Whether it’s an astonishingly potent new viral sensation or a preachy blog post that pokes at sacred cows and common practices, the general tone in marketing is that nobody is doing anything right. But, everybody knows how it should be done.
There’s often a huge separation between what most marketers say, and what we actually do.
With conflicting viewpoints, no commonly-accepted guidelines, and a confusing mass of information, trying to follow the latest marketing trends can feel like being pinged back and forth between completely different philosophies.
Don’t Be a Follower
That sounds great, of course, but what does it mean? How do you get off the ‘hot new tactic’ treadmill?
Well, there’s a crucial difference between those who follow and those who set trends.
Followers don’t have a plan. They’re reactionary. Their strategies are formed rashly over a short amount of time, using only the immediately available resources, and are flimsy enough to be dropped for the next trend, fad, or idea that comes into play.
If you want to set agendas, make rules, and come out on top over the long-term, then you’re going to need an internet marketing plan.
An Internet Marketing Plan Is A Vision
The central aspect of any plan is that it implies and demands a goal. It is a process by which you work towards something.
In the world of marketing, the very concept of a plan is sometimes a contradiction. ‘Marketing is a constantly changing, adaptive, and flexible thing,’ we’re constantly told. ‘You have to be up-to-date with developments and be ready to change tack at a moment’s notice.’
It sounds great in theory. But in practice, the biggest brands in the world and on the web are where they are today not because they constantly adapt, but because they have a set of strong principles and a clear vision to guide them. Wikipedia, Apple, Amazon, and Ebay aren’t changing up their marketing every few months to follow trends. They’re consistently offering what they offer, and marketing that value.
The key principle at work here is that while trends, technology, and marketing theories change frequently and dramatically, people don’t. It’s here that research comes into play, and effective planning is almost a natural consequence of learning more and understanding your customers more deeply through research.
Break It Down Into Easy Pieces
A plan begins with some simple questions: ‘What do you want to achieve?’ ‘Where do you want to be at the end of the plan’s execution?’ ‘What is your goal?’ If you can answer these three questions, then the first and most crucial part of your plan is done.
Let’s say your ultimate goal is something vague like selling more of your product from your site. There are plenty of ways to go about this, so you need to separate out that idea into a more detailed plan.
A good way to break things down effectively is to do what I call the ‘annoying child routine’.
‘I will sell more from my site.’
‘I’ll increase traffic to the site.’
‘Because more traffic means a higher chance of people engaging with with the product.’
‘I’ll take steps to make them more engaged.’
‘People who visit the site and are actually interested in the site, its theme, and my product, are more likely to buy.’
It’s annoying (I told you so!) but it works. Our little imaginary friend’s annoying persistence has revealed that to sell more we should probably focus on more traffic, and more of the right kind of traffic.
Reducing your thinking in this way, and blocking out all the noise that is constantly being flung about by marketing ‘gurus’ and website hacks, can give a sense of perspective and clarity that leads you down strange and unexpected avenues.
You may find yourself realising that you only need something as simple as branded stationary or increasing your banner size to see your goals achieved, and not the melodramatic brand-altering seismic changes that are often advocated.
Digging through the layers of your goal in order to understanding what is actually happening gives a clear focus on how and why things are the way they are. Outlining these steps as points in a plan gives a direct, unfettered idea of how to change them, and helps you retain a focus on the important things. Speaking of which . . .
There’s often a thin line between the good kind of focus – keeping your eyes on what’s important, and holding on to your core principles – and the bad kind of focus, where you bang your head against a brick wall because you’re trying to force through an unworkable idea instead of developing a better one.
So how do you differentiate between the two, and make sure your focus is always on the right objective? Well, that’s where having an internet marketing plan comes in.
Having a well-conceived plan is like having a conscientious voice always in your ear. This voice prevents you from getting short-sighted or veering off into alternative directions. A thoughtfully-constructed plan is one of the surest ways of avoiding mistakes and wasted efforts.
Be Ready For the Worst
Even the greatest of ideas can hit snag. Depending on how well-prepared you are, mistakes can either set everything off-kilter and affect an entire project, or be dealt with efficiently and effectively.
It’s easy to make a plan in a blank space, imagining best-case scenarios and predicting the stages well in advance, but as the poem goes:
The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.
The ability to deal with mistakes is vital, and any plan that doesn’t allow provisions for things that can go wrong is doomed. It can sometimes seem counter intuitive to plan for things that can go wrong – after all, the whole point of your plan is so things don’t go wrong, right? But, having a back-up for possible delays and issues is the mark of a good plan.
Stick To It
The biggest reason that plans fail is the people behind them. There are, of course, certain situations where bailing on a plan is the right thing to do. Sometimes new information comes through that nullifies the very premise of your plan, or perhaps real-world mistakes mean that the plan simply wouldn’t work. These are extreme circumstances at which it would be foolish to blindly continue on with a plan.
But these aren’t the circumstances under which most people give up on plans. Much of the time, there is a tendency to throw in the towel when results aren’t as great, or simply not as fast, as expected.
As I said earlier on in this piece, a plan is a long-term game. It sets apart those who have the patience and genuine talent to see through quality projects, and those who wish for superficially quick results with any method that will work.
Sticking with an internet marketing plan is a sign of your good qualities. While the rest of the world may latch on to whatever trend is the flavour of the month, those who stick to certain principles inevitably win out.
Think about it – if you’re changing your message, and your methods regularly, what does that say to your customers?
Quite simply, it says: ‘I’m a follower.’
Own the Power of Your Promotional Plan
Give up on the fly-by-night ideas and begin to really think about the layers to your business and promotional ideas. Create a plan, and follow it through diligently, flexibly, and creatively. Allow patience and quality to be your bywords, instead of urgency and change. You might find yourself setting trends instead of following them!
What does your long-term promotional plan look like for your business? Let me know in the comments below!