold each other accountable to their goals
- Encourage business growth
- Walk each other through business challenges
This was before Venture Studio was fully formed; we were really sniffing out how much interest there was for what we wanted to do (remember when we talked about how to determine if your business idea would work?).
To create awareness, we started talking in our social media circles about issues that were pretty common among entrepreneurs. We didn’t spend any money on advertising (which I will say more about in a minute). As people accepted our invitation to the group, they became our leads to present our business to. We were building a “list of resources” or a “lead funnel.”
If we had decided to set this up as an email campaign, we would have sent video and links through a timed system of emails, which we sometimes do. This is sometimes called a “drip campaign.”
Over time, we positioned Venture Studio as a way to meet those needs we identified. As people in the group became aware of these needs, we asked the group if they would be interested in a free course to learn how to meet those needs. If that idea appealed to them, we would send them to a webpage where they would give us their email address in exchange for the course. With that email address, we were able to promote our paid services to them.
At that point, they were exposed to our company, the value we could offer them, and some of our products. We wanted them to start “saying yes with their dollars.” That might come in the form of buying a paid course, an ebook, or even a t-shirt. Once you earn that first trust and get someone to say “yes” to something small, it easier to move them to higher-value items and services over time. They are in the mindset of saying yes. This is sometimes called “getting micro-commitments” — small, low-risk steps toward your larger offerings.
One mistake I see companies make is they abuse that trust by jumping them from free to high-ticket sales in one step. A powerful marketing plan includes steps and stages to earn the client’s trust gradually. Think long-term and build a relationship that will last.
The Budget Lie
Another key mistake people make in their business marketing plan is they assume that they can’t do marketing because they have no budget to spend on ads. We built this process almost for free with a Facebook group and our list of people we already knew. Eventually, we branched out with a little Facebook advertising, but we launched with no cost. In fact, in this case, people were paying to become our clients. It blew my mind when I first realized that. They were paying us to come through our vetting process and become our client.
One of my coaches, Dani Johnson, teaches people how to build six-figure businesses with nothing but a script and a list of people you already know. You would be shocked at how many people you really know, if you will take some time to think about it.
My goal is always to make money while I’m sleeping, so I want systems that work 24 hours a day. Offering free courses on social media is a great way to invite people into your system with no cost to you besides your time to create the courses.
As this first group went through our courses, they discovered pain points they didn’t know they had previously. The more they learned, the more they realized they didn’t know about running a business – that fostered a sense of urgency to have our team consult with them. Now, we are the solution to their problem – literally a knight in shining armor.
But by the time they are aping thousands of dollars for consulting, they have already said yes to us at least seven times, each time more involved. Your marketing strategy would never be that complex right out of the gate. But over time, it’s helpful to know that it’s possible to build a system with modules you can turn on and off as needed to be targeted to specific clients.
Who Is REALLY The Client?
Here’s another common marketing mistake: trying to reach everyone. The axiom is always true: if you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no-one. We need to identify your core customer and pinpoint all your marketing to that person. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true: the more focused your messaging, the more effective it is.
In marketing parlance, we form an “avatar.” This avatar becomes the detailed portrait of our ideal customer. The more you know about this person, the more you can customize your messages to appeal to them.
Once you’ve identified your minimum viable product, it’s critical that you identify who needs it and why. Some of the biggest companies and marketing firms in the world know specific things about their ideal customer avatar, including:
- Relationship status
- How many kids they have and their kids’ ages
- What they like to wear
- Favorite foods
- Preferred entertainment
- The vehicles they like to drive
- Where they live and interact
- Pain points
- What frustrates them
- Issues that keep them awake at night
Some of these considerations seem insanely specific – and certainly no two people are exactly alike – but the more you know about the person and their problem, the more you can tailor your business marketing plan to appeal to them. The most successful marketers get this granular with their avatars, so let’s learn from their success.
Give that person a name and a face – either in your mind or on your bulletin board. Make that person real and talk to them about things that matter to them. Then you can weave your message into the things they care about.
Learn More About Business Marketing Plans
This is foundational to a successful marketing plan, so we’re going to come back to it on a regular basis. In fact, I talk about it in even more specific detail on this podcast. If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, please take a few seconds to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or a dozen other channels. You can also find the link on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages. I hope you’ll join us there.
If you really want to take your marketing to the next level, join us at our free Unchained Entrepreneur Masterclass. These events focus on local business owners and entrepreneurs – people just like you who want to take their business to the next level!
We help members solve problems with their business marketing plans, with input and advice from the group and feedback from the attending Venture Studio consultants. We want to help you save your business. Even more than that, we want to SCALE your business. You don’t have to be another failure statistic. You can make things right and enjoy the business you were dreaming of when you started.
The Unchained Entrepreneur Mastermind is capped at 14 hungry, teachable, ready for success owners who want to grow. We want to remain an intimate yet productive size. Therefore everyone attending will have a chance at the hot seat. A true chance to get relevant feedback and help on their business needs and goals.
In the meantime, take a few seconds to share this article with your entrepreneur friends. And make it a great day.