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Marketing Strategic Planning

How To Create A Marketing Plan

How To Create A Marketing Plan

The key to a full pipeline of prospects and ultimately more customers is to make sure you have a solid marketing plan.  We will learn exactly how to create a marketing plan.  By the time you’re done reading this article and apply the 9 step process, you’ll know exactly what to work on every week to succeed. At the end just one quarter, you’ll have more marketing momentum than most of your competitors. 

Here’s how to dominate your market and put yourself ahead of the competition.  

What Is A Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a road map for you to follow.  The plan shows you how to navigate from where you are to where you want to be. Marketing plans can range in complexity from one page canvases to hundreds of pages long. It may be a stand-alone document within your organization, or it could be part of a larger overall business plan.

For businesses seeking funding from venture capitalists, banks, or grants, you will need a full business plan. That business plan will need sections dedicated to marketing, finances, operations, and more.

However, if your business is self funded, or you are still testing the viability of a business idea or new product line, I suggest starting with a business model canvas. The work you put into a canvas can be transferred into a larger business plan if needed. The  time you invest in completing a business model canvas isn’t wasted. 

Let’s get started and learn how to create a marketing plan.

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9 Steps To Follow When Creating A Marketing Plan

Step 1: Start with a SWOT analysis
Identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is called a SWOT analysis.  Your strengths and weaknesses are viewed from within your business.  Opportunities and threats are external to your business.  Make the four lists, or optionally use one of the many SWOT forms online.  Some of the forms contain leading questions for each of the four areas. Think about each department (sales, marketing, finance, operations, etc.) in your business as you go through the four sections.
 
 
Your goal is to uncover possible ways to rely on your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities in market share, and mitigate threats from competition.
 
 
If you’re feeling real ambitious, this would be a good time to begin working on a longer term strategy, typically three to five years out.
Step 2: Complete (or update) a business model canvas
One of my favorite tools is the business model canvas.  A canvas is a very high level business plan on one page.   The canvas is divided into nine sections.  Each section (or box) on the canvas touches neighboring boxes for specific reasons.
 
There are many versions of business model canvases, lean canvases, marketing canvases, and more available online.  I like this one in particular because each of the nine boxes follow the structure  defined by the original creator, Strategyzer.   This copy of the business model canvas contains leading questions and prompts to help you complete each box.
 
 
Here’s a quick video I created showing you how to complete the business model canvas.
 
 
You should be able to fill out the canvas in less than an hour.
Step 3: Test your assumptions
Most people are not aware of the assumptions they make while completing a business model canvas. Your document will be full of assumptions.  It’s important at this point to become aware of these assumptions and to begin testing their validity.
 
Some assumptions are critical to know and can make or break the viability of your business.  Some of the most critical go / no-go decisions will be based on answers you uncover to these questions:

 

  • Will your ideal customer pay for the product or service you’re bringing to market?
  • Are they already accustomed to paying for your service through a different method than the one you’re proposing (cash vs credit for example)
  • Do you know where to reach your ideal clients?
  • Can you generate more revenue than the costs you’ll encur?
  • Can you build the product or service you want to deliver?
Make a list of the assumptions you’ve made.  Next, develop a strategy to test these assumptions.  Create a survey, phone scripts, etc. and plan on contacting potential customers. 
 
Here’s a link to an 86-page book that delves deep into this topic: Talking To Humans
Step 4: Define SMART goals for the next quarter
Rather than worrying about an overwhelming year of goals, I’ve found it much easier to focus on the current quarter.  There’s only twelve weeks.  You can define actions to take each week and easily track whether you took those actions or not.  You can also define some outcomes you hope to achieve, such as the amount of money in your checking account and the number of customers that hire you.  Each of those outcomes and many more, however, not directly within your control.  The activities you perform each day and each week that lead up to customers hiring you and contributing to your checking account, those are the things you can control.
 
 
When you define your goals, be sure to focus mostly on the leading activities that you have control over.  For every lagging indicator (a final state of being a month or a quarter from now) be sure to include about four leading activities that will drive behavior and contribute to the final state you hope to achieve.
 
 
Again, there are plenty of SMART goal planning tools elsewhere online.
Step 5: Set up a tracking system
Set up a simple spreadsheet. Down the left side of the spreadsheet should be each of the leading activities you plan on taking.  The second column should contain the number of times each week (or month if it’s only 1 or 2 per month) that you plan on taking that particular action. Define twelve more columns, one for every week in the quarter. Finally, add a final column to the far right that contains a sum of the values in each of the 12 weekly columns.
 
