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7 practical steps to help you plan your next marketing campaign

7 practical steps to help you plan your next marketing campaignPlanning a marketing campaign can be an intimidating prospect, especially for a small business. There’s so much jargon, so many concepts and next-big-thing ideas. But don’t give up at the first hurdle – there is a simple way to get there. Have a read of these handy hints of what to do before you launch a campaign. These are the key points you should have clear in your head before you start, and the things that will make your campaign a hundred times easier and more successful.

1. Define your goals
This may sound like an obvious question, but try and be really clear on the outcome you’re looking for. So, are you a mechanic that wants to retain clients, or a hairdresser that wants to attract new ones? Be clear, and then get even more specific. If you want to attract new clients, for example, how many, and in what time period? Only by setting clear, defined goals will you be able to measure the success of your marketing campaign. Don’t worry if at first you feel like you’re taking a stab in the dark, you can continue to refine your goals as you go.

2. Highlight your unique selling point (USP) and make your message consistent
It’s important to be very clear on what your business is, and what it stands for – and what makes it different from competitors. If you’re a florist and you can guarantee same-day delivery in a certain area, make sure your customers know that. If you’re an award-winning bakery, shout it from the rooftops. Customers want to know that you’re the business they can rely on for quality, or reliability, or speed. Make it easy for them to find out. The key is consistency. Once you have chosen how you want to position your business in the market, stick with it and make sure everyone in the business is on board. Ensure all your communications, online and offline, have the same message.

3. Know your target audience
Make sure you have this clear from the outset – it will save you a lot of time and money wandering down blind alleys. Do your research – ask questions of your existing customers, find out what kind of person buys your kind of product or service. Only once you have established your market can you judge what kind and what size of marketing campaign you need to launch. For example, if you’re a hairdresser and you happen to have a few retirement communities nearby, the chances are that the best way of reaching your potentially large customer base is not going to be over Twitter.

4. Decide how you will measure success
Before you start out, it’s definitely worth considering how you’re going to deal with the insights you’ll generate, first by your research into your target audience, and then by the campaign itself. Do you have a clear way of viewing and analysing this data? If not, make sure you have one in place before you begin, or you may find yourself with a lot of questions and no way of answering them. There are some useful reporting tools in Google Analytics (for more help, read this article) and you can also set up feeds on social media to monitor reviews of your business (we’ve mentioned just a few here).

5. Check out the competition
It’s not cheating to have a good look at what competing businesses are doing or offering. In fact, it makes great business sense, and will give you a good idea of where to position yourself in the market. For example, if your competitors are all offering discounts and selling themselves as the best value, why not convey your business as the highest quality instead? You’ll have a key differentiator and may strike a chord with customers looking for a guarantee of quality rather than just a cheap fix.

6. Create a communications plan and budget
Sounds complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. Simply jot your channels down the side (e.g. social media, newspaper advertising, website) and plot the weeks along the top. Then grey out when each tactic in your plan will take place. Similarly, creating a simple budget spreadsheet will help you keep tabs on the overall cost of your campaign so that you can measure your return on investment. The key is to keep it simple. List your channels down the side and months across the top, and then just jot down your forecast spend in one column and your actual spend in another column alongside.

7. Consider seasonal events
Seasonal events can be a fantastic way to attract new business. For example, if you’re a gardener or supplier of gardening products, the run up to bank holidays might be a good time to look at investing in a bit of search engine marketing (SEM) as more people plan to spend some time in their garden and will probably be looking for your kind of business (to learn more about SEM, read our article). Also think about how you can take advantage of quieter times of year to try out new marketing ideas.

And there you have it. If you work through the steps above, you’ll be clear which tactics to use and which messages you should shout about, so that when you come to launch your campaign, you’ll be confident in your ability to make it a success.


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