Map to Inbound Marketing SuccessIn business, there is a common misconception that a ‘good’ product or service will simply sell itself.

Many startups and new businesses spend so much time and resources on developing a product that when it comes to marketing it, they tend to think, “It’s such a great widget, everyone needs it, I don’t need to do anything else to sell it.”

In truth, you can have the very best product or service in town and still fail. How will people find out about your must-have product? How do they acquire your services? Will people tell others about it once they’re hooked?

Creating a fantastic product is only the beginning – the secret to real success lies in a correctly executed marketing plan.

Why You Need a Marketing Plan

To explain the value of a marketing plan, let’s start with the definition. A marketing plan is a road map to meet (and hopefully exceed) the goals you have set for your business.

This plan defines your product or service, target audience, business objectives, budget and resources, as well as the steps you need to take to achieve success. In general, the goal of marketing is to communicate the benefits of your product or service to persuade potential buyers toward a particular response. Summarily, your marketing plan aims to outline a strategy for achieving that end in a focused and effective way.

As with any other journey, if you don’t know your destination, the best route or how you’re getting there, you’re pretty much wandering and hoping you’ll wind up somewhere good. We probably don’t have to tell you that ‘hoping for the best’ isn’t the most expedient way to get anywhere.

Many of our clients have turned to us after realizing this marketing meandering wasn’t cutting it. These businesses ran for years without a strategy in place, and it worked well enough for a while. Eventually, though, they started to notice a dramatic reduction in sales and profits. Winging it was no longer working.

Developing a clearly defined strategy, setting goals, and tracking your progress is fundamental for the success and growth of any business, not just those starting out.

Go the Distance

Putting together a successful inbound marketing plan will take a little time. We’re all busy, but a chaotic schedule is no excuse for not prioritizing company growth. Once this strategy is set into action, you will begin to reap not only the financial rewards, but you’ll soon realize you’re spending less time chasing down one lead to the next.

When you have a plan that aligns with your business goals and you stick with it, the initial foundation you laid ends up doing a lot of the work for you. The time you invest in putting together a plan is paid back in triplicate.

Investing your time and resources is not as daunting as you may think, especially when you break a plan down into it’s essential components:

  1. Research your target audience and define the benefits your business offers them
  2. Create a marketing plan to reach your personas
  3. Set goals and deadlines to stay on track
  4. Implement and execute your plan
  5. Review goals often with reports and modify the plan to adapt to the changing market

What’s Your Starting Point?

It’s best to begin with an evaluation of what you have and where you’re starting. Take a good look at the seven P’s: Product, Place, Price and Promotion, Physical environment, People, and Process.

Don’t worry too much that these may divert some attention away from the client. The seven P’s are just a framework to build up your marketing plan.

You Are Here: Use our handy Marketing Check-in Guide to evaluate your current efforts and determine your exact starting point.

Once you’ve outlined everything, it’s time to set clear goals. Take the information you’ve gathered and match it up with your goals to create an action plan, also known as your marketing plan. Think about how you’ll execute your strategy and what marketing materials you’ll need to reach your target.

For instance, if your evaluations uncovered that word of mouth and referrals are working for your company, you might develop promotional pieces to hand out at networking events. No business is precisely the same, so keep in mind that not every marketing plan is the same, either. It all depends on your objectives and the tools you have at your disposal.

Stay the Course

Whatever business-building strategy you come up with, you must execute the plan and track results. No more ‘set it and forget it’ marketing. What this means is analyzing crucial data such as page visits, form submissions, and bounce rates. At HeadsUp, we recommend using CRM software like HubSpot to keep the information you need in one place for easy access.

A CRM is the most effective tool you have to track your results and know if your efforts are working. You’ll want to  set a monthly goal and review analytics weekly. As you begin, you likely will not experience overnight growth, but things will progressively accumulate over time.

Our Take

You don’t have to be a cartographer to map your way to inbound marketing success. When you invest valuable time and resources into a solid plan, follow through on the implementation, and tailor future campaigns based on your results, you will begin to reach new heights. By following the plan and adapting to market changes, you will reach your goals.

Editor’s Note: This post was initially published in August 2010 and has been updated for clarity and accuracy.