 
At the bottom of the worksheet, include a row for each of the lagging indicators.  These are the final state metrics like bank account balance or number of customers you hope to achieve if all your planned activity actually does what it’s supposed to do.
Step 6: Execute your weekly plans, documenting your activities and results

It’s important to track your progress. By spending just a minute at the beginning of each day reviewing what you plan to accomplish will take you far.  Add to  the weekly totals at the end of each day.  Your competitors are not focusing on their goals twice a day.  And you’re not wasting much time on this activity, very simple to execute. The key is having a scoresheet readily available. This can be a printed sheet pinned to your wall or an electronic spreadsheet and it’s link embedded in a daily calendar entry. Either way you’ll see the goal tracker daily. 

Step 7: Adjust mid-course as needed
After a few weeks, you’ll know if your initial thoughts about goals were achievable.  If you’re getting through all the activity that you wanted to accomplish each week but still not seeing results, one of two things could be going on.  It may just take more time for your activities to  pay off.  The other possibility is that your are not contributing towards the financial and customer levels you expect.  Only you can answer which condition is the case for your business.  Either be patient and continue on the same course, or make a subtle (not radical) change.  You may have also realized that you didn’t have something in place needed to perform the activities. Add an activity or two that will close the newly identified gap.
Step 8: Evaluate the end-of-quarter results
You should have some new sales and customers once you’ve completed an entire 12-week cycle of marketing activity. Reflect on the following questions:
  • What percentage of activities I wanted to accomplish actually get done? Why or why not? 
  • What did I learn about my potential customers during this quarter?
  • Did I identify any gaps in my marketing, internal operations, or customer fulfillment workflows that need corrected?
  • Did I have all the resources I needed going into this quarter? What resources do I need to add?
  • Did I generate more business revenue this quarter than business expenses? 
  • Before I begin the next quarter of marketing, are there any adjustments I need to make to this plan?
Step 9: Repeat the process

Keep your marketing engine running.   

  • Re-assess your SWOT analysis and business model canvas
  • Are there more assumptions to test? More customer surveys to conduct?
  • Revise / Update your SMART goals for the quarter
  • Create a new tracking score sheet for this second quarter and follow it
  • Reflect, evaluate, and repeat

There you have it, the early stages of a long-term strategic plan with the SWOT analysis and the business model canvas.  This process of creating and executing a marketing plan will educate potential customers about you, your products, and your services.  Repeating the process quarterly will propel your business throughout the year.

Marketing is only part of the equation.   You must also meet with potential clients, assess their needs by asking a lot of questions, and ultimately help them make a decision to purchase from you.  Continue to seek information about sales, operations, finances, manufacturing, customer service, legal and regulatory, etc. 

Please leave comments below to help me and others learn from your experience.  Did you find this strategy effective as you created your marketing plan?  What this an easy formula to follow?  Did you get the results you initially set out to achieve?

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About Tom Argiro  – Owner of HBG Consulting LLC and Executive Director of the North Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Tom understands the pain points chamber leaders experience with membership engagement, retention, new member growth, and generating revenue outside of membership dues. Mr. Argiro comes to chamber leadership with a unique background as a software engineer for over 30 years in fortune 100 companies. Combining knowledge from both fields gives Mr. Argiro the ability to develop needed solutions for the problems chamber leaders face.
Categories
BI Tool Data Analytics Data Visualizations

What Is Business Intelligence (BI) For Small Business?

What Is Business Intelligence (BI) For Small Business?

By Tom Argiro, Owner of HBG Consulting
December 28 2020


Business intelligence tools have not been traditionally available for small businesses until recently. There are several solutions out there now, including the tool we built, knowing exactly what small businesses need.

Business Intelligence can help you increase profits, streamline internal operations, capitalize on opportunities, and reposition your competitors. The problem is, many small business owners don’t know what business intelligence (BI) is, what BI Tools are designed to do, or how it can help them. This article will shed some light for you.

What Is BI?

Most organizations collect large amounts of information.  Your customer files, accounting software, prospect files, and other systems contain information about your organization.

However, all of that information is trapped in systems designed to manage specific business functions. These systems are not designed to interact with each other.

Large enterprises have entire systems and teams of software developers with one main function.  These teams gather data from all the other systems throughout the company.  They generate dashboards, scorecards, data analytics, and visualizations about that collective information.

Small business owners usually do not have access to such a powerful decision-making tool.  They may not even realize that such a possibility exists.

Imagine for a moment, as a small business owner, if you had a way to gather, filter, analyze, visualize, and interact with all that information.  You could gain some important insights about your organization.  You would see trends in data that you may not be aware of.  You could explore opportunities.  You could close gaps on weaknesses within your operation, and reposition the competition.

The process of analyzing historical and current data, exploring that information in a new way, and helping you reach intelligent business decisions is collectively defined as “business intelligence”.

BI Tools  Are Usually Out of Reach

Most Business Intelligence Tools (BI Tools) are usually too expensive and out of reach for small businesses. They typically require expensive custom software, or an expensive data analyst on payroll.

