5 Steps to a Winning Social Media Marketing Plan

What is the single most important action you can take to improve your chances of success in implementing a social media campaign? Create a well-researched and carefully thought out social media marketing plan, which lays the foundation for executing a winning social media campaign. Although there is no concrete roadmap to crafting an effective social media marketing plan, there are guideposts that can direct you along the way. The following 5 Steps provide the guidance you will need to develop a successful social media marketing plan.

Step 1: Establish Definitive and Measurable Goals. Social media marketing goals include, improving brand awareness, search engine rankings, relevant site traffic, and conversions performance (e.g., sales for a product or service), as well as reputation management and engaging with consumers.

The challenge for some of these goals, such as engaging with consumers, is to make them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART). In addition, objectives must be established for each type of social media platform in order to maximize results. The following are examples of SMART goals for four popular social media platforms: blogs, microblogs (Twitter), social networking sites, as well as image and video sharing sites:

Blogs:

  • 20% improvement in the ratio of posts to comments (i.e., visitor’s comments/posts=conversions) within six months
  • 30% increase in total number of unique visitors within six months
  • 20% increase in average number of unique visitors within six months
  • 40% growth in total number of views within six months
  • 10% growth of RSS subscribers within six months
  • 5% growth of RSS feed requests within six months

Microblogs (Twitter):

  • 20% growth in number of followers within 30 days
  • 30% growth in the number of retweets (message amplification) within 30 days
  • 10% increase in click-through-rate (CTR) of the links posted in tweets within 30 days (Hint: Observing which types of links garner the highest CTRs can help you tune your tweets to provide what your consumers with links they are interested in and, hence, further improve your CTR.)
  • 15% increase in visits to Web site from tweet links within 30 days
  • 10% growth in time on Web site from tweet links within 30 days
  • 5% increase in Web site conversions (e.g., sales) from tweet links within 30 days

Social Networking Sites:

  • 20% growth in the number of friends within five months
  • 30% growth in the number of comments within five months
  • 40% growth in the number of posts and comments in discussion groups within five months
  • 20% increase in the ratio of comments on uploaded videos to number of videos uploaded within five months
  • 20% increase in the ratio of comments on photos uploaded to number of photos uploaded within five months
  • 30% growth in the number of comments left on profiles within five months
  • 50% growth in the number of questions answered or asked within five months

Image and Video Sharing Sites:

  • 30% growth in the number of images or videos viewed within four months
  • 20% growth in the number of unique visitors within four months
  • 10% increase in the number of subscribers to your channel or stream within four months
  • 30% increase in the ratio of comments on images or videos to the number of images or videos uploaded within four months
  • 15% growth in the number of embedded links to your images or videos (i.e., links from other sites to your images or videos) within four months
  • 30% increase in average rankings of images or videos by viewers within four months

Step 2: Identify Your Target Market Who is your intended audience (target market)? Where do they hangout on the social Web? How do they participating on these social media platforms? Forrester Research’s “Social Technographics Profile” enables you to use age, location, and gender to identify the type of activity people are engaged in on the social Web, such as create content, critique, collect, spectate, and so on. Depending on what they do, you can determine which social media platform they are likely to frequent. As an example, spectators are not likely to participate in social network like Facebook or LinkedIn, while they might watch YouTube videos and read blogs, but not comment on the posts.

Step 3: Conduct a Competitive Analysis. What are the trends in social media (i.e., which platforms are growing, which are declining?). What needs are not being meet by your competitors? Who will be your main competitors? What are the best practices in social media marketing? Conduct a SWOT Analysis, identifying your company’s strengths, weaknesses, along with the opportunities and threats in the marketplace and economy.

Step 4: Design innovative strategies. Select the optimal social media platforms to reach your target market. Then, construct a specialized strategy for each social media platform to achieve the tailored goals for each platform. Each social media medium has distinctive features and means of communication. For example, a corporate blog strategy will differ markedly from the strategy you use to achieve your goals on social network like LinkedIn. In other words, a one-sized strategy doesn’t fit all.

Hence, you must adjust the following 8 C’s of the Social Media Marketing Mix for each social media platform. Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish this feat:

  • Categorize social media platforms by target market relevancy(i.e., the ones where your target audience resides)
  • Comprehend the “rules of the road” on the platform by listening and learning how to behave, successfully spark conversation, and engage and energize the participants
  • Converse by acknowledging and responding to other users of the platform, always remembering to be a contributor, not a promoter
  • Collaborate with platform members as a means of establishing a mutually beneficial relationships with the platform participants
  • Contribute contentto build your reputation and become a valued member, helping to build the community
  • Connect with the influencers, so you can enlist them to help shape opinions about your product or service
  • Community creation enables you to build discussion forums where consumers suggest ideas and receive customer support.
  • Conversion of strategy execution into desired outcomes (e.g., increased brand awareness, website traffic, sales, etc.)

