Small business guide to marketing plannning Part 5: Implementing and measuring performance

triple jumpMaking it happen and measuring your performance

To conclude our ‘Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning’ series, we look at the final two stages of the SOSTAC marketing planning process – Action and Control. Action is the who does what and when of the Tactics (examined in Part 4 of this series). Control is how you measure your performance. How successfully have you achieved what you set out to do in your objectives?

Action – Who does what and when

The ‘Action’ element of the SOSTAC  is essentially the details of your tactics. It involves thinking about the specifics and practicalities of implementing your plans. You need to think about:

  • Tasks: What actually needs to be done? Think about all the tasks that need to be implemented in order for you to roll out your plans. For example, if you were planning  a series of traffic driving promotions in order to grow your prospects database, then what development needs to take place on your website first in order for you to data-capture the new names coming in? You need to think about all the tasks that your plans entail.
  • Resources: Who is going to be responsible for what? Will you need to outsource or bring in any external agencies?
  • Timescale: What timescale are you working to? What are achievable and realistic deadlines for your tasks?
  • Budget: Make sure you are aware of all the potential  costs – website development, promotions, design and so on.

There is no use having a wonderful strategy and great tactics if you haven’t looked at how and when you are going to get your plans underway. You need to think about your available resources and consider what is a realistic timeframe. Outlining exactly who will be responsible for what and setting agreed deadlines will help ensure your plans are rolled out successfully and within the timeframe dictated by your objectives.

desk calendarSchedule

Creating a schedule is the best way to ensure everybody is clear about who is responsible for what and what the agreed timeframes are. Remember, if  a task falls behind schedule it is likely to have a knock-on effect on all your other deadlines.

You can easily put together a perfectly adequate schedule on excel – just remember that it is a working document and should be kept updated, referred to and amended accordingly as your plan progresses. Outline each task, who is responsible and what the deadline is. Circulate your schedule to everyone involved (this includes external resources if you are outsourcing) as it will ensure there is no confusion about who is taking responsibility for what. And, even if you are a one-man-band and planning on doing it all yourself, creating a schedule is still important as it provides a useful and detailed action plan for you to work to.

Control: How do you measure your performance?

It is really important to be able to ascertain whether you achieved what you set out to in your objectives. And, if you haven’t achieved specific targets then it is essential you understand why. Otherwise, you risk repeating unsuccessful tactics over and over again wasting valuable time and money. It is only through measurement and analysis that you can understand how to improve on your performance.

So, first you need to decide upon how you intend to measure your performance. What KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) do you intend to use? Of course this will depend on what your objectives were, but could include analysing  RoI, number of new leads, conversion rates, traffic sources, new visitors to your site, page impressions and so on. Think about what are the most suitable metrics and measurements to enable you to assess the success of what you have undertaken.

Web Analytics

As an e-commerce site it is inevitable that some of the measurements you will be using will be web analytics. This is why it is important to get to grips with some of the common metrics – they can tell you an awful lot about your business!

“Web analytics is essentially about monitoring how visitors are using different pages and features on your website” (EConsultancy, Web Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide)

Web analytics are useful metrics to help you better understand your performance – in terms of both your website and response to specific campaigns. There are many useful metrics but if you are just starting out then the ones listed below are probably the ones to familiarise yourself with first.

  • Traffic source: This tells you where your traffic is coming from – through direct traffic (existing customers, offline campaigns), search engines, referring sites or campaigns (email, banner ads, social media campaigns and so on)
  • Visits: Basically how many visitors are coming to your site. You can find out the percentage of new and repeat visitors.
  • Page views: Number of page views can be an indication of how engaged your visitors are by telling you an average of how many pages they visited. You can also find out the average duration of visits.
  • Bounce rates: This is often used to measure the quality of traffic coming to your website. It tells you who visited only one page of your site and then left immediately. Take a look at Avinash Kaushik’s article on just how useful bounce rate can be.

If you are just starting with web analytics then there are a lots of helpful free resources available. We like:

Customer satisfaction

Of course don’t forget there are other more qualitative ways to measure your performance. Customer feedback can be invaluable. Monitoring customer satisfaction through taking note of customers views and opinions can tell you a lot about how your performance through the eyes of your customers.

ShopIntegrator’s Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning

This is the final part of our Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning. Hopefully we’ve been able to show you that by using a simple marketing planning framework like SOSTAC, you can create a useful and relevant working document. We really believe that investing time and effort into putting together a marketing plan for the year ahead will pay dividends in the long run by helping give your business clear direction and focused objectives  in order to move your online business forward.

