DIY marketing for small business

“I need a brochure.”
As the saying goes: if I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I would be a millionaire by now.
Often when businesses think of marketing, the first thing they reach for are marketing tactics or tools. They immediately ask for familiar marketing items like a brochure, an advertisement or a website.
Certainly businesses need these marketing tools, but I always urge businesses to take a few steps back. I ask them to first consider their marketing strategy, objectives and goals before jumping to tactics.
The most confusing thing for businesses though is what exactly is a marketing strategy and why is it so important? 
Kylie Fennell
It’s time to start brainstorming your marketing strategy
Image courtesy of nongpimmy/

A marketing strategy is crucial for any successful business. It forms the bones of all communication and marketing activities.
If marketing was represented by a house, the strategy is the initial building plan, foundations and framework. Skipping straight to marketing tactics or activities is like installing the fixtures in your new bathroom, before the framework of the bathroom or even the whole house is in place. It is a back to front approach.
Sure, you can try building this way. It may work, but it is more likely you will go to a lot of time, effort and expense and realise that it didn’t really achieve what you needed.
A marketing strategy can vary in terms of complexity and resource requirements, but here I will outline the basics of a DIY marketing strategy for small businesses.
Marketing strategy framework
For simplicity I like to create a marketing framework in one or two pages.
This can be done in a Microsoft Word table or Excel worksheet.
These are the key headings I like to incorporate:
Overarching goal
What is the overarching goal or strategic vision of your organisation?  It should come from your business or strategic plan.
Also what is the overarching goal of your marketing activities? Your marketing goal should help achieve your organisation’s overarching goal or strategic vision and be clearly linked. Some marketing goals may include: drive more sales; increase awareness; increase store traffic.
Marketing objectives
Specify objectives that will help achieve your marketing goal. These objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely/timeframes).
Sample objectives include: Eg. Inspire 20% more calls-to-action (likes/share/views/comments) or opt-in to your mailing list; Generate 20% more sales leads; Increase customer enquiries by 10%.
Challenges and opportunities (SWOT)
Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of what may impact you achieving your marketing goal. This will give you an idea of where you may need to concentrate your efforts.
Primary and secondary stakeholders
Identify the stakeholders or stakeholder groups for your business and categorise them as primary and secondary. Your primary stakeholders are the ones that have the most influence on the success of your business.
Do not limit your stakeholders to just customers. Stakeholders are anyone who has an interest in your business and can impact it negatively or positively. They may include media, community, neighbours, regulatory authorities, government, business partners, industry associations. Try and be specific and break down broad stakeholder groups where possible.
Among your primary stakeholders, include your target market and break it down into market segments and relevant demographics (age, gender, location, education etc).
Next you will drill down into more detail on your customers, but keep in mind all of your stakeholders later when identifying specific marketing approaches and tactics.
Customer personas
Here delve deeper into the persona of each market segment. You want to develop fictional customer persona stories.
Personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market.
They should reveal how, when and why your buyer makes the decisions you want to influence and readily inform your marketing strategies.
The idea behind buyer personas is that you create fictional people who represent your major customer groups and develop a story about that persona.
Give your persona a name. Consider their aspirations, communication style, lifestyle, interests, challenges, why they would want to engage with you, what social media platforms and media they are likely to use.
You should have one main persona who represents your ideal/most profitable customer, plus a few secondary customer groups if needed. You should try and limit your personas to a maximum of five so you can focus your marketing efforts.
Refer to our previous blog post for tips on how to develop a persona and why it’s important.
Approach and key messages
Consider the specific communication approach will you use to target each of the above personas. Are you appealing to their sense of social justice, appealing to their need to keep up with the ‘Joneses’, offering them a new experience, saving them time and money.
Determine if there are any specific key messages you need for each of these personas.
Also don’t forget you may also need to engage/communicate with the other key stakeholders you identified earlier. Consider what specific approaches and key messages may be required for them.
This is when you actually start identifying what marketing and communication activities or actions you require.
This may include collateral such as that brochure, website or advertisement you initially thought you needed. However now you should have a clearer picture of whether those tools will help achieve your overall goals and objectives and are the right tools for your personas and target audience.
You may also now have a clearer idea for any specific messages that need to be included in your marketing materials.
Tactics may include, but are certainly not limited to: media releases, flyers, FAQs, hotlines, stakeholder meetings, community meetings, focus groups, key messages, Q and A forums, information sessions, public displays, signage, market stands, sponsorship.
Think as broadly as possible but ensure any tools you identify are relevant to your target market, segments and personas as well as other stakeholder groups. Before proceeding with advertising or paying for any membership or events, ask for demographical information about their audience and members.
Additionally some of the tactics you identify may require separate or more detailed strategies, such as a social media strategy, or crisis management plan. Capture this action in your overarching marketing strategy to ensure it is completed.
One of the components of a successful marketing strategy that is often overlooked is the evaluation activities.
It is important to evaluate the success of any marketing tactics or tools to understand better if they have achieved your objectives and what, if anything, needs to be refined.
Where possible try and calculate your marketing return on investment, though it is difficult a lot of the time to see a direct correlation between marketing activities and sales.
Other ways to evaluate success include: asking all customers ‘Where did you hear about us?’, include this on any contact us forms especially on the website. Media coverage and reproduction of key messages are also important measures. You can refer to website hits/click-throughs, subscriptions, number of people engaging in your social media platforms (notice I use the word engaging rather than number of followers, which sometimes can be overrated if those followers aren’t actually engaging with content).
You can also measure success via anecdotal and formal feedback and customer surveys.
Try to link your evaluation measures and mechanisms back to your original objectives.
How to develop your marketing strategy
One of the best ways to develop a successful marketing strategy is to bring together your key employees and internal stakeholders and hold a brainstorming session.
Work your way through the components listed above in order. Map it out on a whiteboard or butcher’s paper. Give yourself a few hours or half a day if possible to nut out the ideas. Consider what you are already doing marketing-wise, what’s working and what’s not.
Review your plan formally after three months, then at six months (the first time around), then every 12 months.
Putting your strategy into action
You will need an action plan to support your marketing strategy.
I personally favour a simple work-in-progress or WIP sheet.
To create your action plan or WIP sheet, transfer all of your ‘Tactics’ from your strategy into a table (I use an Excel Worksheet). You can then use it to easily monitor and track progress of your strategy.
For each tactic, identify what action is required, who is responsible for it, the deadline and status. It’s also a good idea to specify the evaluation mechanism for each item ­– how will you know if each activity has been achieved.
Review all of the ‘live’ items on your WIP sheet with key staff at a weekly or fortnightly meeting and update as needed
You can also include colour coding to highlight live items. You can use a traffic light system with green meaning the item is on track, orange if there are some obstacles that may impact delivery and red if the item is unlikely to be completed on time or as expected. Once an item is completed or if it is shelved, transfer it to an archived Worksheet. The archived sheet is a great record of what you have achieved and when. It is an especially good reference point for any reporting activities.
Using the above guidelines you should be able to create your DIY marketing strategy and start putting it in place. For more help from an expert contact us at Kylie Fennell .

Kylie Fennell
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