Marketing – where to start?

Building your own campaign is a big learning curve. Here’s our advice on navigating your business through this ever changing discipline, and it comes with a free downloadable guide to get you started. 

It’s easy to be put off by ‘failure’ if a campaign doesn’t quite go to the way you expect it. If this sounds familiar, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s difficult to focus on running a growing business and learn to manage marketing campaigns at the same time. And you shouldn’t be put off because there’s a lot of learning to be had in a campaign that hasn’t worked out – in fact, it’s just as valuable.

There are countless articles describing the stages of marketing failures with advice on how to learn from them, but one of my favourites on the subject is by Scott Beckman who gave a brutally honest account of his first year at start up  ‘4 Lessons From a Year of Marketing Failure’, and it was this article that inspired me to create a guide taken from my own learning curves in the sector. 

  1. Planning in your head vs on the page

Do you have a marketing plan? Even when it comes to blogs I’ve always had a tendency to just start writing and see what happens – what can go wrong? Well, a lot. So if like me you’re not very good at planning on paper, here’s my case for why you need to change your approach. 

Marketing is a process based system by which you follow each stage through to its completion, assess the results, and take the next steps based on the intelligence learned from that preliminary phase.

As it turns out, knowing what you want to do and what to post, but not having an actual marketing plan doesn’t work. The nearest thing I had on my very first campaign was a table with some rough dates and brief descriptions on – no split tests, no details – nothing. Asking the social media manager one day before what you want posted with a quickly written bit of copy doesn’t work (no surprises there).

By jumping straight in without a strategy, it’s almost guaranteed that it won’t be the fluid system it needs to be and you’re very likely going to miss something along the way just winging it. So the number one piece of advice I can give to people new to the marketing world is to create a marketing strategy. That is simply: writing down your aims and your process.

List what you need (images, text, videos), plan days and times – and be strict! When should you be posting/advertising? Assess your engagement by reviewing any analytics to see when your audience is most active. This way you are deciding times, days and the type of content you’re putting out based on real evidence (and if you don’t have analytics – don’t worry, I’ll get there in a bit). Last of all, this plan can change, yes, but without the basic map, you may miss something vital that could hinder both success and learning outcomes.

2. Who, why, what, where, when? – How analytics should guide your marketing plan 

Avatars are key.
Who are you aiming for and why? What is this knowledge based on? Who do you think would be interested in your product?

Before you do anything, build up your knowledge of this audience you want to target and make sure you’re focussing on them. Saying great things about your product is fine, but it needs to tap into how that helps your audience, so to do this well, you need to really understand the culture they live in to maximise your targeting. Think about who your ideal client would be and base everything off them. 

By identifying your target market you can build up your content to pitch to these people and their interests. Everything you create as part of your marketing plan should be aimed to catch their attention and engage them, show you understand who they are and their problems. You don’t want to pay for the wrong people to see your product, so it’s vital when targeting your adverts too. 

Then hone your message.
What is it about your offering that is appealing? You need to identify how your product will resonate with this audience and how it’s different to the competition. Why should they choose your product or service over others? Factoring this in will help you pitch your product with precision and on a level your audience will understand emotionally to create that vital connection to you. Focus on specific qualities and solutions that appeal to your avatar’s lives and how you/your product actually solves their problems.

All content should have a purpose
Another key question is ‘why’? Why are you posting that specific content and what is it showing? There’s no point posting something just because it looks pretty, make sure it has a reason. Content should always have a purpose: to be useful, to inspire, to teach, give a call to action, and what do you need to do that well? Understand your audience’s needs.

Data, results, and basing your next moves on evidence
Once you’ve created your content, don’t forget to ‘split’ (or A/B)  test it. This is the best way to see what your audience engages with and base your next move on solid evidence. 

Test different images and copy, or even use the same advert but at different times and measure these against each other to see how they fare. Over time, this will mean you are only paying for content your avatars engage with so not losing time or money, and there’s even success in the split tests that fail – because you’ve learned what your audience doesn’t respond to.

Now you have your avatar and assets, it’s easy to get excited and post this amazing, targeted content you’ve created. This is the next logical marketing step right? Get your content seen – WRONG! You need to post strategically as well.

Do not scattergun your content
Deciding which platform to post on is also extremely important – there’s no point paying for Facebook ads if your engagement is mostly on LinkedIn. There’s no point spending time creating amazing campaigns or paying for Facebook ads if you aren’t targeting the people they’re designed for. Obviously getting your product seen everywhere is never a bad thing but if you’re working to a budget then focus your ads onto specific platforms where your avatars will see them. Be where they are, or at least, where they expect to be met.

If you’ve been present online for a while then you need to use your previously collected data/analytics to put you straight onto the right foot. Make decisions based on this intelligence. Check your analytics and see when people engage with your content – this will make things much more cost effective!

If you don’t have this type of data yet then have your content/ads up as much as possible until you can start learning from the campaigns. Different days, weeks, and hours will affect how people interact with you. Conducting split tests and experimenting with different times will eventually make  peak times clear.

3. Refinement is key

Ultimately, digital marketing is about trial and error. The only way you can truly understand what your audience engages with is by trialling content and retrying if necessary. Decide your avatar, do your research, create some content based on this and if it flops then try something new. There is no shame in starting again, all the most successful companies know this already.

4. Ask for help when you need it 

If you don’t feel like you have time to focus on regular refinement then this leads to my key piece of advice – don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, how self-reliant or professional you are, you will always have missed something. Getting someone to check your copy before it’s posted or asking a professional content creator to write/edit/create your designs is just common sense! Just because it’s your product doesn’t mean your team can’t help – ask the copy and media expert, it is their job!! They will see something you haven’t and will bring their knowledge to the table. Knowledge is power! 

Sometimes you just need to focus on running your business, and getting a professional to do the job can help you focus on what you’re good at, whilst they get busy putting you in the spotlight. It may come at a cost, but your time is money too, so remember that.

5. Now create your own marketing strategy

In order to help those who quake in fear at the thought of having to come up with their own marketing strategy, I’ve devised a step by step sample marketing plan. By following these marketing steps you should execute an effective campaign. It may seem simple to the pros but even experts need to take a step back sometimes and make sure they’ve covered the basics.

6. Our simple go to marketing template

Need a marketing strategy? Get in touch. 

Written by Tilly Farrands, Sales and Events Coordinator at Phlashweb.

If you need help setting up your online presence or making the most out of what you already have, get in touch to see how we can help. Alternatively, we run webinars on managing your business remotely. Find out about attending here.


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