7 Reasons You Should Invest in a Strategic Marketing Plan
Several years ago, I bought a 1950s fixer-upper. Originally, we were going to hire a contractor but when we reviewed the costs, we decided to do it ourselves. After spending countless hours finding tile and granite stores and picking out just the right finishes, I realized that it would have been much less time consuming and expensive to have hired an interior designer in the first place. These professionals know the business – what works and what’s going to look good – and I could have saved a lot of money and countless hours of lost time over the long run. While I learned a lot on my renovation journey, I would have ended up with a more coordinated look and be further along in life had I not taken the time to “do it myself.”
In the same way, hiring someone to develop a strategic marketing plan up front is a smart idea that will reap many rewards. For many business owners, it’s essential to start out doing your own marketing to keep costs down but there comes a time to take a closer, more strategic look at marketing activities to get to the next level.
While this is something that some business owners with marketing training can do themselves, the challenge is having the time to do it while running the daily operations of the business. In these cases, marketing decisions end up being made on the fly with limited information. Many times these activities fall to the bottom of the list as they are squeezed in between meeting customer needs. While some businesses can get away with this for a while, growth potential can be inhibited.
In my experience, some business owners have a hard time investing in research and planning because it by itself doesn’t reap a direct ROI. However, when done properly, the results can be enormous for long-term growth. If you’re wondering if it’s worth it for you, here are seven reasons you should make it a priority.
- Make marketing decisions easier and better. There are thousands of channels and mediums out there to market your business. Many times, business owners just try out marketing tools as vendors come to their door offering the latest and greatest gadget. While there is a place for testing a new marketing platform, a strategic marketing plan can help you easily decide if this is the right one to reach your target audience and achieve your goals.
- Save money. While the initial expense is higher, a well-researched and highly strategic plan will keep your marketing efforts on target and help you avoid costs that don’t align with your plan’s objectives and strategies.
- Access to professional advice. Just like the interior designer, quality professional marketers spend countless hours researching and learning about various marketing strategies, techniques, channels and tools. For busy business owners, this is just not possible. A plan developed by a knowledgeable marketer will direct your efforts towards the most effective solutions.
- Increase marketing effectiveness. With a plan that identifies your specific audiences and strategies to reach them, your messages will resonate better with your customers, which leads to an increase in sales.
- Make faster progress. While time will initially be spent doing research and developing the plan, you will then have a road map, calendar and budget to ensure that your marketing goals are accomplished in a timely manner – keeping you on target with your growth goals.
- Measure your results. If you don’t have a specific baseline of statistics or measurable objectives, you won’t know if progress has been made. A strategic plan can help you define what those measurements should be and allow you to objectively assess your efforts.
- Improve effectiveness of future marketing efforts. With the presence measurable objectives, you will have a better idea of how well your marketing efforts worked so you can refine them to improve future results.
All of this said, there is still a certain amount of trial-and-error in marketing due to many variables. However, if you start out with a plan based on research, you will reduce the percentage of error and associated costs and move your organization to the next level faster and more effectively.
5 Reasons Public Relations is a "Must Have" Strategy"
By Lisa Pickens, recent intern, e-Nuz.com, a public relations and digital marketing company located in the Seguin, New Braunfels and San Marcos area.
Many equate public relations (PR) with the spin-doctors you see on television. But the reality is that when public relations is done properly and ethically, it is a powerful tool that can help you grow your business or generate donations for your nonprofit. So, what is public relations, and how can it benefit your business or nonprofit?
What is Public Relations?
The official definition is: Public Relations (PR) is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. PR is the way businesses, individuals, and companies communicate with the public and media with an aim to educate the public about their brands. It also creates and maintains positive images and strong relationships with each public.
The public relations process involves doing research and developing strategies to achieve the public understanding necessary for your organization’s success. It encompasses anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that impact the future plans of the organization.
So with that understanding, here are five reasons why you should use public relations.
How Public Relations Can Benefit Your Organization
- When a customer sees third-party coverage about your product or service, it is perceived much differently than a traditional advertisement. When a third party, such as a local newspaper, television station or blogger, endorses your product or service, it gives your organization and advertising efforts additional credibility.
- Whether it's through media relations, social media engagement, email communication or building personal relationships, consistency in your public relations efforts will help build relationships with your publics that lead to increased loyalty and sales.
- One good media story from a public relations campaign can lead to an incredible increase in sales. While obtaining publicity isn’t automatic and can be challenging, many businesses are unique and have an interesting story that certain media outlets might be interested in. For example, when the Zappos Shoe Company opens up their meetings to the press to portray complete transparency, it earns them free media coverage that’s much cheaper than flashy events. It also allows for the public to take part in internal meetings of Zappos employees, giving them a sense of relationship with the company.
- Done properly and ethically, PR strategies can also reduce negative publicity that could seriously harm the company. The lack of professional assistance to handle negative situations can make or break your business. For example, if you receive a negative review online, have an irate customer posting on social media or have an employee who commits a crime and you handle it wrong, your sales can take a dive. A trained PR professional will help you minimize the damage in an ethical way and keep sales strong.
- PR is one of the most cost-effective methods for small businesses to raise brand awareness which leads to increased sales. While it does take some manpower, public relations is generally less expensive than paid advertising, which makes it incredibly valuable to businesses with tight budgets.
