Market Smarter

Helping Businesses Market Smarter and Create a Culture of Execution

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It’s tempting to dive into social media and start “doing”, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time, money and frustration if you take the time to develop your social media strategy and plan first. Once your strategy is developed, you should revisit it often, ideally as you measure social media effectiveness on a monthly or quarterly basis.

The process is designed to help both new and experienced social media users develop a strategy and action plan to guide decision making quickly and effectively. It is also designed to overlay a similar framework for traditional marketing strategies and tactics so both can be integrated into your marketing plan.

Decision making framework

The Process

The process is defined in more detail in the Social Media Strategy and Planning Guide in the book Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing and Create a Culture of Execution. The following is a summary of each step in the process.

Purpose: What Do You Want to Accomplish?

A social media plan, like any marketing plan, begins by defining the specific goals you wish to accomplish, and doing so in as quantifiable a way as possible so you can track and measure them through analytics and reporting. Use the following questions to help you define your objectives:

What is your purpose for engaging in social media? How will you define success? Is your goal to generate leads, brand awareness, drive sales, or establish expertise? Is your objective to increase customer engagement with your brand or to build a large community of subscribers and followers?

Research: Who Is Your Target Audience and Where Will You Find Them?

Social media is about connecting with prospects, customers, and like-minded people. How do you define your target audience? Where will you find them and what social media networks do they use? Do they engage in blogs? Once you have identified who you want to reach, then you can discover how to reach and communicate with them using different types of social media.

Another important component of research is to listen and understand customer needs so you can respond effectively. Social media is an ideal way to do research to discover what is being said about you, your company, your brand, customers, competitors, and trends.

Analyze: Statistics, Media Tools, Metrics, and Trends

Analysis of your research will help you determine what strategies will yield the best results, as well as select the metrics for monitoring performance. Will it be number of subscribers, comments, views, actions, retweets, followers, links, leads, media mentions, or something else? Will you compare your presence to competitors, industries, or best practices? How will you know if you are attracting the people who matter?

Strategize: Create Your Game Plan

Social media strategies cascade from your business goals and marketing objectives and it is developed to affect the actions of the target audience you wish to reach. Your work in the previous three steps will enable you to develop strategies faster and more effectively.  Make sure strategies reflect a consistent brand position and messaging that is used in all your marketing communication.

Implement: Develop a Tactical Plan

Now that you have developed strategies based on the objectives you want to achieve, you will develop social media tactics to achieve your strategy. Your plan will define the specific tools, social media networks and specific tactics you will implement, the resource needs, how tactics will be measured, and projected ROI. Also include budget, time frame, and who is responsible for execution.

Execute: Link Strategy and Execution

Now it’s time to operationalize your plan so it can be executed more efficiently. Define clear roles and responsibilities. For example, who creates blog content? How much time will it take to develop it? What ramp time is needed to create a library of content for posting? How often should posts be made? How many hours a day or week are required to participate and build a community? Who monitors customer engagement and satisfaction? Who responds to customer requests? These are just a few of the questions you need to answer.

Evaluate: Metrics

Ongoing review is critically important. Your social media strategy will outline ROI metrics and the research and analytics that are needed to make decisions. Who is responsible for doing this important activity? How often will strategy and metrics be reported and adjustments made?  Evaluate programs often to ask questions such as: Where are we getting our greatest response? Do we know why? What messages resonate with our customers and prospective customers the most? What messages and videos are forwarded to others the most?

For additional information, as well as a list of tools and metrics, download The Social Media Strategy and Planning Guide found at

According to the Forbes Insight and CIT study U.S. Small Business Outlook 2010, small business owners “agree that planning is perhaps the most important factor for succeeding in this new economic environment.”

Yet while small businesses recognize the importance of planning, they don’t necessarily do it. When business owners were asked if their company had a strategy in place to guide growth, 44% of businesses said no (but were working on one) and 11% said they didn’t have a strategy at all.

Not only does lack of a clear strategic plan lead to poor decisions, it can lead to complete indecision. For example:

•    38% said they didn’t know what their 2010 hiring strategy would be
•    33% didn’t know what their 2010 pricing strategy would be
•    45% said they didn’t know how they would be investing in R&D and product development
•    40% didn’t know if they would delay or spend more on equipment and plant purchases

More than three-quarters of surveyed executives and owners agreed that, coming out of the recession, the old way of doing business won’t work and they need to find new ways to take advantage of market opportunities.