  • Part 1 : Introduction to Marketing Planning and the SOSTAC framework
  • Part 2 : Situational Analysis: Where are you now?
  • Part 3:  Setting Objectives and formulating Strategy: Where do you want to be and how do you get there?
  • Part 4: Tactics: How exactly do you get there?

Triple Jump © Denys Kuvaiev | Dreamstime.com

3D desktop calendar image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts in this post, so please do leave a comment.

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Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning Part 4: Tactics

Soccer tactics on chalkboardOur Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning has been looking at how using a simple marketing framework like SOSTAC can help guide you through all the elements needed to make a marketing plan a useful and relevant tool for your business.

  • Part 1 discussed the value of marketing planning for small businesses and looked at SOSTAC as a planning system.
  • Part 2 examined situational analysis and the importance of understanding where your business currently stands.
  • Part 3 talked about how to write SMART objectives and formulate your marketing strategy.

In Part 4 of our marketing planning guide we look at tactics and the communication tools we can use to achieve the targets we have set our business for the year ahead.

Tactics: How EXACTLY are you going to get there?

So, the market analysis you’ve undertaken means you know where your business currently stands and consequently, you have formulated your goals and objectives. You should have good idea of where it is you want to be. Your strategy has looked at how you are going to achieve your objectives. So the next step is tactics – how exactly are you going to get there? What digital communication tools are you going to use to support your strategy in order to achieve your objectives? The tactics element of your marketing plan is really the detail of your strategy;  it is here you outline the tools you are going to use.

Benefits of digital marketing tools

Digital marketing has brought with it a number of benefits for small online businesses, making it possible (with a bit of investment in both time and effort) to market on a more level playing field with some of the bigger competitors. Digital marketing offers SME’s the benefit of:

  • Lower costs: there are a number of digital tools that small online businesses can utilise without the cost associated with some of the more traditional marketing methods. For example social media, SEO and email  are all tools that smaller business can use without having to incur high marketing costs.
  • Creativity: digital marketing has made it easy to be creative with your marketing – social media, video, games etc. can all be used to pull in potential customers through engaging online content.
  • Interaction with customers: the interactive nature of the web has provided an excellent environment for developing customer relationships. For example, blogs, discussion forums and customer reviews have all made two-way dialogue with customers far easier. Rather than just throwing out messages,  digital tools enable you to pull customers into your site and engage in more meaningful communications.
  • Easier measurement: the digital environment has meant the introduction of online tools like web analytics that can help you measure your performance with more accuracy. Web analytics are simply the tools we can use to measure, collect and  analyse data to better understand our online presence. By using metrics such as traffic source, conversions, bounce rates and so on, small business can more effectively measure the performance of their marketing activity.
  • Immediacy: if you’ve got something exciting to say, you don’t have to wait to shout about it to your customers. Email and social media can be instantaneous. For example if you have something that is time sensitive sending an email promotion to a customer is far quicker (and lower cost), then its offline direct mail counterpart.

Digital Marketing Tools

Obviously the digital communication tools you decide to use will depend on your objectives and strategy alongside available budget and resources. But as a small online business, the key digital tools you may want to consider are likely to include:

  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM):  the process you go through to increase your page ranking on search engines in order for you to increase you business’ visibility and drive traffic to your site. SEM essentially divides into two,  increasing your ranking through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and through paid advertising (PPC). Search engine optimisation requires time, effort and commitment but is an essential part of building your business’ presence online.
  2. Online PR: sending out press releases to relevant media can be a great way not only to promote your latest news and developments, but also keeps fresh content coming into your website for SEO purposes, increases inbound links to and builds brand awareness.
  3. Online advertising: interactive online advertising essentially means you advertise your business on a third-party site through a banner ad. Although there are likely to be costs associated with online display advertising, it can be a useful way to increase awareness of your brand and generate direct response from potential customers.
  4. Email Marketing: email is an essential channel for both acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers. Despite worries over the increase in spam, email remains an effective marketing tool. The costs are low (in comparison to direct mail), response can be immediate, it can be quick to deploy, and can be tailored to specific customer segments easily.
  5. Social Media: Engaging with your customers though social media is a great way to give your business and brand a personality. Used thoughtfully, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites can help promote your products, help you gain valuable customer insight and help drive new traffic and increase inbound links to your site.
  6. Online sales promotion: Online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons can be a great sales promotion tool. They can help increase sales, drive traffic and reward customer loyalty.
  7. Content Marketing:  We’ve mentioned it over and over again in previous blogs, but content is the cornerstone of online marketing – it is absolutely central to everything you do. Think about ways to keep content on your site fresh, up-to-date, relevant and interesting. Perhaps look at ways you can increase your content such as through blogging, video demonstrations, customer reviews and competitions. For ideas, I suggest you take a look at a The Content Marketing Matrix from Smart Insights.
  8. Online partnerships: Identifying ways in which you can work in partnership with a third-party to promote your online services can pay dividends by opening your business up to a stream of new and relevant customers. This could be with affiliates, suppliers or complementary businesses and associations.

