“I’m active on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.”
“I’m blogging and networking regularly.”
“I’m using PPC (pay-per-click) advertising.”
“I feel like I’m doing everything right, but I’m not seeing results.”
Do any of these statements sound familiar? A lot of small business owners and CEOs I talk to feel like they are doing all the right things. But, they aren’t achieving their business goals.
A recent survey from Infusionsoft confirms this is common. “Sales and marketing activities are among the most challenging tasks for small business owners. Generating leads, getting new customers and gaining marketing expertise are some of the biggest challenges small businesses face today.”
So why is everyone struggling? I’m not quite sure as to WHY, but in this article, I’ll show you HOW you can overcome this obstacle…and overcome it in the next 24 hours. Let’s roll!
What is Strategy?
First, let’s identify what strategy actually is. It really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Strategy is simply a plan of action designed to achieve an expected goal. So, we need a goal to get started. For the purpose of this article, let’s say that our business goal is $5 million in revenue and to meet that goal we need to increase visibility, and generate 50 qualified leads per month.
A worthy goal.
Now, we need a plan of action that will get us there.
Note: You may have a different marketing goal, so just apply this same framework in order to backtrack from your business goal, to an activity plan.
Identify an Ideal Market and Customer
If we’re going to generate 50 qualified leads per month, we need to define a “quality lead”. Let’s pretend we’re a website company that provides website development services for contractors like roofers, electricians, plumbers, etc. The sales team says that if they can get a Demo Request, they consider that a quality lead.
Okay, so now we’ve got an ideal market and we know what a quality lead is. We’re getting closer to being able to build our plan of action.
Action Steps for Identifying Your Ideal Customer:
- Nail down your best customer. Ideal Customer Example: Contractors located in the United States that are doing between $500,000 and $20M in revenue annually, already haves a website, participates in local community events, and believes in providing the highest level of service possible.
- Talk with your best customer. Your best customers have the following two behaviors: they are profitable and also refer business to you. Not to mention it’s not practical to engage all of your customers in a conversation. Discover who your 5-10 best customers are, then email or phone them asking for feedback on their marketing, sales and service experiences.
Time Estimate: 2 hours
- Honestly, this should be something you already know (your ideal customer). But give yourself an hour to talk to a few customers, look through your referrals and profitability, and establish who you’re really after.
- Give yourself another hour to talk to a few customer facing employees or manager at your company. Make sure you find out exactly what they notice and identify when it comes to ideal customers.
Identify The Best Place to Reach These Ideal Customers
Once we know who our ideal customer is and what our goal is, we need to locate our ideal customer. What industry are they in?, where do they network?, where are they located?, what do they read?, what do they listen to?, what challenges do they face?, how do they buy? You’ll want to look at social media, blogs, websites, and forums. Make a big list! Here’s what I might do if I were looking for contractors.
First, I’d dive into contractor online networking groups. I know LinkedIn is better for B2B, so I head there first. There are tons of various groups, so I started looking for groups full of my audience.
I will continue my search for “HVAC”, “plumbers”, and “electricians”. After spending some time gathering a list, hopefully I’ve identified at least 25 solid groups that have my target audience.
Next, I’ll explore other social media options to see if there is anything industry specific. After spending some time on Google, I run across Houzz, a social network for contractors, builders and remodelers.
Still further, I’ll spend some time on Google again looking for events, conferences, forums and other websites where I might find my ideal customer.
At the end of this research process, you should easily have 20-50 channels (in-person events, forums, blogs and other websites), groups (on LinkedIn or Facebook) and communities (on Google+) on your list. Now, we’re getting somewhere! We’re narrowing down the Web and locating the corners in which we want to spend our time and effort.
Action Steps for Finding Your Ideal Customer:
- Spend time looking at in-person events, social media, websites, blogs and forums for your ideal customer.
- Create a master list with links to these places.
Time Estimate: 4 hours
- Don’t shortchange yourself here. Put in the time to locate your ideal customer. This step will serve you well for many marketing campaigns into the future, so spend about four hours doing your research.
- Create the list as you go along.
Identify Their Greatest Challenge, Problem, or Question
Ok, just to re-cap. We now know:
- Our goal
- Who we’re targeting
- Where they live offline and online
Now, it’s time to dig for the greatest challenge. As you’re doing your research and visiting groups, websites and blogs with your audience, start listening. What does that mean, really? How do you listen? What are you listening for?