How Small Businesses Can Use Business Intelligence (BI)

If you had access to a BI tool, these are some of the educated, informed, data-driven decisions that BI could assist you with:

  • increase profits – Profits come from two sides of the equation. There are two ways to increase profits.  You can either increase money coming into your organization, or you can stop money from going out.  Analyzing your cashflow, customers, sales income can help you see places to be more profitable.  You may also see wasteful spending in your organization that you may not otherwise be aware of.
  • improve internal operations – product development, workflows, order fulfillment and customer treatment are just some of the operations you manage in your company.  Data analysis and visualizations of the information in your tracking systems can shed light on process improvement opportunities.
  • understand customer behavior – understanding the sales pipeline for new customers can help you find ways to help close gaps in your sales and marketing efforts.  You may not have a good sense of purchase histories, average time between purchases, product return habits, and more.  Exploring data can help you learn more about your customers, discover segments of customers you didn’t know existed, and develop ways to treat individual segments differently.
  • assess competitors – market research and competitive analysis are always insightful.  Learning about their offerings and finding gaps in the services they provide can help you find new niche markets.
  • develop strategies to reach new markets – By understanding segments of customers and categorizing them into clusters, can help you discover which clusters are more profitable for your organization.  Take that new knowledge and develop strategies to attract more customers that fit into those clusters.
  • avoid risks – Every organization faces risks. Risk can not be eliminated.  It can, however, be managed and reduced.  By closely monitoring the results of test marketing and sales, you can spot trends in the data and make quicker decisions. This can help you avoid larger losses that you might incur if you didn’t have a way to analyze the results and effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
  • capitalize on opportunities – By knowing your organization’s strengths, combined with new found knowledge of customer behavior & segments, there might be huge market opportunities staring you in the face.  Without seeing the data and the trends, you could completely miss the opportunities. A good BI tool can help you discover those opportunities so you can capitalize on them before your competitors figure it out.

Why We Created BI4.us – Business Intelligence For All Of Us

A BI Tool For All Of Us

Considering everything we mentioned above, we know that small business owners need the power of BI to make informed decisions.

We also know that you normally couldn’t afford a custom BI solution.

We used our 30 years of corporate BI experience, combined that with experience running small businesses and supporting non-profit organizations, and discovered our new super power.  We then leveraged that super power and invested the time and energy to create a flexible BI tool for small business owners and non-profit organizations. Now you have access to a powerful, flexible BI solution.  You can gather, filter, analyze, visualize, and interact with all that information normally trapped in various business applications, like never before.

Now Business Intelligence Is Within Reach For Small Businesses!

We want every business that’s serious about improving their current situation to have access to the power of business intelligence.

Learn more about Business Intelligence.  Discover how you can apply BI to your organization.

Schedule a demo now.

 

About Tom Argiro – Owner of HBG Consulting LLC and Executive Director of the North Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Tom understands the pain points chamber leaders experience with membership engagement, retention, new member growth, and generating revenue outside of membership dues. Mr. Argiro comes to chamber leadership with a unique background as a software engineer for over 30 years in fortune 100 companies. Combining knowledge from both fields gives Mr. Argiro the ability to develop needed solutions for the problems chamber leaders face.

Categories
Marketing Networking Virtual Events

How Can A Virtual Business Expo Help Your Organization?

In this article, I’ll talk about how a virtual business expo can help your organization. This also applies to multi-day conferences, boot camps, and summits.

What Is A Virtual Business Expo?

Our business climate has changed. Even when we are able to go back to face-to-face events, business professionals learned how efficient virtual meetings can be. Some people will tell you they are tired of virtual meetings. That only means they are not engaged with the content. By using a true conference platform, you add context to your events and engage the participants like never before. This is not just a single video meeting with break out rooms.

What Is A Virtual Business Expo?

Let’s define what a virtual business expo (or boot camp, conference, or summit) actually is. These virtual platforms simply provide an electronic representation of a physical venue, such as a convention center. The size can be from small and intimate to large and grand. Because they only live inside a computer, they can scale to exactly the right size for your event.

All the separate areas exist that you would expect at a live event. Rooms exist for registration, vendor booths, webinars, multiple concurrent round table discussions, networking lounges, and more.

Similar to a live business expo or conference, you feature chamber members in their own booths, making them visible throughout the event.  If you choose to sell booth space at different tiers, charge more for non-members to participate. We discuss how your chamber can benefit from these types of events in a moment.

A virtual event platform is more than just a single video conference call with break out rooms.  Each vendor links their own video conference account to their booth.  Whether they are using zoom, Skype, hangouts, webex, gotomeeting, or any other video chat platform.  The attendees of the conference approach a vendor booth. They choose to “chat live” with the business representative.  At that point, the attendee is entering the business’s live video account, not just a break out room of your chamber’s zoom account.