Step 5: Monitor, Measure, and Tune. Accessing your progress, then tune your marketing plan based on the feedback to optimize goal achievement. Reevaluate and adjust your social media marketing plan to account for the ever changing nature of consumer tastes and the social Web. For example, if the number of viewers and subscribers to your blog are declining, you can adjust your content to more closely match your target market’s interests. If the number of comments on your blog posts is declining, you can adjust your strategy by asking a question at the end of each post that inspires people to respond. In short, planning and executing a social media marketing campaign is a never ending cycle. You should constantly monitor and tune your strategies to maximize the impact of your campaign.

For more information and resources on planning social media marketing campaigns, be sure to visit my blog at www.SocialMediaMarketingResources.info.

An Insurance Agency Marketing Plan For the Web Centric Marketing Era

Insurance agencies, like any small business, need a concise and achievable marketing plan. Today, however, we should modify this statement to read; Insurance agencies require a concise, achievable web centric insurance agency marketing plan. I’d also add that this insurance agency marketing plan should target lead generation oriented activities, or at least, a large component of the plan and associated budget should focus on lead generation to ensure optimum effectiveness and return on investment for the agency producers.

What type of insurance agency marketing plan does your agency create each year? Is it a comprehensive and detailed plan that is 10 or 20 pages long or a more concise one to five pages? Is it part of an annual business plan or a five year strategic plan? Agencies approach business planning, budgeting and marketing from a wide variety of perspectives. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to drill down to a marketing specific plan, then further to a web centric agency lead generation plan.

There are many marketing related activities which fall under the insurance agency marketing plan umbrella. Some of these (listed alphabetically) include:

· Association Memberships (Chamber of Commerce, etc.)

· Blogging

· Brochures

· Client Testimonials

· Club Memberships (Golf, Tennis, Other)

· Direct Mail

· eBrochures

· eMarketing

· ePublishing

· Events (for both clients and prospects)

· Networking Organizations

· Newsletter

· On-site Seminars

· Pay Per Click (Google PPC Campaigns)

· PR and Client Testimonial Creation

· Promotional Items

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Telemarketing

· Trade Shows

· Traditional Advertising (Magazines, Yellow Pages, Radio, TV)

· Web Seminars

· Website

· White Papers

That’s already a long list, and we’re just getting started. Smaller agencies can’t tackle all of the activities above, in fact, they should only focus on a few of these each year, and many would agree that they should focus on lead generation oriented activities which will help keep their pipelines full and active. Let’s review some of the better lead generation activities from the list above:

· Direct Mail

· eMarketing

· Pay Per Click (Google PPC Campaigns)

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Telemarketing

· Traditional Advertising (Magazines, Yellow Pages, Radio, TV)

· Web Seminars

· Website

Granted, networking oriented activities can generate leads, though these should be pursued in the normal course of business in a manner most comfortable to the individual producer. Thus we are focusing on quantitatively oriented (easily repeatable and highly measurable) lead generation activities. This list is more manageable, but still needs to be culled to ensure proper focus on the respective lead generation activity. A decade ago, traditional advertising, telemarketing and direct mail might have been the preferred path for most agencies. Today, only one of those activities should remain on our list, and as you will see below, the remaining items are all web marketing centric.

· eMarketing/Web Seminars

· Pay Per Click (Google PPC Campaigns)

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Blogging, ePublising

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Telemarketing (for smaller profile prospects)

· Website

Our insurance agency marketing list has now been culled to a manageable level. You may have noticed that eMarketing has been paired with web seminars. This is because many insurance agency marketing experts find a higher response rate to eMarketing initiatives when leveraging educationally oriented webinars as the primary call to action. SEO, search engine optimization for insurance agencies, results in the organic display of your agency website at the top of the search engine rankings (Google, Bing or Yahoo search engine results). You probably noticed that this is now bundled with blogging and ePublishing, since those elements are often necessary to achieve page one search engine results. Organic SEO is a gift that keeps on giving; it does not require fees every time a prospect clicks on your name. PPC, or Pay Per Click ads, appear at the top and side of the Google results, and require that your agency pays anywhere from $1 to $5 per click, depending upon the competitiveness of the search term, regardless if the prospect who clicks is qualified or not. My recommendations for a lead generation, web centric plan would typically include the following:

· eMarketing/Web Seminars

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Blogging, ePublising

· Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)