As you can see, incorporating PR strategies can be extremely helpful and cost effective for your business. Essentially, the success (or failure) of any business/company relies on effective public relations. And, no matter what size your business is, you could benefit from PR strategies.
Five Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Website Company
Whether you’re starting a new business or have an old website with an antiquated design, choosing a website host and development company can be overwhelming. There are so many choices. So how do you know which one is the best for you? To decide, there are several questions you need to ask yourself.
What is the purpose of your site?
If you simply want a basic site to direct clients to like a brochure, you can get an inexpensive build-it-yourself hosted website like GoDaddy, Wix or Weebly. Hosted sites like this are easy to use and affordable. However, they have several downsides. One is that you don’t own your site design and once you stop paying for it, your design is gone. Also, once you cancel your account, your files and designs will be deleted. If you still have access to that account and decide to migrate your site to another platform or host as you grow, the migration process may be more time consuming and costly.
Another downside is that if you want your website to attract new business online, these types of sites have limited options for maximizing your SEO or chances to get seen online. GoDaddy does not offer blogging capabilities within the site, and blogging/content creation is crucial to improving your search engine rankings. So, if you think these things might matter to you in the future, you need to choose a more robust CMS like Joomla or Wordpress.org.
What are the growth plans for your business?
If you’re a small business with limited plans for growth and aren’t concerned about SEO, a simple website builder like GoDaddy, Wix or Weebly may be the right choice for you. But if your intention is to grow your business into a larger organization, you need a platform that will expand with you. A custom site built with Joomla, Drupal or Wordpress.org will allow for the integration of tools for data management, collaboration, e-Commerce and more sophisticated search engine optimization.
How much time do you want to spend on security and site maintenance?
Security is a major concern for websites these days, and Wordpress is especially vulnerable. If you have extra time on your hands and are one of those responsible people who will check on your website once a week to make sure the plugins are updated for security purposes, you could consider a Wordpress.org site. If your time is limited and you would rather not deal with this hassle, you are better off with a Joomla host and site. Most Joomla hosts do the security updates for you so you don’t have to worry about it. Wordpress hosts such as WP Engine automatically update the Wordpress core which increases security but they do not update plugins. They also may be more expensive.
You should also consider whether or not you want to do your own content updates or have someone else do it. If you want to make your own updates to save money, both Wordpress and Joomla are easy to use. If you would rather have someone else do it so you can stay focused on your business operations and sales, then other customized website solutions may be an option.
Will you be happy with a template design or do you want a custom design that is unique to your business?
If you want to blog for personal fun or freedom of expression, you may be happy using an existing Wordpress or Joomla template or a simple build-it-yourself website platform. However, if you are a business that wants to establish its individuality, image and creativity, you may want to have a unique custom template designed.
Do you want your website to serve as a source of leads and sales?
Many times, people end up using a technical expert to build their website with little thought about marketing strategy. If you want a site that will maximize the ability to sell your products/services and set your business above the competition, you will benefit from working with a marketing agency that will not only help you deal with technical details but also consider your business goals and how the website will integrate with and optimize your overall marketing efforts. You may need to pay more upfront for marketing expertise but in the end, you will make up for it in increased sales or funding.
Michelle Baker, APR, is the owner of e-Nuz, a public relations and marketing business that specializes in helping organizations improve their awareness and success both on and offline.
Is Facebook Marketing Worth It?
For years, Facebook has been marketed to businesses and organizations as a free way to get publicity. What many people don't realize is that as Facebook has grown and added advertising, it has gradually reduced the reach of each organic post in order to handle the larger news feed and drive businesses to pay for advertising.
The good news is that you can "boost" the reach of your page and posts for a fairly reasonable budget - $2 and up. The more visibility you want, the more you pay. If you have a bigger marketing budget, you can also consider highly targeted advertising campaigns to market an event or drive people into your sales funnel. Facebook also allows you to boost your posts to Instagram and websites outside of Facebook.
The hard cold reality is that if you don't have the budget for Facebook advertising or aren't willing to pay to boost your posts, very few people will see your posts. So, you should limit the time and effort you spend on them. However, I still recommend having a page and filling it with valuable content that is updated regularly as part of your overall marketing strategy. That way, your business has a presence when people look for you.
On top of advertising costs, many business owners forget to take into consideration the time it takes for their staff to come up with creative posts on a regular basis or the cost of hiring someone to do it for you. The social media world has increasing moved towards favoring graphics, photos and videos, which can take more time to find or create. While some business owners have the time and enjoy doing it, many either don't have the time, forget to do it or have trouble coming up with creative ideas. If a business is struggling with any of these problems, they need to consider hiring someone to handle their marketing on a regular basis as part of their marketing budget.
Considering all these expenses, is Facebook marketing still worth it for businesses? The answer to this varies based on your business type and how much time, money and creativity you want to put into it. While there is no guarantee of success, I have seen clients sales grow by 35 percent from one year to the next by using Facebook advertising.
Bottom line, while Facebook is not a magic bullet to grow your business for free anymore, it can lead to new business if you are creative and willing to pay for advertising and invest your time - or pay someone to do it for you.
Michelle Baker is the owner e-Nuz.com, an agency that helps businesses increase their success with online marketing tools and traditional public relations strategies.