When was the last time you cast your eyes over the last edit of your marketing plan?
You do have a marketing plan, don’t you?
Huh … what was that? No?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, a surprising number of Virtual Assistants I speak with don’t have a marketing plan.
Their reasoning … they don’t think it necessary. After all, they’re only running a VA business – not a six figure global business with employees.
Not yet anyway!
And if I’m honest, when I first started out, I didn’t have one either.
But over the years, as the inconsistency that can come with running your own VA business meets the bills that sadly aren’t inconsistent, a marketing plan has been an essential component of my business arsenal.
It’s helped me clarify client acquisition and retention ideas, and acted as a guide when times were lean.
Ultimately, it ensured I didn’t panic and set me on a clear path to keep my business going from strength-to-strength.
As it would yours.
Even if your business is stable right now, you don’t know what’s going to happen next month, next year or five years from now.
So whether you’re content being a one-VA-show, or have world domination ambitions, get yourself a marketing plan.
What makes for a good marketing plan?
Aside from its content, two things:
1 – Simplicity.
Don’t over-complicate it. The more complicated you make it, the less likely you’ll stick to it.
2 – Flexibility.
Your marketing plan shouldn’t be set in stone.
Keep it supple, adaptable, ready to adjust to new techniques and opportunities.
Preparing your marketing plan
Before you start, it’s a good idea to have three things to hand. After all, you want this to be an actionable beneficial strategy, not something that fills a couple of hours only to be filed away and never referred to again.
1 – Know your financials
What’s your current income?
What outgoings do you have?
Does it leave you with a disposable budget to play with?
Knowing this will determine the kind of marketing you can do.
But of course, things change over time. Which is why your marketing plan must be flexible. As circumstances change, so does your plan.
2 – Know your target market
Whilst you may be happy to support any business, from a marketing perspective that’s not focused enough, and any tactics you try will most likely go unnoticed.
The budget you have, now or in the future, will need to be spent wisely. So honing in on your ideal client is a must.
- Where do they hang out?
- What do they read?
- What problems do they face?
The more you know, the more success you’ll have.
3 – Know your service offering
What skills and experience do you have right now?
Again, you may be happy to take on any tasks, but where do your strengths lie?
If you have a niche, that helps for targeted marketing. If not, don’t worry, instead think about where your experience lies.
What industries have you worked in?
You may be surprised that you’re able to offer a specialism based on a past job. And if so, you’re marketing can be more defined and focused.
Key components of a good marketing plan
So now you know what makes for a good marketing plan and what to prepare in advance, here’s what it needs to contain.
1. Business Goals
Start off the plan with an overview of your business goals.
Think in general terms. Not specifics.
For example: acquire new clients, build a targeted mailing list, drive more quality traffic to your blog, etc.
If you find you’ve got quite a few goals, break them down into primary and secondary goals for ease. Don’t be overly ambitious, it could result in becoming paralysed by the amount of work involved.
2. Target Market Groups
From your preparation work you should already have a good idea of who your target market is. But in reality, you probably don’t just have one type. So it’s a good idea to create groups.
Define each group – industry, location, size, etc.
Then within those groups think about what primary service you would be offering them. This may vary from group to group, so it’s important to figure it out as that will help determine your marketing method for each individual group.
3. Current Online Stats
Writing down your current situation makes it so much easier to see how far you’ve come … or realise a little more effort is needed!
- Google Analytics – traffic to your site, primary source of traffic, pages visited, length of time on site, etc.
- Social Media Analytics – how many followers, subscribers, fans, etc. and engagement levels
Use this to measure your progress against.
Just remember to continually update it you move forward with your marketing, and with your business.
4. Marketing Objectives
The marketing objectives are an extension of your business goals. But nailed down.
For example, how many new clients do you want and by when? What will a targeted mailing list or more traffic to your blog achieve for your business?
Identifying these will help you come up with a more successful means of meeting them.
5. Marketing Methods
The final piece to the puzzle is the ‘how’ of achieving your objectives – more clients, more traffic, more subscribers.
- Website testing and changes: Updates to your website content, structure and navigation could increase your newsletter signup rate. Reviewing and implementing website changes to meet your business goals should be a regular occurrence.
- Content creation and distribution: What content marketing are you currently doing? You may want to start a blog, newsletter or podcast to gain more traffic to your website. Review the best way to reach your target market and put a realistic plan in place.
- SEO including link building: Is your website well optimised? Have you got links from reputable sites pointing to it? Both of these tactics will help your site appear in organic searches.
- Social media marketing: Find out where your target market hangs out and plant yourself there. Interact with them. Answer questions. Ask questions. Share your valuable content with them. This is a slow-burn, but a great way to be seen as an authority and build a loyal following.
- Email marketing: So you’re building your mailing list, what are you going to do with it? Having an email marketing plan in place is critical in retaining those subscribers.
- Paid advertising: If you have budget, paid advertising works – when managed properly. Your target audience will help determine where to advertise – Google Adwords, Facebook, LinkedIn … do your research, and if possible, get some help to make sure that budget works hard for you.
And there you have it.
Go into as much detail as you want, but remember your main objective – having an actionable plan to grow your business.
So whilst it’s good to come up with lots of ideas, keeping it simple means it’s more likely to be successful.
Oh and one last thing – revisit your marketing plan at least every six months. Review your current stats and measure where you are now against them.
What’s been working? What hasn’t?
Then make any necessary tweaks.
Your business may be in a great place right now, but things can change.
Having a solid plan in place could be the difference between remaining in business, and not.