· Website

This is a manageable list for almost any agency, and a cost effective outsource if the agency lacks the internal expertise to accomplish these tasks. A professional up to date website is essential for any insurance agency. The website should be optimized for your specific keywords (benefits, workers comp, truck insurance, etc.). Your insurance agency SEO initiative may need to be regionalized or localized (workers compensation Massachusetts). Social media marketing, a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. is fast and easy for most agencies. Blogging and ePublishing require more time, but are essential for most agencies. Fortunately agencies can often leverage their blog content and publish it in well known, online article directories. Lastly, a successful eMarketing and Web Seminar campaign can often yield the best results for insurance agencies. An ideal series might have 5,000 targeted emails combined with a monthly webinar. Be wary of email list brokers advertising inexpensive email lists. We’ve seen agency lists where the first and last names are merged into one field and many of the emails are info@ or sales@ type emails, a definite problem when it comes to professional eMarketing. EMarketing is both an art and a science, agencies must ensure it is done properly, professionally and obey the CAN-SPAM act.

Web centric insurance agency marketing is now a critical foundation for any agency wishing to grow, your agency should be well on the way to implementing these initiatives. That said, don’t attempt to do too many activities at one time, you’re better off doing a few marketing activities really well than accomplishing a dozen in a haphazard manner.

Small Business Marketing Plan – Increase Your Business Profit Without Breaking Your Marketing Budget

Most small business owners fail when it comes to their small business marketing plans. They’ve got excellent technical skills in their line of work, but that just doesn’t translate to having effective marketing skills.

As a result, profitability of many small businesses has been declining over the years. Ever increasing competition is making it more challenging in many ways. For those businesses that aren’t losing money, most are not producing the profit they could be if they knew how to market themselves properly.

These business owners usually just copy what they see other businesses doing, or they follow the advice of some media sales person. The problem is they copy the wrong types of businesses, and the media sales people typically only know as much about effective marketing as the business owner does.

Without the right kind of marketing system in place, the success of any business is by pure chance. To help remedy this situation, below are seven things a small business can do to increase profits while spending less on marketing.

1. Use the power of free stuff

Everyone likes getting free stuff and you can use that to your advantage. If your business lends itself to giving away free samples of your product, do that. It helps get people hooked on it. Business profits have boomed on this marketing model.

As Chris Anderson author of the book titled, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” says, “You can make make money giving things away.”  In his book he talks about how businesses are giving away products and services they used to charge for, and in return, a percentage of their customers are buying something else. As a result, they are making more money than ever.

When you give something away, you often activate a universal law called the “Law of Reciprocity.” It says that when people get something free, they feel obligated to do something for you. Obviously it doesn’t work every time, but it does work enough of the time.

But there is another way to give away free stuff that can greatly benefit your business. When you do it right you get something very valuable in return: customer contact info…which leads us to the next tip.

2. Start capturing customer contact info and use it

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is not tapping their current customer base. They let customers visit their business (online or offline) all day long without ever trying to capture their contact info so they can continue to market products or services to them.

You likely know how expensive it can be to get a new customer. But you can market to your current customers for little or no cost. Capturing and using customer contact info can mean the difference between a profitable business and one that barely gets by.

Your business has more customer value in it than a customer can possibly digest in a short visit so if you aren’t continually marketing to your customers, you are throwing money away!

You can make customer contact capture easier simply by using the power of free from tip number one. Simply start a monthly drawing to give away something free and print some registration slips visitors can fill out. Also have people register online on your website.

Tell customers they only have to register once for all drawings and you will contact them monthly via email to let them know who won. Of course you will always include an offer for a product or service!

What do you give away? Anything with a perceived value makes a great free item. Free items do not have to be expensive. Buy something on sale at WalMart or at eBay and offer it. You can also offer free informational reports that help people solve their problems. People are always looking for ways to solve problems they are having.

Of course, once you capture this information you have to do something with it. If you’re too busy to take on any more work, then the next tip will help you out.

3. Use automated tools to keep in touch with customers

Once you have a customer list, I recommend you send a minimum of 25 “messages” a year to it. A message could be an email, direct mail piece, fax, or phone call.

If you don’t use an automated tool to do the work for you, you’ll likely be too busy to get the job done. When you automate, your messages go out regardless of how busy you get (the more messages that go out, the busier you’ll get).

One tool you can use is an email autoresponder, which is a web-based system that sends out emails when someone signs up. It sends out emails at intervals you set up. You can also set it up to send an email on a specific day, such as a holiday.

The great thing about an autoresponder tool is that you enter your messages in the autoresponder one time, then it automatically sends emails to your list. You can also broadcast messages any time you want.