The final part of our marketing planning guide will be looking at Actions and Control the final two elements of the SOSTAC marketing planning framework.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Soccer Game Strategy image by Kromkrathog at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Small business guide to marketing planning part 3: Objectives and strategy

world map and compassTo give your business direction and enable it to move forward, you need to have a clear idea of your goals, objectives and strategy . You may have a general idea of where you’d like your business to be in one, two or five years time, but without setting specific targets you may find you lose track of where you’re going and have no way to measure the success of what you are doing.

So, welcome to part 3 of our small business guide to marketing planning. In Part 1, we  looked at the importance of marketing planning and how using a framework such as SOSTAC can help you build your small business marketing plan. Part 2 discussed the first step in marketing planning – situational analysis and examined the question ‘Where are you now?’ This post looks at the importance of  setting objectives and how to formulate your strategy by thinking about ‘Where do you want to be?’ and ‘How do you want to you get there?’

Where do you want to be?

Having undertaken your situational analysis you should have a pretty solid idea about where your business currently stands. You’ll have a good understanding of your customers, the marketplace and your competitors.  You’ll also be aware of  your business’ strengths and weaknesses, alongside any opportunities or threats that may be on the horizon. All this analysis will help you mould your goals and objectives. These may include wider, long-term goals such as your business mission and vision as well as more specific short to medium term objectives.

So for example; say your situational analysis has identified that one of your weaknesses is that you have only a small database of prospective clients,  one of your goals over the year is likely to be to grow your database. Put into a specific short-term objective that you can focus your strategy and tactics around, your objective could be something along the lines of:

  • To increase ‘prospects database’ contacts by 25% by 30th June 2014.

SMART objectives

To make you your objectives both useful and relevant, you need to make them SMART. This way it is clear to everybody what the target you are progressing towards is.

  • Specific – objectives should be detailed and specific to a particular area – not vague or wishy-washy as that will make them impossible to measure.
  • Measurable – the objective should be able to be quantified.
  • Achievable – is the objective likely to be achieved or have you overestimated targets?
  • Realistic – do you have the resources, time, budget to make the objective happen?
  • Timely – you need to have a specific target time frame to work to.

How do you get there?

Now you know ‘where you want to be’ through setting clear goals and objectives, you need to think about how you’re going to get there. Strategy is driven by your situational analysis and is essentially about how you intend to go about meeting the objectives you’ve set.  So in our example our objective was to increase the number of contacts on our database. Therefore we are likely to want to drive more traffic to our website, which may well mean improving our search engine visibility and ranking. Our strategy will be thinking about the best ways to do this. This may include looking at:

  • Customer segmentation and target marketing strategy. Probably the key element when formulating your strategy is your customers and segmenting them into clearly defined customer groups by identifying the different behaviour and needs of each group. You will have looked at segmenting your customers as part of your situational analysis, so your strategy should then focus on how you intend to target your marketing to each customer segment.
  • Your positioning and OVP ( Online Value proposition): Where is your business positioned within the market and what is it that makes your e-commerce offering stand out from your competitors? How can you exploit this to your advantage?
  • Content strategy:  So if your strategy is to drive traffic to your website,  you will want to improve your search engine ranking and therefore you will need to look at SEO (search engine optimisation) . Content is absolutely central to SEO And so you will need to think about ways to improve your online content.

Your strategy is all about what actions are you going to undertake to ensure you achieve you objectives.  Your next step will be defining the tactics you are going to use (the tactics element of the SOSTAC framework will be part 4 of our marketing planning guide).

So, how does all this fit into the SOSTAC framework?

Going back to our earlier example objective of growing our prospective database, lets look at it in the context of the SOSTAC  framework :

Situational Analysis

1. Where are you now?

SWOT analysis  identified that the current prospects database was poor

Objectives

2. Where do you want to be?

SMART objective: To increase ‘prospects database’ contacts by 25% by 30th June 2014

Strategy

3. How do we get there?

 Strategy: To drive traffic to our website in order to data capture new names and achieve our objective of growing our prospects database by 25%.

Tactics

4. How exactly do we get there?

What marketing tactics will we use in order to drive traffic to our website and data capture new names for our database?

