Starting new things tends to give me ALL THE FEELS all at once. Scared, excited, overwhelmed, invigorated, exhausted, ecstatic… Needless to say, it’s A LOT for one person to handle. So when I was given the official offer to become Don’t Panic Management’s first full-time employee dedicated to marketing our own brand, you can safely assume that this was me:
Overrun with so many ideas to improve our own marketing and continue to build great relationships with our clients, I quickly felt paralyzed by ALL THE THINGS. I had to remind myself (and I’m still reminding myself daily) to take it one step at a time and, most importantly, to start with the basics.
Starting with the basics might not be sexy or glamorous—but it’s how you build a long-lasting and actionable strategy for your business. As my role heads up our brand’s marketing efforts, that’s where I started. These are my (nearly) fool-proof steps to creating a customized marketing strategy for your organization from scratch (or from wherever you are along the way).
Gather Information and Set Your Goals
Before you can dive head-first into planning your marketing strategy, you need to understand your organization’s overall business goals. These will be unique to your organization and will help drive your strategy, so developing a strong understanding of them is critical.
Are you in the service industry? Have a product to sell? What’s your bottom line? Once you know where your business stands today and where it’s going, you can better determine how marketing will help to support your goals.
I’d recommend starting with your BHAG‘s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and then moving on to the nitty gritty goals you strive to reach every day. Having a comprehensive view of ALL your business goals will help to inform your marketing strategy.
Identify Your Audience
A marketing strategy without a well-defined audience profile is basically useless. Figuring out exactly who you’re trying to reach with your marketing efforts and building a solid profile of those groups might be the most important step you take when beginning your marketing strategy.
For DPM, we have multiple audiences that we’re trying to reach—some more obvious than others. We’re always working to establish ourselves as thought leaders in the various spaces in which we operate—VA work, social media strategy and execution, blogging and content strategy, working as a remote team, etc. Within these different groups, we hope to speak directly to potential clients, as well as potential contractors. We have totally separate goals for these two audiences, so our communication and marketing efforts must be distinct and customized for each audience.
Once you’ve determined WHO you are targeting with your marketing, you need to figure out WHERE you’ll be targeting them. We’ll get into choosing tactics shortly, but needless to say, there are a lot of them. Knowing where your audience “lives” online will boost the ROI of your marketing.
Benchmark Against the Competition
One of the first things I like to do when brainstorming a client’s marketing strategy is to take a long, hard look at the efforts of their competitors. This research obviously translates directly to how we’ll be handling our first DPM marketing strategy, as there are TONS of examples of great agency branding out there for us to review.
Understanding where your competitors are spending their marketing time and dollars is extremely helpful when allocating resources on your own team. I also like to follow along with best practices and new innovations in the industry to do as much as we can to stay on top of new trends. Being an early adopter isn’t for everyone (or every platform), but it can certainly be fun to try.
Even if you don’t directly create any strategy based on what you see your competitors doing, I always find that benchmarking research sparks a lot of creative thinking for me. Understanding where your industry stands in the marketing space is an incredibly effective way to kick off your creative process.
Set Your Budget
Setting budgets and working with your organization’s finances may not be at the top of every marketer’s FAVORITE THINGS TO DO list (or it might be…no judgment here!). However, I do think it’s important for all marketers to have a basic understanding of how your organization makes money, where that money goes, and how much is available for marketing efforts.
Social media used to be thought of as the free part of your marketing strategy. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. If you want to make an impact in the digital marketing world, you need to have at least a small chunk of change set aside for your ad spend. Especially for small businesses, running social media and digital advertising experiments will help you figure out what resonates with your audience and what falls flat.
Have no clue where to start? I love this piece by Buffer that outlines the variety of ways you can spend $100 on social media marketing. It goes to show that you don’t need to have massive marketing budgets to make an impact.
Pick Platforms and Tactics
I won’t bore you by outlining each and every platform out there, but I will give you a few thoughts about where to start!
Almost every organization should lead with the basics—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Grab your appropriate username and upload your logos and brand assets to each site, even if you don’t plan on using them frequently. Where you spend your time content-wise will be determined by where your audience is. But regardless of your long-term content frequency, owning your brand’s name and URL on each platform is good for SEO and branding purposes.
Once you’ve got your most popular platforms/channels set up, let your audience guide where to go next. Is your audience driven by visuals? Try Instagram. Does your audience primarily consist of people under 30? Maybe Snapchat is for you.
To give you a real life example from our team, we’ve recently started an Instagram account, but haven’t yet started posting. We’re brainstorming ways to use the platform and have come up with some ideas that will highlight our diverse and remote team of contractors.
I’m so excited to continue digging further into the DPM marketing strategy, and I will definitely be looking for feedback from you—our beloved audience! Keep an eye out for some new initiatives over the coming months. We can’t wait to share everything we’ve been working on with you!
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A lover of to-do lists and itineraries who sees every tightly-packed schedule as an exciting game of calendar Tetris, Shannon loves all things organizing. If it can be color-coded, alphabetized, or formatted in a pleasing design, all the better. With a background running the gamut from office management to marketing to media management and talent representation, she's not afraid of deadlines or seemingly impossible tasks. A self-confessed workaholic, Shannon thrives on learning new technology, programs, and skills. When not making her clients' lives more efficient, you can normally find her enjoying time with her son, buried in a book, writing her own, trying to keep up with crazy pets, baking, or dreaming of moving her home office to an ocean view.
Work superpower: Proofreading. If there's a typo or formatting error to be found, I'll find it.
Favorite cheese: Smoked cheddar
Go-to karaoke song: I don't do karaoke, and the world thanks me
Beverage of choice: Fiji water or caffeine-free Diet Dr. Pepper
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