Cut Through the Hype: How to Create a Successful Marketing Plan

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the clutter of new tools and information available to small business marketers today. I’m sure at some point a small business will hear the following, whether at a conference, on a webinar or in a white paper:

  • “You should blog!”
  • “Are you on Twitter?”
  • “What’s your SEO and PPC strategy?”
  • “Are you doing email marketing?”
  • “You need a Facebook fan page!”
  • “Have you started automating your marketing and sales funnel?”

Cutting through all the hype to see what really works for your small business can be a challenge. When you focus all your effort on tools and tactics but don’t have a clear strategy behind your actions, some serious holes in your marketing and sales funnel will start to surface in three main areas. For example:

scissor cutting

1. Lost traffic: How much traffic came to your website today and left without giving you their information? How will you ever follow up? This is a painful reality for many small businesses. Think of how much revenue your business is missing out on because you’re not capturing the traffic you spend big bucks to get.

2. Lost leads: Did you know only 10 percent of leads are ready to buy now? What about the warm and cold leads? More often than not, they get lost in the shuffle and are eventually forgotten forever. Many small businesses would love to follow up on every lead, but with limited resources, that can be a challenge. So, the goal is to close the leads that are hot now in order to drive immediate sales and to have a nurturing system in place for not-ready-to-buy-yet leads.

3. Lost customers: If customers feel indifferent about your product or service, they’re more likely to leave you for the competition. You pay all this money to get customers just so they can leave you for the competition down the road. Ouch!

If you’re experiencing any of the pains I describe above, than keep reading to discover the remedy.

Make a Plan

Let’s start by identifying your business goals. Next, map out what your current customer lifecycle looks like, and what your “perfect” customer lifecycle looks like. I find almost every small business can break its lifecycle into seven stages.

  1. Attract Traffic
  2. Capture Leads
  3. Nurture Prospects
  4. Convert Sales
  5. Deliver and Satisfy
  6. Upsell Customers
  7. Get Referrals

Call me old school, but I find it helpful if the business maps these seven stages out on a whiteboard. Start filling in the tools and tactics your business is using to push leads through to the next stage. In following this process, the inefficiencies in your system will become glaringly obvious. You’ll start to see where you’re losing leads and sales, when you’re missing out on referrals or even worse, at what point your customers are leaving you for the competition.

Now that the framework is in place, I want to give you some foolproof strategies you can use in these seven stages.

Attracting Traffic Strategies

Putting up a website doesn’t create traffic.  You need to become a content machine. Write blog posts, create white papers, post videos and host webinars — and give them all away. The strategy here is to pull leads into your funnel with highly valuable content.

Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Monitor what people are saying about your brand or industry and use it as an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions. Also, share your content on your social channels.

If you have a network of partners or brand advocates, reward them for referring business your way.

Lastly, have a SEO and PPC strategy in place so when people search online for your type of business, they find you easily.

Lead Capture Strategies

I’m going to say this once and only once: “Sign up for my monthly newsletter” is not a lead capture strategy—at least not an effective one. Capturing leads goes hand-and-hand with becoming a content machine. Give away free reports or a video series that is packed with education. You can try running a contest or hosting an online event like a webinar as well. Just make sure you are getting permission from customers to follow up. Set expectations right from the beginning on what you’ll be sending them and get them to opt-in so they don’t feel bombarded.

Lead Nurture Strategies

Segment your follow-up based on the behaviors and interests of your leads. For example, I suggest segmenting your content into three groups: new leads, hot leads and cold leads. You should also be paying close attention to how you got the lead in the first place. Did they watch a webinar on “Copywriting Tips for Small Businesses” or did they sign up for a demo or consultation? The content you provide to these three audiences is likely going to be very different because the prospects are at different stages of the buying cycle.

Sales Conversion Strategies

As a small business with limited time and resources, relying solely on your sales team can sometimes be a death sentence. Try automating some of your prospect follow-up. By doing so, you are able to monitor their level of interest by looking at behaviors like email open rates, report downloads and other interactions. You know that someone who has opened every email, watched every webinar and requested a free consultation is probably a prospect that’s ready to be handed off to sales to close the deal. Automating some of the communications helps ensure the quality of leads going to sales is high, resulting in better and quicker conversions.

Upsell and Referral Strategies

Small businesses are guilty of basking in the success of closing the sale and overlooking the fact that there are huge opportunities to upsell and get referrals. Here are a few different upsell strategies:

  • Checkout upsell
  • Post-purchase upsell
  • Product-specific upsell
  • Product-specific cross-sell

You’ve invested time and money in converting leads into customers and wowing your customers with your service. Now ask for referrals! Give them a free product or a discount for referring a friend. We all know some of the best leads can come from referrals.

If you follow even some of the tips in this article, I have no doubt that you can create a strategic marketing plan that cuts through the clutter and delivers the results you want to achieve.  Here are a few extra tips for creating a small business marketing plan from a previously recorded webinar.  It’s a valuable resource for getting results from your plan in 3 simple steps.


Tyler Garns Tyler Garns, Business & Marketing Strategist at Tyler Garns Marketing LLC, has over 10 years of experience in the field and is a recognized expert in Internet marketing. Tyler specializes in building "done-for-you" campaigns. You can follow him on the Tyler Garns Blog.

12 Reactions
  1. So many of these strategies are useful, and having a diverse presence on social media makes a lot of sense. My .02: make sure that you are actually engaging people on your social channels. Simply posting the occasional link or tweet is not enough. Let your strategy include an active conversation with your followers and fans.

  2. By letting inviting guest bloggers to your site and advertising products and/or services in your newsletter for a complimentary business you can also build partnerships that may expand your market base. Agree about engaging folks at social networks. However, think it’s easier to engage folks on Facebook than on Twitter as you don’t see the original conversation string on Twitter they way you do on Facebook.

  3. Curt & Denise,

    Thanks for the comments. I think you’re right. If people want to really “influence” the people in their networks, they need to engage, not just publish. For small businesses it’s just hard to justify the time requirement. Or, they get sucked into the social media vortex and waste time. It requires discipline to do it right. 😉

  4. The importance of blogging cannot be emphasised enough. It is a vital element of successful marketing strategy. Businesses, however small or large need to emphasise on blogging as a way to build influence and authority.

  5. Lionel Bachmann @ Model Trains

    Great marketing plan and descriptions. One of the hardest, and possibly the most counter-intuitive, things is giving away lots and lots of content. But when you see the effect it has on customers thinking, “if they are giving this away, then the stuff I pay for must be far more valuable.” It may be the difference needed to change a visitor into a buyer.

  6. Great tips for marketers/want-to-be marketers! It all starts with a plan.

  7. Thanks Ashley and Lionel. Great comments.

  8. Great stuff Tyler.

    Creating marketing programs that drive business requires a thorough planning and sound execution. You have created a thorough step-by-step list. At the end of the day,great results depend on excellent execution.

  9. Good info for small biz. They are overwhelmed, going back to the basics and building a plan is the best first step. I believe in “old school”.