It’s tempting to try to run your business without a plan. It may seem like you can just get up each day and do what you want to do and the business will be successful. While that sometimes does happen, it’s not likely. The main reason most businesses fail is due to the lack of a plan and lack of follow-through. It doesn’t matter how large or small your business is; you really do need a plan.
If you really want to have a successful business, then you will need to go through the effort to create a marketing plan.
Here are 9 things marketing plans help with:
While doing the research for the plan, you’ll answer a lot of questions that will help you in your business. You’ll get to know your audience, understand the different marketing methods, and purposes, and more.
The facts you uncover with the research that you do will help you make good decisions about your business on a daily basis. Without the plan, you won’t be able to make good choices easily.
The plan will automatically help you define the goals for your business and the marketing that you do for your business.
This is what makes you different than the competition. Discovering your USP will inform all future marketing efforts.
While creating the marketing plan you will also be able to determine a good budget for your marketing efforts.
The research that you do will also help you define the market so that you can figure out where you fit in.
As you create the marketing plan, it will give you the opportunity to get to know your competition. When you do that, you can identify gaps in your products and/or services and fill them.
The marketing plan that you make will keep you on the road toward success.
You can change it over time, but having the plan ensures your arrival to a planned destination.
If you think you can do all that without a marketing plan and get anywhere in your business within a reasonable amount of time while making a profit, you are likely to be wrong. If you want a direction, want to know what you’re doing and where you’re going, and how to get there, then make a marketing plan.
A successful long-term business needs a marketing plan, even if it’s just one page long. Writing out the steps you plan to take, and how you plan to take them when marketing your business will not always ensure success - but not doing so will likely result in failure.
Improving productivity is a necessity for a contractor who services multiple clients. Without a system in place that establishes good workflow, it can be really difficult to keep up the momentum and take on enough clients to earn a good living. But, if you can establish a good workflow for the type of work you perform you will be able to take on more clients, work faster, smarter, and make more money.
One of the best things you can do for your business is to try to develop, as much as possible, package rates for your work. Then, you will avoid, most of the time, having to track your time. Time tracking for multiple clients can be a big interruption that you don’t want to have to do if you can avoid it.
When you do the same types of projects over and over again, creating a checklist to help guide you and others who work with you through each project will help keep you on task and avoid forgetting aspects of the project. Remember, pilots, use checklists every single time to avoid forgetting something. You should too.
Before crafting your workflow, focus on your deliverables first and then work your way backward to today to figure out what needs to be done first. Then start with first things first, using your checklist to ensure you don’t forget something adding what you need to do to the calendar.
Seeing a workflow visually can help you identify areas that you left out or forgot. You can actually use the checklist for a generic project to create a workflow. For instance, the workflow for publishing an eBook might look like this: Research the niche > Develop a topic > Craft a title > Outline the book > Write the front matter > Write the end matter > Design a book cover > And so forth. When you draw it instead of writing it, you can more easily see the things that can be done simultaneously and what has to be done in order.
Using a project management system like Basecamp.com, Asana.com, or Teamwork.com is a good way to get yourself and your clients organized from day one. The system already has some ways to organize the work so that you don’t have to actually create everything from scratch.
Do a quick Google search for “workflows” and then fill in the topic such as self-publishing, writing an eBook or writing, and publishing, and you can find workflows that are already written. While you cannot sell those, you can use them and modify the ideas for your own use privately.
Before considering a workflow set in stone, try it out from step one with a real project of your own to ensure that you didn’t leave something out. This is your chance to improve it before asking someone else to try it.
Send the workflow to someone else that you know also works on the same type of projects that you do, whether it’s someone on your team or a colleague, asking them for feedback.
A workflow is actually never set in stone. As technology improves, and clients’ needs change, your workflows will evolve. That’s what’s great about drawing them out and creating them in the first place. Your workflows, over time, can only get better.
Workflow design is essential to your success as a contractor who takes on the projects of multiple clients. Ensure that you develop your workflows based on the services that you offer so that your project management practically runs itself over time.
One of the hardest parts of being a contractor and performing services for others is creating and maintaining a realistic schedule for work and life. Most people start their business believing they will have at least 40 hours a week available as “billable hours” but soon learn that nothing could be further from the truth. But, you can organize and craft a schedule that allows you to make the most of the time you do have.
Like with most things to do with your business, you must know who you want to work with. What types of clients will you get along with best and what services can you realistically perform for those people? Start with the client, and then solve a problem for them with your services.
Are you an early riser or do you like to stay up late at night? Most of the time people are one or the other. If you are a person who doesn’t like to keep to a particular schedule, you’ll need to develop tasks that are deadline focused instead of time centric. For instance, if you don’t want to have to do a task at 8 a.m. each morning, don’t offer that service.
What kind of schedule does your family have and how much can you rely on other members of the family to take your work seriously? Even if they don’t take your work seriously right now, you can still create a business around your family’s schedule. Just go into it knowing upfront what is expected of you within your family and what you can expect from them.
