If you’re running a small business, you’ve got marketing challenges.  What you haven’t got is time or room for error. When you’re busy wearing many hats to keep your business running, marketing strategy is often the last thing you want to think about.

This is especially true when you’re a business owner first and a marketer by necessity.

Part of the frustration often comes from not knowing where to start or where to go next with your marketing efforts.

But what if you had a practical process to approach your marketing challenges?

At Constant Contact, we walk people through a five-step framework for thinking through a marketing challenge. The result is an overall approach to keep you moving toward success with your marketing efforts.

In each step, you’re trying to answer a specific question.

Step one: Plan – What am I trying to accomplish?

It’s important to have a plan so you can work the plan. Knowing what you’re working toward with an eye on future opportunities, goes a long way in keeping you consistent and on track with your marketing campaign.

During the planning process you’ll want to:

  • Clearly state your marketing goal
  • Indicate how you’ll measure success
  • Research marketing best practices
  • Put a high-level plan in place
  • Get more tactical with your plan

Let’s run through an example…

Clearly state your marketing goal.

EXAMPLE: Increase your email contact list by 500 contacts in three months.

Why? Because you know that by adding more contacts to your email list, you’ll have more people you can encourage to do business with you in the future.

Indicate how you’ll measure success.

How will you know if you’re successful in achieving your sales and marketing goal? It’s important to know the key metric that indicates success.

Be careful not to focus solely on vanity metrics. While there are a ton of things to measure be sure to go beyond opens, clicks, likes, comments, and shares. These are all leading indicators of success but go deeper on a tangible business result like sales, calls, website visits, and subscribers.

EXAMPLE: Success metric equals the number of contacts added over three months.

You can even break this goal down when tracking your progress. Five-hundred contacts in three months are about 167 signups per month or about six per day. Adding six new email contacts per day doesn’t feel as scary, does it?

Next, you’ll want to understand the different ways you can achieve your goal. Don’t forget to consider all the different elements available to you such as digital marketing, marketing automation, content creation and social media.

Research marketing best practices.

Marketing best practices give you a point of view on the matter and an idea of what success looks like. Using resources like DIY Marketer can give a better idea of where you should focus your attention.

Ultimately, you’re going to develop the best practices for your unique business situation.

Existing best practices give you a place to start so you can set benchmarks for yourself. Then make adjustments based on your business and customers to improve your results by responding to what your metrics are telling you.

Find a trusted source for marketing advice and take action on the advice.

There’s a ton of information out there. Find a resource that speaks to you and provides guidance in a practical, step-by-step manner.

Then you can implement the recommendations in a meaningful way.

EXAMPLE: Read the post “The Ultimate Guide to Growing a Massive Email List” for ideas.

Put a high-level plan in place. 

With some ideas to move you toward your goal, write down a plan to keep you on track.

EXAMPLE: In order to achieve GOAL (500 new email contacts) by DATE (within three months), here’s what we’re going to do OUTLINE THE PLAN (collect email contacts at every customer touchpoint).

Get more tactical with your plan. 

This is where you get deeper into the details of how you’ll actually execute against your plan.

Put down tasks with dates.

EXAMPLE: Plan: Collect email contacts at every customer touchpoint.

  • Review current processes in person, in print, and online by DATE.
  • Decide what to offer as an incentive for joining the list by DATE.
  • Create language for the offer by DATE.
  • Set up Constant Contact tools: pop-up sign-up form for the website, text-2-join, create signage, download list builder app by DATE.
  • Make staff aware of the plan, get buy-in, and ask for other ideas by DATE.

Step two: Design – What should it look like?

You’ll need to think about the proper look and feel based on today’s audiences and how people are consuming information on a particular channel. The mobile experience should be paramount when making design decisions.

EXAMPLE: All sign-up forms should have business branding (colors, logo) and be designed for the mobile phone. The layout should be clean and easy to consume.

Step three: Create – What content do I need to support it?

What you say and how you say it matters. Whether it’s on your website, in an email, or on social, each channel has a unique context that you need to consider to get the best results.

EXAMPLE: Language should focus on what people will receive in exchange for giving their email address. Then remove perceived objections by setting expectations about what they’ll receive in the future and letting them know they can unsubscribe at any time. Ask only for an email address at this point.

Step four: Measure – How will I know if it’s working?

This is where you’ll trackback to your goals and success metrics to assess the impact of your actions. What seems to be working? What’s not working? Are there any particular things that stand out?

EXAMPLE: Review new contacts added on a daily basis along with the source of the addition to get a sense of what’s working well and to see if you’re pacing toward your goal.

Step five: Grow – What can I do to make it work better?

Whether getting more of the right traffic to your website, growing your list, or creating better content to support your efforts, with this overall framework in place you can understand the bigger picture. Then you can come up with ways to address areas where you may need to make some adjustments to better grow your business.

EXAMPLE: A good number of new contacts are coming from our Facebook Page. As a next step, we’ll explore running a Facebook Lead Ad to see if that boosts our new contacts even more in an affordable manner.

Spend some time upfront to focus your efforts and create a roadmap for yourself.

In a time where everyone shouts about a quick fix or THE thing that’s going to push them over the edge, as a small business owner you likely already understand it’s not about one thing. It’s about consistent effort and hard work over time that creates a tipping point.

Rather than relying on tricks or hacks (yuck!), use this process to create a strong foundation to take action on your marketing goals.

Here are those five steps and the questions you’re trying to answer one more time.

  1. Plan – What am I trying to accomplish?
  2. Design – What should it look like?
  3. Create – What content do I need to support it?
  4. Measure – How will I know if it’s working?
  5. Grow – How can I make it work better?

Now it’s up to you!

Think through your latest marketing challenge using the 5-step process above. Spend the majority of your time on step one: plan. Write down your plan. If you do this, you’ll be on the right track to overcoming these marketing challenges and achieving your goals.

By the way, you now also have a plan to collect 500 new email contacts within the next three months. I added that one for free. 🙂