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

Twitter as social media marketing sales channel

If you’re not using Twitter to promote your online business, then you are going to be losing out on sales for your online store as a result. I’m going to tell you how to use Twitter as an effective marketing tool to generate sales for your business.

Twitter social media marketing sales channelTwitter is one of the most popular social networking websites there is and if used correctly can help send more visitors to your online store to buy the products and services you’re selling. Take note of the very important part of the last sentence “if used correctly” as this post is about how to get the best out of Twitter to sell online to avoid wasting your time, and ending up frustrated and giving up.

How not to use Twitter to sell online

If you think that Twitter is all about you posting a tweet with a link to your products and telling people to buy your product or service because it’s great, then you’re going to be wasting your time, even if what you’re selling is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Why? Because it is the equivalent of standing on a soap box on a busy high street and shouting at people. People have already switched off as they see you and avoid the message despite maybe even needing what you’re selling, they don’t like being sold to in this way.

How to use Twitter to sell online

So am I saying you shouldn’t post a link to your products and services and tell people how great they are that they should buy from you? That’s not what I am saying either. Tricky hey!

The clue is in the title, it’s about first and foremost being social and building a connection with people to establish a relationship with an audience. When you have a connection with people, they are going to be more likely to listen to what you have to say. When you do occasionally tell them about the great things you sell, there is a chance they will check it out.

There is a balance you need to have between connecting, sharing, contributing and selling, get this right and you can make Twitter an effective marketing sales channel.

How to make a social connection to people on Twitter

Before anyone can hear what you have to say, you need people to follow you on Twitter. A good starting point is to include a link to your Twitter profile in your web site and at the bottom of the emails you send. This is a good passive way to build up followers.

To actively build followers you can start by following others, some of these will return the favour and follow you back. I often take a look at someone who’s followed me to see who they are and what they are about. So by following someone, it can often lead to them checking out you and your website and then following you back. Try following a range of people and organisations which you are interested in, and follow organisations and events to do with your business sector, as Twitter makes suggestions based on the types of people you follow.

  • Follow businesses you already sell to, you might spot an opportunity for a sale at a later date if they tweet a message about a need they have or a problem they are trying to overcome that you could come to their rescue for with a solution.
  • Follow the businesses whose services and products you use yourself, as its a good way of keeping up to date on what is going on with the things you use and rely upon. As one of their customers, if you’re tweeting about your positive experiences using their products and services they may re-tweet your messages to their followers giving your more social marketing exposure.

To follow is one thing, to interact is better

I don’t follow just anybody who follows me, if someone follows me I like to actually have a look at their tweets and make sure I have some interest in what they tweet about. This helps me avoid Twitter spammers, like those just out to tweet you endless messages about ‘Buying 1000 Twitter followers instantly’ and other junk message tweeters. If you’re understanding the message here that Twitter only has real value when there is real social interaction, you’ll see that buying instant followers gives you no real interaction with real people, so will have little benefit to your business.

Following people is one thing, interaction is another. If someone you are following posted something that sounds interesting, you can re-tweet it. Effectively re-publish it on your own Twitter time line to your followers. It’s like saying, “Hey, I thought this was interesting from someone I follow, take a look and see if you think so”. People like it when you re-tweet their stuff, they may even say thank you, and it puts you on their radar.

Go one step further, reply to their tweet with your opinion on what they wrote, they want to know what they are writing is being read just as much as you do. You don’t always have to agree with them either to reply, Twitter is a public forum, as long as it’s not offensive, you’re entitled to your opinion.

Tweet links to articles on other people’s blogs or news sites that you found interesting and say why you liked it. These can be of general interest, but if it’s also relevant to your business sector, even better.

Tweet links to useful articles and competitions on your own website that people might be interested in.

When do you sell on Twitter?

So now people are interested in you and your interacting with them then you can drop in a tweet about the products and services you’re selling with a link to your website. This shouldn’t scare people off because they know following you is so much more than just sales messages, and they also know your a business at the end of the day. The ‘hard sell’ part should probably only amount to no more than about 10 to 20% of your activity on Twitter.

How to use Twitter as social media marketing sales channel

If you try and treat Twitter as a one-way advertising channel you will fail. Today’s modern marketing landscape is that you need to give people something valuable for free to get them engaged. When I say “Something valuable” I mean, giving people information has value if it is interesting, useful or even entertaining. Socially interacting with others makes you valuable to them making them more likely to return the favour, which expands your audience beyond just your own efforts, creating a social butterfly effect.

The final part is that you need to do this on a regular basis otherwise the positive effects fade away as quickly as they arrived. Good luck and get social marketing today! Sing up for a Twitter account now if you don’t already have one: http://www.twitter.com/

We look forward to getting a Tweet from you @shopintegrator on Twitter 🙂