A marketing communications strategy is vital for the success of any business. While most small business owners know that marketing is essential, it often takes a back seat to other business needs, like fulfilling orders or servicing a client.
Here's a look at how you can put together an effective plan without consuming too much of your business's time or money.
Why You Need a Marketing Communications Strategy
According to Paul Saunders, founder and chief creative officer at Brand Buddha, "When you begin to grow a business without strong messaging for your marketing and communications, you may find early success, but you won't be able to scale it. You also won't be able to control it. Without a plan in place, your marketing and communications will take on a life of its own."
Another benefit of having a plan? "Developing a marketing communications plan allows you to keep track of what works for your business and what doesn't," says marketing and strategy consultant Christina Marie Noel. Over time, this tracking enables you to place your resources on the marketing tactics that do affect your overall bottom line.
But developing and implementing a marketing communications strategy doesn't have to mean an exorbitant commitment of either time or money. Saunders emphasizes that your plan doesn't necessarily require either out of pocket costs or several months spent on development. All it requires is that you have a plan in place.
You also don't need to start with anything too complex. Noel suggests that small business owners start with simple marketing plans consisting of one to three strategies, before eventually working up to more complex marketing strategies. For each strategy, evaluate both your engagement with potential customers and your return on investment; over time, this type of testing will enable you to put your valuable resources on the strategies that work best for your business.
Crafting Your Marketing Communications Plan
Knowing you need to have a marketing communications plan is one thing, but creating one that contains actionable steps you can take can seem like a daunting process. The following tips should help smooth the process of developing a plan that works for your business:
Know Your Marketing Message
Before you can begin developing your marketing communications strategy, you need to know what your marketing message will be. "This might seem obvious, but many businesses struggle with this," says Noel. You need to know what your company does, and why your product or service matters before you invest your time on marketing. "Otherwise, all of the time and energy you spend on marketing is wasted."
Be Realistic About Your Scope
It can be tempting to develop and implement several marketing strategies all in one go, but in many cases, such an all-encompassing plan isn't feasible for small businesses. "If you're a start-up with just two team members, don't make an extravagant plan you can't follow through on," Saunders advises. "That's what agencies are for. Create action items and strategies in bite-sized pieces that can be grown and scaled."
Start With a Manageable Strategy
In fact, Noel recommends starting with smaller strategies you can test to see if further investment is worthwhile. She suggests actions such as taking out small advertisements on social media to see how your audience engages or offering a new service for free to test out the model before you charge for it. Once you see success in your smaller-scale efforts, you can then modify your plan to test larger investments.
Stick With the Plan
Whatever your final marketing plan is, resist the temptation to make changes or mix things up midway through your plan's timeline. Saunders notes that consistency is a key factor in marketing success. "Dynamic brand stories have consistency, a through-line that connects each message or campaign. Be relentless in sticking to your brand and your messaging."
A marketing communications plan is an important tool in every small business owner's toolkit. Still, you don't need to invest large amounts of either money or time to get started on developing a comprehensive plan to help your business meet its goals. Know your message, be realistic, start small, and be consistent. Over time, you will be able to identify what works and what doesn't and scale up your efforts efficiently.