Using this tool, keeping in touch with your customers is easy and it will help keep the competition from creeping in and stealing your customers because they’ve forgotten about you and the services you provide.

4. Stop marketing like you’re a big business.

Marketing a small business like it’s a big business is something almost every small business owner does. They just copy the marketing they see being done at large companies with big brands. This kind of marketing is called “brand identity,” “brand building,” or “image” marketing.

This is a HUGE waste of advertising money for a small business. You simply don’t have the resources you need to support a successful branding campaign.

Brand advertising typically has no “call to action,” (they don’t ask you to do anything). They just give you features of the product or service, or they entertain you without asking you to do anything.

Brand advertising is usually benefit free. The viewer has to determine if there is a benefit to them. It may contain a list of features and the user will have to assign their own benefit to each feature. It is usually focused on the product or provider of the product instead if the customer.

A successful marketing campaign for a small business is created around direct response marketing techniques.

5. Use old fashioned direct response techniques in new ways

The kind of marketing plan that works for a small business is direct response marketing. It doesn’t require a huge marketing budget to use effectively. It can be used for all types of products and services.

And the good news is that you don’t even have to hire an advertising agency to do it since it doesn’t require creativity. All you have to do is learn the basic structure of direct response marketing and you can easily increase the sales your business makes.

Direct response sales copy always asks the reader or viewer to take some sort of action i.e. “Call in the next 5 minutes, and we’ll include a free set of Ginzu steak knives!”.

It may ask for the sale directly if a full “sales presentation” was done (one-step advertising), or it may ask them to request more information (two-step advertising). It will at a minimum, ask the reader to take some form of “traceable” action so you know if it is working or not.

There should always be a headline for written advertisements! Never put your company logo at the top of a direct response advertisement. That’s brand advertising.

Whenever you create an advertisement in any form always look at them from the customer point of view. Look it and ask “Who gives a crap?” about everything in it. Do you think the customer cares about your logo. No! They care about what you can do for them. Put in benefits and not features. Let the customer know what’s in it for them. A successful direct response ad for a small business includes several things:

  • An offer to buy something
  • Sufficient information for the consumer to make a decision to act now (or directions on how to get more info)
  • An explicit “call to action” sooner rather than later
  • A clear way to respond such as a telephone number or web page
  • A means of tracking the response.

Direct response advertising is not just used for mail campaigns. You use it in all forms of media: print, web, mail, and broadcast. Take a look at all the advertising you are currently doing no matter where it is and start making the change now.

6. Use the Internet to advertise for free

Even though websites as we know them have existed since around the early 90s, only 49%* of small businesses currently have a website *9/08, Barlow Research. It’s surprising how many businesses do not understand how powerful this marketing tool is. If you don’t have a website, get one because there is no better source of free advertising!

The Internet has hundreds of “Web 2.0″ websites where you post “content” for free. The content can be text, videos, or audios you create and it can lead people to your business. Plus, it helps establish you as an expert in your field.

EzineArticles.com is one such place you can post content. There was no charge to post this article. All I had to do is write it, post it, and then you found it.

You can put links in the “author resource” section, to drive traffic to a page on your website. The articles you post in EzineArticles can rank extremely well in Google search results with a little help from you.

You also want to get your business listed in places like Google Local if you do local business. Once again this is absolutely free.

Once you learn how to do use the Internet for promotion you’ll have a head start on the future of advertising and you get customers for free!

7. Outsource routine marketing tasks so you can work on the growing your business

One of the biggest problems small business owners have is that they get so consumed by working IN their business, they don’t have time to work ON their business. So no growth can occur.

When it comes to marketing yourself on the Internet, there are ways to use “virtual assistants” to do most of the work for you. A virtual assistant is someone you hire on a full or part-time basis who does the work for you.

But a virtual assistant is not a direct employee so you don’t provide benefits or have the normal hassles of an employee. They are usually located somewhere in the world that has low-cost wages so they are very affordable. That’s the beauty of the Internet and the communication it provides.

Virtual assistants aren’t just confined to small business marketing plan tasks though. They can do almost anything for you: reservations, schedule appointments, answer phones, customer service, send flowers, buy a present for your spouse, find someone to fix your car, website development, accounting, software development, writing, graphics, or anything you need.

There are lots of resources on the Internet that can help you find a virtual assistant.

Create Your Small Business Marketing Plan Now!

Use these seven marketing tips to start building your small business marketing plan right now. If you procrastinate, your busy life will get in the way of business growth. Even if you only take a little of the advice you’ve been given, you’ll find it can have a big impact on the profitability of your business.