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You’re a small business owner. Most of your customers are the people who live within 25 miles of your storefront. Why does it even matter what the Internet has to say about your brand? That has no impact on your bottom line. Right? No. Dangerously wrong. Weber Shandwick recently released a new report called The Company Behind The Brand: In Reputation We Trust, that breaks down exactly why business owners should be concerned with the online footprint they’re leaving (or not leaving) behind. […] It doesn’t matter if you’re not trying to target a national audience. Local consumers are using the Web to find information about local businesses. It’s up to you to make sure they’re finding the right kind of information.” This is the gist of a recent post appeared on the web. In this post Lisa Barone (the author) suggest 6 things to do:

  • Create a Web site
  • Blog
  • Get involved in social media
  • Get involved in your community
  • Guest blog on relevant sites
  • Solicit & manage online reviews

Furthermore, as can be seen from recent statistics, the success of this marketing model, with the arrival of more and more companies, is making cost per lead increasing (see next image here) even though much less than these of the standard model (that of advertising ).

Contente helps lower cost of leads

Source Tinou bao Data Hubspot

Thus, as suggested in a recent article, act now! Sure, but how? Well, you can always hire me .

Or you can do a marketing plan. When was the last time you made a plan? And when was the last time you did a marketing one? No, it is not as difficult as it sounds. There is no need to make graphs, tables or conduct expensive market analysis. What is needed is to follow a series of tips and build it gradually. It may be easier than you think.

Position your product

Ask yourself what you sell being careful to simple, but incorrect answers (if you think that Starbucks sells coffee, you are wrong, Starbucks sells a place between home and work). Once identified continue checking other 3 “P” (beyond the first “PProduct): the Price at which you sell (it is lower than competition? Do you earn enough? Etc.), the Promotion you do (your marketing plan!) to make it unique and the Places where is distributed (yes, your shop, but have you thought about selling online? Or in an outlet?).

Squeeze your mind!

To better define the marketing plan you should check the 5thP”, People! Put together your family, your advisors and all those who know best about your business and ask yourself few questions that need to be answered:

  • To whom do you sell
  • What are their needs
  • What distinguishes your product from the competition
  • What tactics could be used to make your product noticeable
  • When and how often these tactics should be used
  • Where do you want the company to be in a year

Record the discussion and do a summary, in order to have the best ideas to be included in the plan, but also to be used to initiate actions to reach your goals.

Il Generale Eisenhower il giorno del D- DayListen to your customers

To find out what your customers think, ask them! A survey on your current or potential customers can be easily done today in particular if you offer discounts or freebies. But there is a better way to listen to them a way that even go beyond listening. That is to follow the content and inbound marketing model, a model where you produce relevant content to your customers (current and potential) via the internet, a model where you are active on social media to listen, react and provide value to your customers (current and potential). This will allow you to increase your leads, to listen them better, improve your reputation and better react to what is said about you, increasing the popularity of your brand.

I will explain how to do it in a next post. For now it’s sufficient  to know that the emergence of social media has added a precedent stage to the sales process. Rather than starting from the relationship between potential buyer and seller, the sales process begins when the prospect starts to search over the Internet or asking to his “friends”/”followers” the product you sell. To be found easily or having a good reputation increases the number of potential customers. Being active on social media allows you to learn more about what they think, find out where they talk about your product, which are the critical features, etc.. And finally being proficient (and how can’t you be? it’s your business!), transparent, socially active and time responsive you just increase your credibility and your reputation.

Roll out the plan and track it over time

Once you have focused your product and your customers and identified strategies and tactics you have everything you need to write down the marketing plan. How? Well you can follow this track:

  1. In a page put the key elements: objectives, positioning and what do you expect to achieve in the period of time (e.g. I expect to see my sales increase of 5%, to be able to sell online discounts, etc..).
  2. Write down your identified target markets and niches.
  3. Describe for each target or niche the strategy you use.
  4. Allocated and share costs and resources used to each one.
  5. Describe the marketing channels that you are going to feed in terms of materials, content and distribution vehicles that will serve to attract potential customers (e.g. free tickets to an event sponsored for some VIPs, parents of children in the local elementary school for Christmas sponsorship, likers in the facebook page to for the raffle, e-commerce site of the outlet, contact through Yelp reviews that you have requested, etc..).
  6. The competitive strategies, responding to the moves of your competitors, if they react to your plan, or if they move by themselves.

Finally, keep an eye on the key variables of the plan, from the ones you identified (e.g. costs, the number of potential customers to achieve the sales you expect, etc..) And adjust the plan during construction. As President Eisenhower, who was also one of the founders of the project management, used to say the plan is important, but what is crucial is the act of planning.

Are you ready to make a marketing plan? How would you do instead? Are you convinced that what is said on the internet has importance for your business?

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