Category Archives: Marketing Plan

What You Should Be Including In Your 2018 Marketing Plan Right Now

Though it may feel like you still have plenty of time, 2018 is less than 100 days away!

That means it’s time to be thinking about your marketing strategy and budget for the new year.

Many of us are searching for 2018 marketing trends, lists and strategies, and those articles abound. This article is to help you understand from a high level what you need to be assessing and what you need to do as you actually write your overall marketing plan, both online or off.

2018 Marketing Plan, Strategy Tips

Creating a marketing strategy begins with evaluating your business objectives. Any campaigns you develop in the coming year must tie back to the objectives you decide upon now. Without specific goals in mind, your 2018 marketing attempts will be unfocused and scattered. This is a crucial step that many businesses either glaze over or don’t take the time to sit down and focus their team.

You may feel you’re too busy to dedicate an entire day to planning for 2018, but not doing so will cause you continual setbacks throughout the year as you scramble to create new campaigns and you realize your marketing efforts are floundering. And remember, in most cases, you have employees and their families to think about.

As you prepare your 2018 marketing strategy keep these things in mind:

Never be complacent, even if your sales numbers are high. If sales are strong, think about how you can create entry barriers, exit barriers, improve existing customer/client sales, lower customer acquisition costs, and invest to increase market share. Think about how you can pull away further from the pack. If sales are weak, evaluate where your customers are coming from, examine the profitability of each marketing channel, and the cost effective ways to immediately improve your plan. This may also be a time to get customer feedback, evaluate pricing, and look for areas of the market that are more profitable, for example. Regardless, it’s time for reflection.

During this planning time, we recommend taking the time to consider doing something new. Is it time to redo your website and make it more responsive? Are you happy with your SEO standing? Are you considering advertising on a new platform, or breaking into using AdWords? Should you retool your print campaigns? Do you have a firm social media plan? Have you held off on email marketing?

Going into 2018 with a plan in place for social, digital advertising and outreach strategies will position you ahead of the competition.

Here are some process tips on how to put that plan together:

First, you want to set clear goals, so you can track and measure the success of your outreach campaigns. Create objectives based on those goals. The goals should be based on what is attainable, meaningful, financially feasible, operationally possible and accomplishable in the time frame allotted. Some people likes to call these type of goals SMART goals.

One way of thinking about goal setting is asking yourself, “How much new business do I want to have, and how many new customers do I need?” If you can quantity how many new leads you need, your conversion rates, your cost per acquisition and profitability per customer, you can quantify how much investment is needed to reach your goals, for example. In other words, knowing the numbers can help you calculate what it costs to get one more customer. Digital marketing is great because measurement is very robust compared to traditional media.

Determine which metrics you will use to measure each of those successes on each marketing channel.  Each marketing channel will have unique metrics. For example, in SEO, you may be looking at a combination of organic traffic growth, conversions, rankings and cost per organic visitor. In Pay Per Click, you may be looking at Cost Per Action, conversions, conversion rate and time on site. You may also be looking at costs per click, average position, and leads by device type or CPA by device type. In social media, you will be looking at a combination between numbers that evaluate your reach and metrics that tell you how well you are engaging with reached users. You should set these goals for each digital marketing channel.

Next, determine your strategy and your action plan for reaching each of those goals. That means “how” you are actually going to get the results you need and “why” that plan is going to work. Your action plan is part of your strategy. That’s where individuals come into play; the staff you are going to assign tasks to in order to support your strategy. It’s the nuts and bolts of the everyday tactics your team will take to align your work schedule to meeting your company objectives. It’s the resources and budget attached to each program you will use. It’s the nitty gritty of marketing!

Remember to look at the marketing and the industry.  Things have probably changed over the past year, hopefully to your benefit! New industry players may have come in. Your rankings may have changed online opening you up to a more saturated search engine environment. A new product may have taken off, drawing more competitors into the niche. Or, even laws may have changed, or there are other macro factors affecting your business. Take a 10K foot view and evaluate if your overall business model, your positioning and your offering are still “relevant” and competitive. Then, identity what has to change.