Actions

5. What is our plan – who is going to do what and when?

Who is taking responsibility for our tactics. What is the schedule and timeframe required in order to meet our objective’s deadline? What is the budget? What resources do we have?

Control

6. How are we going to measure our success?

We need to be able to measure our performance through analysis such as, KPI, web analytics, conversion rates in order to be able clearly measure whether we have met our objectives.

Part 4 of our Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning will be looking at marketing tactics.

Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Small business guide to marketing planning part 2: situational analysis

SWOT signpostIn Part 1 of our guide to successful marketing planning we discussed the importance of putting time aside to plan your marketing for the year ahead.  We looked at the SOSTAC model as a simple and effective framework to follow when creating a marketing plan for your online business.  Part 2 of our guide looks at situational analysis in more detail. Situational analysis is the  first step in putting together a useful and relevant marketing plan.

Situational Analysis : Where are you now?

Before you rush headlong into creating your marketing plan for the year ahead, you need first to have a thorough understanding of where your business currently stands. Without this knowledge you are unlikely to be able to formulate a successful marketing strategy or steer your marketing activity in the direction it needs to go in order to support your overall business goals. Carrying out a situational analysis will provide you with a solid base from which to build the rest of your plan around.

Situational analysis essentially involves reviewing your internal and external environment through carrying out various useful analysis exercises. Including:

  • Customer Insight
  • SWOT
  • PESTEL
  • Competitor Analysis

Customer Insight

Customers should be the central focus of any marketing. Understanding your customer’s characteristics, behaviours and needs is fundamental to whether your business succeeds or fails long-term. Only through having a thorough understanding of your customers can you deliver what they want and achieve customer satisfaction.

Gathering as much data as you can about your customers is important. This could be through quantitative data such as demographics from registration forms, online behaviour from web analytics or more qualitative research such as feedback from social media interactions or lifestyle questionnaires. The more information you have the more you will be able to segment your customers into target markets with shared characteristics and offer more relevant and personalised communications, which in turn is more likely to lead to a higher conversion rates.

SWOT

A SWOT analysis involves looking at your internal environment by  identifying your businesses strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats provided by your external environment. A simple SWOT matrix like the image below  is a useful way to list them : 

SWOT matrix

Performing a SWOT enables you to identify and compare your key strengths and weaknesses alongside opportunities and threats from the external environment. This way you can ascertain the areas you are strong, the areas you can potentially improve, opportunities to exploit and threats you need to manage. Essentially it is about taking advantage of the strengths and opportunities which are going to help you achieve your objectives and identifying and managing any weaknesses or threats that may hinder you achieving your objectives.

PESTEL

A PESTEL analysis looks in more detail at the influences of the surrounding external environment and is a great exercise to get you thinking about external factors you may not have previously considered. PESTEL stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal – obviously some factors will have more of an impact than others:

  • Political – monitoring legislations from national and international governments is important. For example Government’s approaches to the Internet and its use could have a huge bearing on how online businesses operate.
  • Economic – economic factors from different countries can have a wide-reaching impact on the spending power of both individual consumers and organisations – for example what effect might a steep rise in interest rates or changes in exchange rates have on you or your customers?
  • Social – What social trends are occurring? For example the last few years have seen a significant growth in the older generation going online – what opportunities might that offer your business?
  • Technological – changes in the technological environment are often rapid and can have a knock on effect on your business. For example the massive rise in m-commerce has made it imperative that online business are multi-device friendly.
  • Environmental – Ecological and environmental factors may affect how a company operates. For example consumer pressure for fairtrade, sustainable and ethically produced goods may offer opportunities but could also drive up costs?
  • Legal – changes in law can effect how  your  company has to operate. For example how would changes to the data-protection act change how you collect and store customer information?

Once you have brainstormed all the relevant external factors, you can then classify them as high, medium or low impact and identify whether they are a potential opportunity or threat that needs to be managed.

Competitor Analysis

Keeping abreast of what your competitors are doing is of paramount importance as it enables you to gain competitor intelligence that can be fed into your strategy and planning. Competitor analysis is simply the  process of monitoring assessing your competition. We’ve examined competitor analysis in detail in our posts Getting To Know Your Competitors and Competitor Benchmarking – How to Compare Competitors Online, so take a moment to look at these posts as they’ll help you identify your competitor landscape and show you how to gain competitor insight through digital analysis.