In fact 85% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they need to plan more effectively and that the recession has only highlighted the need for more effective business and marketing planning.

Lesson learned: Take time away from working in your business to working on your business—in good times and in recessions.

In upcoming posts we’ll look at ways businesses can implement real-time planning into their business so it becomes part of daily business operations.

A recent study of small business owners by Forbes Insights and CIT found that there are several reasons to be optimistic about 2010. 80% of small businesses reported they are now tougher and smarter as a result of surviving the 2009 recession and nearly 70% say it has challenged them to become better leaders.  

Although the vast majority of businesses surveyed reported that they are working longer and harder in their businesses than ever before, most of the business leaders believed that 2010 would be a turning point as the economy rebuilds and rebounds through 2011 and 2012. Nearly 57% of respondents said revenue would grow this year, and a small percentage added that they expected revenue to “grow significantly.”

Here is a summary of the strategies small businesses intend to implement to achieve business growth:

• 64% say they will run their businesses more aggressively than they did in 2009
• 46% will pursue new revenue streams
• 50% will invest in growth or expansion
• 50% will hold on to their cash
• 62% will invest more in marketing and advertising

These results show that businesses are investing in their business by implementing more aggressive growth strategies. What the report does not reveal is whether businesses are more assertive because they realize they are in a much more competitive market, or because they learned a hard lesson from pulling back on investments like marketing.   

It’s smart to invest during a recession, but it’s counter-intuitive to do so. The lucky businesses that remained optimistic and continued to invest in their business are now poised for the fastest growth.

When businesses are looking for ways to grow revenue, they typically focus on new customers. New customer growth is the lifeblood of any business, but there are other, faster ways to increase revenue. The first is to evaluate your current customer base and evaluate how you can encourage frequency of purchase or cross-sell additional products and services which increases transaction value.

If you don’t have a strategy for selling your solutions to your existing customers or a plan for ongoing evaluation for how you can maximize cross-sell and up-sell opportunities with your customer base, you are likely missing valuable opportunities. And so are your customers who would benefit from your solutions.

If your goal is to increase the frequency of purchases from your customers, you need to establish a business model or process for doing so. Or another option is to increase frequency using promotional incentives. A successful strategy for building frequency into your business model is to sell it at the initial purchase. For example, if you offer a product that is used daily or weekly, set up an automatic shipment to customers so they receive a monthly supply. The transaction can be set up on an automatic payment plan and it saves the customer valuable time because they don’t have to think about ordering the product each month. This creates a recurring revenue stream for your business.

Here is a quick analysis you can use to evaluate three growth drivers for your business. Create a spreadsheet that summarizes total revenue, current solution offerings, and new solution offerings. Estimate new customer revenue potential for your current offerings as well as new solutions. Do the same for your existing customer base. Now you will evaluate how changing the percentage in the variables of frequency and transaction value can drive increases in revenue growth. Experiment with changing the percentage in each of these variables to get new insight about how you can drive growth.

This is a simple model to do a “what if” analysis to evaluate how changing the percentage of frequency, transaction value or number of new customers changes your revenue model. It’s a quick assessment of three revenue growth drivers to quickly surmise where you should focus your energy to capture quick wins.

Zappos has once again set the bar when it comes to demonstrating (not just lip service) what it means for a company to be transparent. Yesterday Zappos streamed live a quarterly All Employee meeting from the Bellagio in Las Vegas (#zapposinsights). The nearly four hour meeting included presentations from CEO Tony Hsieh and other Zappos executives, and author Chip Conley. Even the breakout sessions were broadcast, as well as a live stream of Twitter comments from people around the world.

The All Hands Employee broadcast follows the recent launch of Zappos Insights, a new service offered by Zappos that is focused on helping companies improve corporate culture. You might be wondering why an online e-tailer is serving up culture training along with their extensive offering of shoes, clothing and other items. But if you take a look at Zappos’ ten core values, it fits perfectly. It’s just another way of delivering extraordinary customer service.

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