It’s important to also look at how service may be changing in your industry and what customer expectations will be this coming year in 2018. Are you ready? What do you need to change? What are your strengths worth reinforcing? What weaknesses need correction? Where are the opportunities and growth areas in your industry? Who on your team will take point to follow up on initiatives?

Look at your marketing message and your promotional strategy. Many companies offer similar or the same products and services, but why do some excel and others fail? Sometimes, it’s a matter of what connects to your customers the best, and what you have to offer in the moment where they have a need. Is your marketing message clear? Is it clear for each product line or service you may have? Do you have a promotional strategy? Are you susceptible to price competition? If you are, how are you differentiating through messaging? Even with an excellent product and an amazing customer experience, it’s sometimes the sales process that needs the most help. Make sure you are laser focused and crystal clear when it comes to customer communications.

Map it all out on paper and ask for feedback. Actually write it all out. Map out your goals and tactics (by month), with a budget allocated by marketing channel, and assign a point person who is accountable. Schedule meetings to follow progress and determine the Key Success Factors needed to make it all happen. Executing your plan and then measuring, monitoring and adjusting your plan can be the difference between success and failure. So get feedback from your team and your Digital Agency or Marketing Consultant. Place calls to vendors or business partners you work who and who serve a similar audience and get more ideas. Don’t stop until you have something concrete that you can actually execute.

In summary, if you want you want to see results from your marketing strategy in the coming year, don’t sit back. Get up and make some moves….now! And if you need some help, you know you can get in touch with us at any time. Best of luck in turning 2018 into your most profitable year yet!

6 Essential Ways Small Businesses Can Differentiate To Survive In A Competitive Market

Making your business stand out from the pack is hard. Competing for and winning new business is even harder in a competitive market. But that doesn’t mean you should resort to competing on price. Competing on price alone is not a viable strategy if potential customers have a lot of choices, and can land you into a price war. By not maintaining your pricing structure, you’ll lose profit margins and depreciate your brand.

Instead, differentiate on other aspects of your business and your operations to provide something your competitors can or do not. This will create entry barriers for competitors and make your business model difficult to replicate.

Here are several ways small businesses can differentiate:

1. Different Products and Services – Niches

Before either entering a new market or providing a new product or service, you must ask yourself: “am I offering something different?” If you are not offering something different – or something that solves a specific problem for a group of people better than an alternative option– chances are you will struggle to gain traction and your product or service won’t get off the ground.  This goes to the core of your business model and your company’s ability to compete and become profitable.


how to differentiate your businessLook for profitable niches with less competition in a broader market to find an audience. Own that space. Then see if you can cross sell or up sell products or services to them.

Make sure you are focusing on potential customers who have the biggest problems to solve and for whom there are fewer service providers.

2. Don’t Just ‘Be different.’ Project Something Unique.

Even if you sell similar or identical products to a competitor, your marketing alone can create a completely unique public profile. Differentiate through your marketing itself.

Use your marketing materials – images, video, promotional materials (not promotional offer), fonts/styling/color palette, and your brand voice (how you speak to your audience online and in what tone) – to stand out from the “me too” voices online.

3. Unique and Memorable Offer

Make your offer unique – period. For example, instead of free consult (which is ubiquitous), perhaps try distributing a one-hour onsite free strategy session.  Instead of an “up to 70% off” message, try a free gift card with a minimum purchase amount.

Sometimes a hook or offer itself that can be of value to a customer can be the difference between getting a phone call or not. It is important that the offer is cost effective for you and is thought through as a calculated risk.

Only offer promotions that will build a closer tie to your business and not just attract people who will take the bait and leave. If you have an online grocery business, don’t hand out free iPads with your first shipments to customers because the iPad has nothing to do with the groceries. You want customers who are genuinely interested in and will be loyal to your business – not the perks.

