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Social Media Strategy for 2016

Social Media StrategyHow to Develop a Kick-butt Digital Marketing Plan to Take Your Business to the Next Level

The start of a new year naturally fosters a view toward analyzing the past and planning the future. Like a reset button, transitions from one year to the next call for a fresh look at our process, habits, actions, and goals. We take a look at what we have been doing to see what works, what needs adjustment, and what needs to go. Are you looking at your business to improve your digital marketing in 2016? If so, here are some ideas to set the foundation for a great plan.

Analysis – Look at your business objectively: are you satisfied with your online presence, how you are using social media and other digital platforms to present, connect, and market your business? Are you putting the right resources to this effort? Do you know if what you are doing is producing positive results? Do you know what to do differently to achieve better results? Answering these questions will give you a better baseline from which to grow.

Goals – In the above analysis, you were asked if your efforts were producing positive results. If the answer to that question is either “I don’t know” or some version of “no”, the next step is to be clear about the results you want. Most of us want more clients = revenue, however, setting up a goal that broad may be too abstract and lead to scattered actions. Next week’s blog will focus on establishing specific goals that are realistic and measurable. For now, think about your purpose for engaging in digital marketing and what you need it to deliver in order to justify the expense of time, money, and attention.

Expand Your Audience –  Who cares about your business, products, services, or industry? If you are only concerned with consumers, you may be missing segments that could be a help to your business. Identifying the connections that bring value to your offering,  either by bringing you more customers or through supporting your business process, may be just as successful as going after direct consumers. Make a list of every person, business, organization, or association that is or could be impacted by what you offer. This becomes your expanded target audience and helps define your message.

Your Message –  Many entrepreneurs struggle with defining their clear message. Some are concerned that blogging or writing social media posts would be difficult because they don’t believe they have much to say. However, once they get into talking about their industry and experience, their knowledge flows out as valuable content they could be delivering to their expanded market. Don’t minimize the value or withhold your expertise, this is how you can shine online and set yourself distinct from others in your industry.

Where are the Eyeballs? – Some research is involved to find out where people and businesses you most want to connect with are engaged online. You may discover different platforms for different segments. For example, your target customers may be looking on Angie’s List, but your referral partners are active on Facebook. Having a sense of this will help you determine what kinds of posts go where. In this example, your emphasis on Angie’s List is to encourage happy customers to post positive reviews and respond consistently to those. On Facebook your message will be centered on an expanded view to interest and engage people who are not in your industry, but connected to it in some way. I suggest doing internet searches and talking to people in person and in forums, blogs, and Facebook groups to get this information.

Pull it Together – Once you are clear with these elements, put it together in a plan. Answer these questions:

Who – who is doing the interacting online and who are they connecting with?

What – what platforms are you using, what resources of time and money will you dedicate, what is message, special, enticement?

When – when will you do your online interactions, follow-ups, requests to connect on and off line?

How – how many posts, blogs, emails, per week? How will you stay on top of it? How will you know if you are getting anywhere?

This is the skeleton of your digital marketing strategy; using this to support details, specific campaigns and brilliant ideas. Please let me know if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help. Watch for next week’s blog on drilling down to establish more specific goals.

Identifying Your Target Audience

TargetReaching the People Who Want What You Offer

The general idea with any form of marketing and advertising is to get your message to those who are most likely to become customers. There also may be the added benefit of attracting business partners, referral sources, and vendors to support your business. If we are not entirely clear about who our audience is, where they put their attention, and how to get in front of them, we might be wasting a lot of time and money on people who will never add anything to our business.

One of my blog followers commented on my last article, “This is great information, but how do I know who my audience is and where to find them”. It dawned on me that we spend a lot of time focussed on the how, what, when, where, and why of digital marketing, but critical details like being clear about your audience are assumed. Do you really know the profile of your ideal prospect? Getting clear on this answer will help you craft your marketing messages and be of significant value when you do Facebook advertising. Because social media levels the playing field for access to people’s attention, niche targeting is critical now more than ever.

Steps to Crafting Your Target Market:

Differentiate Business from Individual –  Most businesses know if they are B to B (business that sell to other businesses) or B to C (business that sells to consumers), but they are not always clear on just how different the strategy is between these two groups. If you get a recommendation to implement a plan that is designed to reach the wrong group, you will be way off in your results.

General to Specific – When I ask small business owners about their target audience, I usually hear things like, “anyone who needs my services” or “homeowners”. These fields are too general. Consider obvious demographics like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Education level
  • Income
  • Relationship status
  • Ethnic background

Also consider Psychographics (personal characteristics) including:

  • Attitudes
  • Political persuasion
  • Behavior
  • Personality
  • Values
  • Interests/hobbies
  • Lifestyles

Determine how what you offer fits with these factors not just for the end use of your product/service, but to help define the marketing strategy. Where are these people putting their attention, how can you reach them? Getting specific is important, but there is a line. Don’t go so far that you’ve cut out whole sections that could be available to you.

Solving Problems or Fulfilling Desires – The two primary reasons people will be interested is that your service either solves a problem of relative significance to them, or it offers something compelling enough to make them want. Think “automating software” or “new Mercedes”. It is critical to understand how your product or service fits in with these motivators. 

Analyze Current Customers – Who is your audience now and how did they come to you? What were the contributing factors that converted them from prospects into customers? Are there common characteristics among these people? Who are most profitable? Who may not be a client but has brought you business? Answering these questions will help you create a clear audience profile.

Analyze your Product/Service – Create a list of features and benefits to what you offer. Once you have listed your benefits, make a list of people who have a need that your benefit fulfills.

Evaluate your Audience – Marketing is a somewhat fluid process. You may not have captured your audience correctly or may have missed critical elements. Always be willing to shift and adjust as new information comes to light. When assessing the accuracy of your audience profile, consider these questions:

  • Are there enough people that fit my criteria?
  • Have I accurately identified what drives my target to make decisions?
  • Does my target really benefit from my product/service? Do they see a need for it?
  • Can they afford my product/service?
  • Where am I reaching them, where am I not reaching them?

If you are feeling overwhelmed with this process, try researching what others have done to reach your market. Read articles and blogs on your market to better understand what captures their interests. You may find resources where your audience is engaging in conversation about your field. This will give you great insight into their motivators. You may want to do a survey of your own customers to get their feedback.

Defining your target market is the hard part. Once you know who you are targeting, it is much easier to figure out which media you can use to reach them and what marketing messages will resonate with them. Instead of creating a Facebook ad that just targets your ZIP code, identify your audience by the above demographics. You will save money and get a better return on investment.

Targeting a specific market does not mean that you exclude those who do not fit your profile. Instead, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on those most likely to buy from you rather than your competitors. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business. I suggest going through the process of defining your target audience as a formal exercise. Take some time and write out your answers to the above questions.

Let me know if you have any questions or could use any help with this process. It may seem cumbersome, but it is worth it in the end to know who you want to reach and how you meet their needs.