Spending some time thinking about and indeed, carrying out some of the analysis we’ve discussed will help ensure that the foundation of any strategy or planning you are undertaking is an accurate reflection of you businesses current situation. It will make certain that your marketing objectives and strategy  are all pointing in the right direction to grow your business and support your business goals. In Part 3 of marketing planning we’ll be looking at  SMART objectives and formulating a marketing strategy.

SWOT signpost image courtesy of Scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

How to save your website from shopping cart abandonment

Guest Author: Jessica Kornfeind

Jessica Kornfeind is the Social Media Specialist at Ripen eCommerce, which has provided comprehensive eCommerce solutions for clients since 2004. Working in close partnership with online businesses, Ripen’s eCommerce web development, marketing, creative and technology teams build intuitive user experiences that boost online sales.

shopping cart on computer keyboardSave your online business from shopping cart abandonment

An endless problem for eCommerce companies is the fight against abandoned online shopping carts.  Your customers are showing a genuine interest in your company by taking the time to choose items or services and placing them in their cart.

Even then, about 67% of customers are still leaving without making a purchase. What can you do to prevent buyers from leaving your online store empty handed?

It’s time to evaluate the order and checkout process of your site.  With a few simple tweaks you may see a drastic reduction in the amount of potential sales left in online shopping carts.

Let’s dive in and finally solve the problem of abandoned eCommerce carts:

shopping cart abandonment infographic

 Infographic created by Ripen eCommerce

Shopping cart keyboard button image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Small business guide to marketing planning : part 1

marketing plan conceptWelcome to 2014. It’s the start of a brand new year and now is the time to start planning your marketing activity for the year ahead.  

We realise it’s not always easy to discipline yourself to put time aside for planning. Small business owners often have to juggle multiple roles, and planning can feel like it’s just one more thing to add to the bottom of a long of list of priorities – and before you know it you’re already halfway through the year. However, we firmly believe that putting some time aside now to plan your small business marketing strategy for the year ahead is well and truly worth the time and effort you put in.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at each of the elements that make up a successful marketing plan in more detail. First though we’ll look at why creating a marketing plan is so important for SME’s.

Why a usable marketing plan is so important for small businesses

Spending time planning your year ahead will actually help you focus on the areas that will help drive your business forward. By the end of the process you should have a relevant, useful working document that you can refer to time and time again over the course of the year. A good marketing plan will:

  • give your business direction through creating clear goals and objectives
  • help you to better understand your customers, online environment and competitors
  • help you put your resources and budget in the right places
  • provide a marketing strategy and plan of action for the year ahead
  • give you benchmarks by which to measure your performance.

How to write a marketing plan

How formal and structured you maker your marketing plan is  up to you. It  will depend on your business and the time and resources you have available. However at the very least you should consider and each of the areas we’ve outlined below as they’ll help you formulate your strategy and marketing activity for the coming year.

There are plenty of useful marketing planning models – marketers all  have their own particular favourites. In this post we’ll be using SOSTAC as it is a simple, useable framework to structure your plan around.  The SOSTAC model was created by Paul Smith in the 1990’s and is still one of the most widely used and popular models for marketing planning.

SOSTAC marketing planning model:

Situation Analysis – where are we now?  This is where you review your current environment to give you a better idea of where your business currently stands – what the current opportunities and threats are.  Situation analysis involves undertaking some marketplace, customer and competitor analysis enabling you to gain a better insight into your current situation and help you focus on where you want to be.

Objectiveswhere do we want to be? Setting clearly defined goals and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives will enable you to focus your marketing strategy to support your overall business strategy and business objectives. For example, if growing your online sales by x% is one of your business objectives this year then a key marketing objectives is likely to focusing on increasing traffic to your website.

Strategyhow do we get there? Your marketing  strategy essentially defines how you will achieve the marketing objectives you have set out. For example how you will position yourself in the market place and differentiate yourself from your competitors, and how you will segment and target your market.

Tactics exactly how do we get there? Tactics are simply the tools you use to achieve your objectives and support your marketing strategy. Tactics are essentially based around the 7ps of the marketing mix (product, promotion, price, place, people, process and physical)

ActionsWhat is our plan? Actions are the specific details of the tactics you have decided upon –  essentially who, when and how you intend to implement them. This often involves putting together of schedule of actions, budgets, timeframes and responsibilities.

Controlmeasuring success?  Control is how you intend to monitor the performance and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing, using measurements like web analytics, customer feedback, sales, conversion rates and so on.

We’ll be looking at each of these elements in more depth over the coming few weeks so by the end of the process you should be able to create a useful marketing plan that supports your overall business objectives and gives direction to your marketing activity over the coming year.

Marketing Plan Book image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Online objectives – drive traffic, generate new customers,  retain existing customers,