The best marketing plans hold one thing at their very center: the living, breathing human being they’re speaking to. Building a marketing plan is about knowing who your target audience is, what they need and want and how to connect with them personally. This is an utterly human endeavor that, when backed with automation and data, becomes remarkably effective.
Here’s how you can build a targeted marketing plan in three simple steps:
Understand your audience with buyer personas
Buyer personas are something that you must have in your arsenal. These are semi-fictional characters who represent your main cast of customers—their needs, motivations, and lifestyles. Don’t underestimate the power of the persona: MarketingSherpa reports that building buyer personas and crafting a strategy aimed directly at them resulted in a 111 percent increase in email open rates and a 171 percent increase in marketing-generated revenue for one of their projects. And don’t be fooled into thinking personas are only for large organizations—that project was implemented by just four NetProspex employees.
To build personas, begin by leveraging demographic and behavioral data from your CRM, study the data and divide your buyers together into groups. Fuse this with discussions with your sales team—they will have a very solid grasp of your target audience. What are their desires and challenges? Document each person’s needs, values, and pain points—and get a sense of their actual lives. Where and when do they prefer to consume content? While most people think millennials and social media go hand in hand, baby boomers are most likely to share content they find on Facebook.
These personas will help you craft precisely segmented email marketing campaigns—and they will help to focus the entire business. The innovative Idaho-based candle company Milkhouse, for example, uses Infusionsoft by Keap to send personalized messaging to segments, ensuring that customers receive only content that pertains to them. “It's not about mass emails,” says CEO Eric Sparrow. “It's about giving your customers what they're asking for.”
Know the buyer journey
You can empathize with your target market’s needs—but how are you going to appear in their world and convince them to purchase? You need a precise understanding of the buyer journey and its three main stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.
For awareness, your content and strategy needs to be highly focused on their pain points. You’re being empathetic at this stage, capturing their attention by offering helpful content that will genuinely educate and assist them. As they move further into the consideration and buying stages, or deeper into the marketing funnel, this is where the content starts to bring in discussions of your product.
With your buyer journey mapped out, do a content audit and check social metrics to see how well your content is currently performing—and whether it aligns to the various paths to purchase. What types of content (emails, guides, video, social media posts, and so on) is resonating with each persona? What gaps need to be filled in with new content—and what flow should this content take? Consider how long it usually takes to close a sale as well as the time of day, week or year that makes sense for your products or services to be promoted. Later, you can do a series of split tests for a more scientific understanding of how to boost conversions.
Align marketing objectives to customer-driven campaigns
Now you have the basis upon which to design custom drip campaigns and set off triggered messages that are uncannily synchronized to user behavior. According to Forrester, companies that excel at lead nurturing campaigns generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at a 33 percent lower cost.
Automation helps small businesses do this at scale. Burleson Orthodontics, for example, integrates new leads from social, PPC, and direct mail with a welcome email campaign and follows up on lost leads with a reengagement campaign. The adventure company Rock and Rapid developed an inspired 52-week lead nurturing drip, which creates a sense of trust with each person in their community and keeps them top of mind with customers throughout the year.
By taking these steps, starting with a clear understanding of your target audience, and crafting content and marketing campaigns that perfectly fit their respective journeys, and empowering this with automated tools, you will start to see very real results in your marketing plans. They will stop being two-dimensional ideas on a spreadsheet, and turn into a growing community of buyers and fans.