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Effective digital marketing & sales for every budget

To start developing a digital marketing & sales programme aimed at acquiring and retaining more customers can feel quite daunting. There are so many possible channels, campaigns and tactics to choose from. Even for the smallest business, a marketing professional could easily be full-time engaged in running campaigns and exploiting the many digital marketing tools and services available.

If only money were no object.

I’ll be honest with you. You need a plan: an integrated approach that makes the best use of selected methods and techniques, so that they reïnforce each other’s effectiveness, and in such a way that managing them doesn’t become overwhelming.

The purpose of marketing is to inform your potential customers that your offering is relevant and worth considering and to guide them on their buyer’s journey with any information that may assist them towards a purchase decision.

Given the global attention economy that we live in, we have three types of attention strategies at our disposal, namely Owned, Earned and Paid media attention strategies.

Small businesses, in particular, often cannot afford full-time marketing professionals and have to be very conscious about how they allocate their marketing resources.

The King’s Road

No matter what business you are in, you will need to go through three stages in order to get your marketing programme rolling. I call this The King’s Road.

1. Plan

First, we’ll put together a plan. You need to be clear on your brand, the positioning of your products and services, your intended audience of customers, potential customers and influencers, and how to earn their attention and their business. Our plan will include a marketing calendar, which will guide all your marketing activities.

Your marketing calendar makes content marketing, advertising, and social media easily manageable. You’ll know exactly what you need to do to get leads and sales. And you won’t have any confusion about how the pieces fit together. Making sales online becomes part of the normal routine, instead of a source of stress.

2. Build

Next, we’ll build your digital infrastructure and establish or fine-tune your online presence. Typically, this will involve a webshop or website, supported by your presence on social media and other places and communities where your intended audience can be found.

The purpose of your digital infrastructure is to enable you to attract the right people, convert them into leads, nurture those leads so that they can decide if and when they want to become your customers, and to keep delighting your customers with great service and special treats so that they may spread the word for you. This is an inbound methodology.

3. Run

The third stage is all about execution and improvement. This is a recurring process, typically a monthly cycle, in which we create and distribute our marketing content, engage with people who’ve expressed interest, reach out to influencers, and run advertising campaigns to amplify our visibility.

An important part of the execution is that we consistently create and improve conversion funnels. These are the paths through which your potential customers find you, and how they convert from anonymous visitors into leads.

Based on what we learn about our audience and the measurable results of our marketing efforts, we also keep improving our marketing plan, calendar and digital infrastructure.

The budget

Now I hear you thinking: “Okay Jos, you said ‘for every budget’.”

Yes. Well, ehm… why don’t you tell me your monthly marketing budget and I’ll give you an idea of what we can accomplish? 🙂

But seriously, what you can accomplish is a function of your ambition level and budget.

For stage 1, with the help of an expert coach you can create a minimum-viable, first iteration of a marketing plan and calendar within a week. I have developed a short series of workshops to address all the questions that need to be answered in order to put together your plan and your calendar. Obviously, the more complex the business and the higher its ambitions, the more effort
(= time) is required at this stage.

The effort that needs to go into stage 2, establishing your digital infrastructure and online presence, again, really depends on where you are at the outset. You can pull up a minimum-viable website and social media accounts for the price of your hosting, domain name and the work going into web concept design and web development. If you already have your visual brand material and guidelines available, this can be achieved within a week or two. But, again, the more complex your business, your marketing and your content, the more you will want to put into this stage to align with that complexity.

Stage 3, then, is where we use the infrastructure we built in stage 2 to execute the marketing plan and calendar we created in stage 1. How much you can accomplish every month is really up to how much you’re willing to put in.

If you have your strategic calendar all worked out and are confident at creating your own marketing content, you may just need some coaching for strategic themes and topics, some editing or proofreading.

How much you can do yourself depends on your own skill set, your available time, and core-context considerations. If you have a passion and an aptitude for this model of integrated digital marketing, you may want to take on a larger part of the execution yourself. If, on the other hand, you consider other business operations to be closer to your core and role, you may want to seek more support.

Recurring tasks

For stage 3, your execution, whichever way you go about it and whatever resource you intend to allocate, I recommend that you consider the following recurring tasks, divided into two categories: planning and production. They can be part of a monthly or a longer cycle.

Cyclical (e.g. monthly) planning

  1. You’ll want to regularly check the foundation and basic assumptions of your business. What is its raison d’être? Why does your business exist? Which are the relevant megatrends that support your opportunity, given what you love to do, where you excel, and where you can be profitable (See also my post: ‘Love is underrated‘)? Any changes? Any weak signals that you should keep tabs on?
  2. Persona research & development. Personas are fictional descriptions of the people who are the object of your attention strategies: your potential customers, your customers, and the people who influence them in their (purchase) decisions.
    Understanding your personas’ interests, needs, pain points and preferences is an incredibly important part of your business intelligence, because it informs how you can reach and serve them.
    Initially you may work with persona descriptions based on previous encounters, observations, assumptions and guesstimates. Going forward, you’ll want to conduct structured interviews with people in your intended audience to keep improving your persona intel.
  3. For each persona, in order for your marketing to be effective, you need to be clear on the value proposition that you put in front of them. Review your value propositions regularly.
  4. Your marketing is impacted by how your business develops. Have a look at your products and services roadmap for the next 12 months. Improvements and introductions of products and services, but also events and seasonal themes, should reflect on your marketing calendar.
  5. Review your business KPIs and your marketing & sales KPIs, so that you can measure, report and improve performance.
  6. For each persona, consider what is their content need in each stage of their journey towards your business: from awareness to research & education, to comparison & validation, to purchase.
  7. Have a content brainstorm. Come up with several dozens of topics according to the following format: persona / stage / theme / topic / working title.
  8. Plan the next conversion funnel to build and market. What is the aim of the conversion for a particular persona in a particular lifecycle stage (e.g. free eBook download, newsletter sign-up, or contact request)? Design the steps in the funnel, ie. how your persona navigates, say, from a blog post to a landing page to an eBook download to a thank-you page to an email sign-up. Design an autoresponder email sequence if relevant.
  9. Update your marketing calendar. Plan the production and implementation of: static, informational web pages; the next conversion funnel; owned content for distribution, (e.g. blog articles,) including those supporting the newest conversion funnel; curated content; amplification via social media; email campaigns; influencer outreach; paid advertising.

Cyclical (e.g. monthly) production

All these production tasks should be found in your updated marketing calendar.

  1. Regular website maintenance and development, such as database backups, software updates and functional improvements.
  2. Create or improve the static pages that your personas need from your website.
  3. Build the next conversion funnel. For example, you can create a free give-away (e.g. eBook), a landing page / transaction page + thank-you page, and an autoresponder email sequence for your leads.
  4. Produce owned content for distribution, e.g. blog articles, including those supporting the newest conversion funnel.
  5. Amplify owned and curated content via social media.
  6. Carry out email campaigns.
  7. Reach out to influencers as planned.
  8. Manage paid advertising campaigns as relevant.
  9. Overall reporting, KPI reporting, recommendations.

Now, you can do all of these tasks, or some of them. You can do them every month, or stretch your cycle.

Should you need assistance and in case you engage me to work with you, you get a partner who digs in to really understand your business and makes sure your online marketing creates consistent results – without you wasting time and money on things that don’t work. You get practical, immediate support (just call or ping me) whenever you have a question, so you never get stuck with anything. And if you’re ever too busy to do something yourself, I’ll do it for you.

Now, over to you. What do you agree or disagree with? What would you want to do differently? What am I missing? Which aspect would you like me to elaborate on in a next version of this post (or a separate one)?

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