What you want to do is listen to the problems that your ideal customer is expressing. You want to write down the questions they are asking. Write down the things they are complaining about. You want to be able to speak their language.
You’ll start to see different discussion questions, comments on blogs, or frustrations. Here are a few sample discussion topics I pulled from a LinkedIn Group full of roofers.
Obviously, you want to identify challenges and pains around the product or service you offer, but sometimes you can get some really powerful insight just by writing down any common questions or problems. You’ll start to see some trends.
As you’ll see in the next section, we want to use these questions, pains and problems in our content and messaging.
Action Steps for Identifying Pains, Problems and Questions:
- Go to 10-20 places on your master list and start copying and pasting your audience’s discussions and questions.
Time Estimate: 2 hours
- This should take you about 2 hours, but don’t be afraid to spend 3 or 4 if you feel you’re not seeing any trends.
Create a Content Calendar
Alright, now we’re ready to create a content calendar. Most people want to rush into this step because it feels like you’re accomplishing something. However, this step won’t be worth much if you haven’t dedicated the time to your research.
Note:This will be a high level overview.
Basically, now that we’ve got a sense for what our ideal customer is dealing with, we can brainstorm some effective monthly themes, maybe some blog, webinar topics and definitely some e-book ideas.
On a strategic level, content marketing must mean more than a blog post, status update or tweet. You must think about your content as an asset to serve your business over time.
By strategically creating content, your organization puts itself in the pathway that current prospects are learning, asking, and shopping for products and services.
Action Steps for Content Calendar:
- Brainstorm monthly themes
- Map out how many blog articles you’ll need to create each week.
- Plan your e-book creation.
- Plan your call to action back to Requesting a Demo.
Time Estimate: 2 hours
- Spend 1 hour brainstorming monthly topics.
- 15 minutes for mapping out your blog calendar.
- 20 minutes for planning out your e-books.
- 20 minutes mapping out your call to actions.
Create a Distribution Plan
Your distribution plan is just as important, if not more important that your content plan and calendar. Most small business owners feel like once they hit “publish”, it’s time to start working on the next piece. Not true! Once you hit publish, it’s time to go to work promoting that piece.
You spent time writing or recording it, editing it, finding an amazing photo and placing a relevant call to action. Now, it’s time to zero in on our ideal customer and share that content with them. This is how we’ll drive people back to our content, they’ll click on our e-books, receive our emails and ultimately sign up for that demo!
Creating your distribution plan will be much easier now that you’ve got a master list of where your ideal customer lives. You’ll be able to share your blog articles as discussions in exactly the right LinkedIn Groups.
You’ll be able to comment on other websites and blogs and reference your content in a super relevant fashion because you know exactly what your ideal customer challenges and pains are. You’ll be able to craft blog titles that are irresistible to your ideal customer because you studied their problems and pains.
Your distribution plan should basically be the time you spend promoting your article to all the places on your master list. It might look something like this:
Blog Title: 5 Website Struggles Roofers Face…and How to Solve Them
- Create a discussion in all 20 LinkedIn Groups and frame it with the question “What is your biggest website challenge right now?”
- Share article on Twitter using the hashtags #webdesign #roofers #contractors #HVAC #plumbers. Rotate hashtags. Schedule 10-20 Tweets over the next 30 days.
- Jump into a couple of forums and find the discussions around websites. Add value to the discussion and add a link to the blog post as a reference point.
- Find individual contractors on Houzz or other websites and send a personal email with a link to the article.
- Send out an email to all current leads in the database and share the article.
So, your distribution plan will have some activity that you’ll do every time you create a blog post. Then, for specific topics, you may have additional activities you’ll want to add that make sense based on the topic.
Action Steps for Content Calendar:
- Write out all the possible distribution activities you might have for a specific blog post. Each time you publish, go to that list and execute as many as possible!
Time Estimate: 1 hour
- Spend an hour brainstorming all the ways you could distribute a blog post, e-book or piece of content.
Phew! There’s a lot of work there, but you can do it… and you can do it in less than 24 hours! The total time spent in this process totals 11 hours. Obviously, it would be a long work day to push through these activities, but you’ll be setting yourself up for success over the next several months, if not years. If you can’t block off an entire day to do this, spend a couple hours each day for a week and you’ll be all set.
Your goals and strategy will change over time, but I wanted to break down a very simplistic way to create a strategy quickly and start moving forward.
Just to re-cap what you need to do:
- What is your goal?
- Who are you targeting?
- Where do they live offline and online?
- Develop your content calendar.
- Create a distribution list.