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Top 5 Mistakes Business Owners Make When Creating a Marketing Plan

I have a confession.

I started my business nearly two years ago without a marketing plan.

Yes, that’s right – I own a marketing agency and I didn’t have a marketing plan.

Do as I say, not as I do, right?

The truth is, I’m not alone. Many small business owners are strapped for time, budget and resources. All too often we cut corners – and the first thing to go is the marketing plan. And it shows: according to Bloomberg, eight out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. That’s a whopping 80 percent.

Creating a marketing plan is like building a house. You wouldn’t start putting up the walls without laying the foundation first, right? So why would you start promoting your products and services without having a plan in place for who you want to reach and how you’re going to engage them?

Once I got clear about my core services and who I’m trying to reach, my business changed. I started attracting the right people. Suddenly I had a consistent flow of clients and my income increased month-over-month.

Maybe you’re thinking…but my business is built on word-of-mouth and I’m doing just fine.

That may be so, but do you have a long-term plan for sustaining your current client roster? Are you prepared in the event budgets are cut or a client decides to end the relationship? A marketing plan isn’t just for the tough times – it’s for the times when business is booming too. The life of an entrepreneur is filled with ebbs and flows. If business ebbs, you need to be prepared to get clients in the door quickly. When you’ve been marketing year-round, it’s much easier to fill those slow periods.

All I have to do is create a marketing plan? That sounds easy.

Don’t underestimate the level of detail needed for a successful marketing strategy. It’s not something you can create off the side of your desk. You need to devote time and resources to creating a winning strategy that you or your team can put into action.

Unfortunately, this is where many small business owners go wrong. In fact, there are five mistakes I’ve seen business owners make that hinder the success of their marketing plan:

#1 – The plan lacks measurable goals.

What goals have you set for 2018? Are you trying to retain a certain number of clients? Are you launching a new product line? Are you trying to increase your number of customers by a specific amount? Are you trying to reach a certain income goal?

Whatever your goals are, your marketing plan should help you achieve them. A marketing plan should align with your business goals. The two work together in tandem. If you don’t know your goals for this year, then start there. Once you’ve determined what you’re trying to achieve, you can create a marketing strategy to support that.

#2 – There are no differentiating messages.

What sets you apart from your competitors? Why should someone choose your products or services over another’s? Think of 3-4 key messages that help your business stand out. Is there something different about the way you do business? Do you take a unique approach to customer acquisition? Is there something unique about your career journey that will resonate with others?

Once you’ve identified your key messages, then you can build sales copy around them. This copy will be included on your website, your social media channels, your emails, your sales presentations, etc. Putting your messages down on paper will also help you effortlessly answer the question, what do you do? The tighter your elevator pitch, the more likely you’ll be to get the sale.

#3 – The target audience is too broad.

When I asked one of my former clients who she was trying to reach with her marketing campaign, her response was, “everyone.”

Here’s the issue: you can’t reach everyone. You can try, but your messages will come across disjointed. You’ll alienate one group over another. For example, it’s near impossible to reach millennials and baby boomers. They’re both in completely different stages of life, so they require different messages.

The more custom your audience, the more your message will hit home. Yes, it means you’ll have to reduce the size of your target audience, but you’ll attract the right clients… saving you time, energy and money in the long run.

#4 – There are too many tactics.

While it’s important to cover all your bases, don’t try to tackle every single marketing tactic in the book. You don’t actually NEED to write one blog post every day, send out two weekly emails and post on social media five times a day. That’s a great recipe for burnout.

Instead, focus on your audience. What channels are they using most frequently? Do they prefer consuming information via video or a written blog post?

Next, think about your time. There are only 24 hours a day (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). Which tactics are going to have the most impact? Visit your website analytics and track how people are finding you. If it’s from LinkedIn, then don’t spend all your time posting content on Twitter. If people are responding to your emails with questions or comments, then you know that you have a very engaged list and you should invest your time and energy in cultivating that list with great content.

#5 – There is no way to measure the plan’s success.

How often do you measure your marketing plan?  If you’re like most business owners, not at all. If you have a marketing plan in place, yet you’re not analyzing your results to see what’s working or not working, then you may as well not have a plan at all.

How do you measure your marketing plan? There are a number of ways and here are my favorites:

–       Increase in visits to your website

–       How much time spent on your site

–       Number of new email subscribers

–       The number of times your emails are opened

–       How many people clicked on links within your emails

–       Social media comments, shares, etc.

–       Inquiries about your services

–       Anecdotal feedback from clients/customers

Notice that sales and revenue are not on this list. That’s because marketing is the first half of the sales process. It’s about getting leads, or people who are interested in your products and services. The next step is to convince those people to actually buy from you. That’s the sales part. Remember that old saying: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink? Marketing is leading the horse to water – sales is making him drink it. If your marketing plan is successful, then you’ll have a number of potential clients/customers. It’s up to you to close the deal.

This information is great, but what if I don’t have time to create a marketing plan?

It’s very simple. You have two options: either make time or hire someone to do it for you. It’s not an option to not have a marketing plan. If you’re a successful business owner, you need a marketing plan.

Your business deserves it.

You deserve it.

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