Attendees gather electronic content as they visit various rooms (brochure racks, on-demand video, etc) and those items are stored in their “goody bag”.   At the end of the day, the attendees receive an email with links to all the brochures, documents, and video content they “touched” during the event.  The vendors receive contact information of everyone that “touched” their brochure rack, watched their webinar, etc.  Lastly, the event organizer receives usage statistics about the event.

So you can see, video conferencing software provides more context and meaning to an event. You cannot achieve all this with a single video chat account. Even breakout rooms fall short.

Let’s take a closer look at how we organized the virtual business expo platform and why this is so much different than simple break out rooms.

The Rooms Inside A Virtual Platform

  • registration desk – Just like a live event, attendees need somewhere to arrive, sign up or log in, and grab their name badge for the day.  The registration desk is the first place attendees are sent to when they arrive.
  • main lobby – Once an attendee gets properly checked in, they move to the main lobby of the virtual event.  This becomes the central hub for their day’s activities.  From the main lobby, they can move to any other room in the event.
  • exhibitor hall & vendor booths – your chamber members (and possibly up-charged non members) set up their “booths” in this area.  A virtual booth is a customized web page that contains the vendor’s contact information, a link to their own video chat account, and content for their brochure rack. Any type of document or video on the internet can be added to a brochure rack.
  • on-demand webinars – pre-recorded educational content, provided by you and/or your chamber members, is the perfect type of content to include in the webinar room. Attendees can stop at any time during your event and watch any video they choose.
  • round table discussions – these are live topic-specific discussions at specific times during your event.  You can set up multiple concurrent tracks & topics for your event. So similar to an in-person conference, your attendees can choose a theme to follow throughout a day, sit in one seat, and the presenter changes every hour.  Or the attendee can choose to move to another for a different topic.
  • networking lounge – empower your attendees to make new connections and strengthen existing relationships. Some use the networking lounge for an after party, not available until the end of the day. Others configure multiple rooms in the networking lounge to offer a couple different versions of speed networking, special interest group gathering space, or a presenter’s lounge. One organization had a room dedicated to a live DJ getting people to sing and dance along online while being confined to comfort of their own homes.

How Your Chamber Benefits With A Virtual Business Expo

Since most organizations are forced to cancel their normal face-to-face annual events, they’ve also lost the revenue those events would normally generate for the organization.  This virtual platform gives you a chance to reclaim that lost revenue in a unique way.

Consider these benefits to your organization, as well as for your members and the community at large when you host a virtual business event on a platform like ours:

  • attract tech-savvy businesses to your chamber – organizations need to stay relevant in this current business climate if they are going to survive.  Using a virtual event platform shows the community that you understand how to navigate this technical space with ease.
  • showcase your existing members – your chamber members will recognize and appreciate the needed visibility.  Many businesses are struggling to get in front of potential clients. You’re giving them a platform to be seen and engage with the community.
  • generate revenue outside of membership dues – you have many options to run your event.  Attendee admission fees, booth space, event sponsorships, upsold on-demand videos, hosting round table discussions, and sponsoring the networking rooms are all ways you can generate revenue from an event. One model that works in some communities is to give booth space to chamber members at no cost, and charge a premium to non-chamber members to set up a booth at your event.  That model demonstrates value in membership! Take that a step further and only allow chamber members the upgraded sponsorship opportunities which again shows there’s a good reason to be a member of your chamber.
  • move beyond single video conference calls to a full platform – There are limitations to the number of attendees on a video conference call. And there’s a lack of structure.  That also makes the entire conference (attendees, chamber members, speakers, etc) log into one big room that you control, attend, and work hard at all day long to move people around to break out rooms. Conversely, our virtual conference platform adds structure and context to your event. The look and feel are branded to your organization.  You are simply providing the convention center to your community for an event.  The vendors and presenters provide their own video conference accounts in their profiles. Attendees interact with those video accounts, not yours. That frees you up, and your ambassadors, to host the networking lounge and enjoy the event.

Next Steps

Learn more about the Virtual Business Expo platform.  See if your organization can benefit from using this powerful new tool. Please review your calendar and schedule a good time to talk by visiting our calendar. Call 530-424-8665

Remain relevant, be a catalyst for growth, provide the needed connections throughout the business community, and champion your members.  Do all of this while improving your cash flow in the process.


About Tom Argiro – Owner of HBG Consulting LLC and Executive Director of the North Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Tom understands the pain points chamber leaders experience with membership engagement, retention, new member growth, and generating revenue outside of membership dues. Mr. Argiro comes to chamber leadership with a unique background as a software engineer for over 30 years in fortune 100 companies. Combining knowledge from both fields gives Mr. Argiro the ability to develop needed solutions for the problems chamber leaders face.