4. Capitalize and Gain Share of Voice on Specific Marketing Channels

You can’t win everywhere because resources are tight and budgets must be allocated carefully to activities that will get the most ROI. You cannot win a marketing war on all fronts, so do not have a marketing strategy that requires consistent monitoring on a myriad of social media platforms and media outlets. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Competition may be steep in certain marketing channels (e.g. Google advertising or TV); however, you may find that your audience is on social media and your competition is not putting its resources there. If you believe you can capture and convert part of that audience, you are essentially getting a new segment of the target market hooked on your brand. This could happen if, for instance, you build a Facebook page and it really catches on.  Remember, sometimes competition is not in a space because no customers are there either. Make sure you research demographics and understand the behavior and habits of your target audience.

Establish your presence on social media – this sounds obvious these days, but many small businesses do not perform well on social media. Your company can be different. You can lead in this space, even on a budget. The cost is time. Publicize news to fans and get your name out there while keeping fans engaged with your content. Having share buttons below your published content (which is important for content marketing) can help accomplish this.  Boost important promotions on Facebook and consider some limited advertising on social media where it makes sense.

5. Execute a Content Marketing Strategy – especially in 2014 and Beyond

Part of web marketing is a content marketing strategy – something that is important to consider no matter what business you are in. Granted, a content marketing strategy is more appropriate for some companies than others. It all depends on what business you are in and what your target market is looking for (or not looking for).

content marketing

B2C companies (e.g. retailers) constantly utilize content marketing to reach out to their target audience. From social media to website blogs, these companies publish market relevant content to not only remind customers of their businesses but, more importantly, to supply helpful content to them.

IBM, a B2B company, also utilizes a content marketing strategy effectively. Content marketing helps IBM display its wealth of knowledge and maintain its strong professional reputation. Recently, IBM published a document called P.O.E. (Paid, Own, Earn). P.O.E. “shows, explains, and teaches” businesses how to use IBM materials to market their businesses, according to

Content marketing is not only good for customers and prospects, it’s great for search engine optimization (SEO), too.  Rather than push a sales message and look to convert a sale, content marketing focuses more on building customer relationships and solving problems, etc. Quality content can generate sincere trust in your company/brand.

Publish relevant, optimized content (possibly through a blog) that will help your customers and not just bring in business. Blogs, videos, articles and eBooks are all potential low-cost tactics that can help elevate a marketing campaign without a costly advertising budget. While they can take more time to create and it takes time to generate results, the pay off can be big for companies who do it right.

For more information on content marketing, visit

6. Present a Consistent Brand Across Platforms and Devices

Many small businesses do not effectively create a consistent marketing experience across marketing channels and devices. For example, fonts, styling, tone, marketing messages, promotional videos and imagery may be disconnected and too inconsistent.

Or, what may be viewable on a PC may not work on a mobile device. Creating a consistent marketing effort will make your business stand out and add to its public image. Most importantly, a consistent marketing presentation will help people remember your company. This is because they will associate a certain style or image with your product or service.

Conversely, a marketing mix that is inconsistent comes off as disjointed and haphazardly put together without care and effort. The result? You might lose current or potential customers because they find themselves unable to give you their trust.

Even on a small budget, you can make sure most marketing is presented in a cohesive, integrated way. Always be visually consistent – from press releases to your company website. This way people will always associate certain images, language and font styles with your company. And remember: have a company website that is functional and engaging on PC, tablet and Smartphone platforms.   Website analytics programs can tell you what percentage of your visitors are on mobile.

Differentiating your business online is incredibly important for your brand popularity and, ultimately, success. By partaking in content marketing, presenting a consistent brand across multiple platforms and devices, capitalizing on share of voice, and distributing unique and memorable offers, you will be establishing an online presence. A product or service that serves a market niche and is inherently different will make all of the above much easier. “What about your product or service is ‘different and better’ than anything else out there? If yours is a “me too” product or service, nobody’s going to talk about it.” Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable