Without a plan, every idea looks like a good idea.
Avoid falling into the trap of creating mindless marketing activity that chases the latest trend or simply copy-cats your competitors. Put intentional thought into your goals and then back into the actions you need to achieve them.
We hear comments about how marketing is a waste of time and doesn’t work. But that’s usually followed by a confession that there was no plan and the agency or producer engaged in a random set of one-off activities. And to that, I agree: sporadic, unplanned activity is usually a waste of time and doesn’t work.
As a basic business functionality (think table stakes), buyers expect to find information about your company and education from your company. So choosing not to focus on marketing because “it doesn’t work” is a foolish choice.
What exactly is marketing, and why should I care?
For B2B organizations and insurance agencies, in particular, marketing is a set of activities communicating to your market about your business model. If your readers, viewers, or listeners are intrigued by your model, they’ll want to learn more.
The “more” may lead them to engage with your online real estate, such as your website or your social media platforms, ask around about you, or reach out to your company directly. The goal of marketing is to intrigue them enough that eventually, they want to talk to you. Enter the sales conversation.
Clarity of model leads to a plan
To communicate effectively about your model, you must have clarity of your model. This may sound rudimentary, but most agencies don’t have this clarity and don’t have it documented.
- You need to articulate who your ideal client is and what challenges they struggle with day-to-day so you know who to talk to and what to talk about.
- You must understand your value proposition, so you can explain the promise you make to your buyers of how their business will improve if they choose to work with you.
- You must define the sales process you will use, so you can describe to your prospect how you help them decide to hire you and take advantage of that value proposition.
Once you have your model outlined and feel good about the words you’ve used to explain it, you and the team are much more apt to use those words in conversation and get excited about sharing them. That’s the ultimate goal!
And when you feel motivated by the story you have, your planned communication becomes much easier because you know what you’re going to say. Outline a plan of what you want to communicate:
- What do you want people to hear from you?
- Where are they going to engage with you?
- How often are they going to hear from you?
Don’t overplan it
Plans do not need to be fancy or overly detailed, especially when you’re getting started.
The key to marketing planning is to START SLOW. If you get too much going too soon or you make it too detailed, it will be like the five-day-a-week gym goal that has been blown up by Jan 15th.
I think one of the biggest problems with failed attempts at a marketing plan is taking advice from well-meaning people who have run marketing programs for years. Over time, they’ve built a sophisticated system and want others to benefit from the same type of program. But going from zero activity to an overly sophisticated plan is like your gym goal. It just ain’t gonna work.
This advice is well-intended, but everyone takes baby steps to get to the organized, running-like-a-well-oiled-machine approach they may be using now. And you need to do that as well.
I implore you: do not fall into the trap of overplanning and over-tracking when you get started. It will lead to fatigue and derail you before giving yourselves a chance to get started.
When you read marketing advice about everything you need to do, track, and hone, filter out the must-do ideas from the “we’re not there yet” ideas. Take what you need and dismiss the rest.
Start slow and build over the years
When Kevin and I started the company, we each had a goal of Tweeting three times a week. Share something, like something, retweet something.
No joke! That’s where we started with social media.
We then added blogging, and we had a goal of each writing one blog a week. And then we layered on a monthly newsletter. Over time, we added press releases, speaking, writing for publications, and we got serious with LinkedIn as it built up credibility.
Here’s a guide for a getting-started path you can take that will allow you to follow a similar approach.
Phase I: Focus on the basics
If you’re new to planning out marketing activities, make your plan very basic. Answer these questions and then take action on the results.
- What are you currently doing?
- What’s working that you want to keep doing?
- What’s not working so well that you’d like to change or eliminate?
- If you’re not doing anything, pick one thing you’d like to start with and commit to it for the year.
Phase II: Take it to the next level
After you’ve engaged in some consistent activity, use the next annual planning cycle to take a more focused approach. Ask yourselves where you want to concentrate efforts for the year and then take action on the results.
- What areas of impact do you need to look at this year?
- What are you currently doing for each area you’ve identified as a priority?
- What would you like to accomplish in each of those areas over the year?
- Who is going to take the lead to ensure each happens?
Phase III: Up your game with organization and detail
If you’re ready to dive further into planning, you can get more detailed in your plans and add activity details and timelines, KPIs and budgets, coordinate planning with sales teams, etc. The list of what you can do is vast. The list of what you need to do, though, should be much more straightforward.
Always check and balance yourself with the question: What are we doing today, and what shouldn’t we be doing? Eliminating waste should be as important as enhancing your effort.
I’ll say it again, START SLOW. Be rudimentary. Embrace the simplicity of the activities and do them well and do them consistently. One or two activities done well and consistently is far better than five things done randomly and sporadically.
Achieve your rudimentary goals and praise yourself! Praise your team.
Next year, add something else to it.
And the year after that.
And the year after that.
Photo by zaieiunewborn59.