Taking all the things into consideration, it’s important to develop a set schedule of when you will be able to perform your clients’ work. Even if the time you come up with is midnight to 6 a.m. it’s still possible to have business servicing clients as a contractor. There is no wrong answer; you just have to match the work you will do with the time you can do it.
Don’t forget that you’ll need to save some of your working time for working on your own business. You will still have email lists to maintain, content to create, sales pages to craft, and so forth for your own business. Not to mention billing, invoicing, and bookkeeping.
As you work on creating the services you’ll offer, go through what they take in your mind and then match them to the other things that you’ve figured out about yourself, your family, and the type of schedule you can maintain. Knowing what goes into providing a specific deliverable will go far in ensuring you create a business that works for you.
Don’t assume you’ll remember something, much less everything. When you have multiple clients you need to have a calendar. Not only will you need to calendar the work you are doing for yourself and clients, but you also need to include in your calendar anything you want to make time for - including date night.
Don’t skimp on purchasing and investing in tools and software that will help your business run more smoothly. Tools like Basecamp.com, FreshBooks.com, and QuickBooks.com as well as others can help you do more in less time.
Maintaining a realistic schedule requires you to be realistic about the time you have available and the type of work you like to do. It might sound great to be “on the clock” 8 to 5, but it’s quite different in practice when working from home as a contractor.
When you send an email marketing message to your audience, you want them to click through to a landing page that is promoting something. There are a couple of ways you can do this. One is to click straight to a buy page, and another is to go to a sales page that helps further convince the reader to buy what you’re selling.
You can create very targeted and special landing pages based on each email marketing message that you send, using software like Thrive Themes. These tools help you to quickly and expertly create landing pages that convert. Not only that - if you create special pages for each email message, but you’ll also be able to know which email messages are working.
Here are 11 things your landing page should be doing...
If your audience has any objections, then you should be able to answer them on the landing page.
When you create landing pages that are directly targeted to specific visitors, you can create compelling headlines that mean something to that particular visitor.
When you use well-known landing page software, you can take advantage of using templates that are proven to work without having to reinvent the wheel.
Landing pages should only have one column to avoid cutting down on distractions for the audience. You want them to read the information that you want them to read, plus act on it. If you have too much on the page, they won’t do what you want.
Use clear, concise language in your landing page in order to not blow smoke, or trick your reader in any way.
You want your website to load quickly and not get hung up. This is very important because if it loads slowly people will not wait.
Images will slow down the page, and while they do help get your point across, too many images will distract.
A video of you explaining your offer is a great way to make a landing page that is welcoming to your audience.
Landing pages should have unique content on them. If you clone one landing page to make a special one for your audience, be sure to change the language too and make it unique.
If you’re getting a lot of click-throughs to the landing page but you’re not getting conversions, then you need to try to change things up to improve it.
Don’t waste your email marketing messages by sending them to boring, unfocused landing pages. Be sure to make it special, focused, targeted and relevant to your audience.
Your business website is often the first experience that your audience will have into your business. That’s why it’s important to include certain information that everyone will be looking for on your website.
A business website is there to give information about your business to your audience in very specific detail. You want to ensure that it's laser directed to your audience in such a way as to make the audience feel understood and safe at the same time. With that end, it's essential to include these elements on your business website.
Content consists of all the information you put on your website, from blog posts to the about page. Images, forms, contextual information, the words on a submit button and more are all content, and all opportunities to appeal to your ideal client. The more you can direct everything toward that client, the more results you’re going to have.
A list of benefits of your offerings someplace or in many places on your website is a great thing to include. Your audience should leave your site totally understanding the benefits of your offerings, without having to question anything.
Some people seem to want to hide their contact information. Make it easy. Use your contact me page to offer multiple ways that your audience can contact you, including a phone number, email form, social media pages and more. Don’t hide; be open.
Nothing is worse than not being able to figure out how to get around a website. If you want your audience to not only stick to your website but also to use it to its full potential, make the navigation easy to understand and intuitive to your audience.
Whether via blog posts or an entirely new page for comments, make it easy for your audience to comment and read comments from others. This is a wonderful use of website space, especially because user-generated content is loved by search engines.
Don’t be shy when it comes to calls to action. Your audience has no idea what to do unless you tell them. Make your CTAs super clear and try to limit them to one or two per page of your website so that they don’t get confused about what to do.
A great way to draw people to read more information on your website is to always include some sort of special offer to new visitors. You can use plugins to time offerings as well as to only offer them to new visitors. This is a great way to increase customer loyalty.
Don’t let your visitors leave without offering them the ability to get updated about your offerings in the form of a newsletter or email list. Pop-unders and sliders are very common today because they work. Consider adding them to your business website for maximum impact.
Adding these elements to your business website will make your site work that much better within your marketing and sales strategy. Just remember to frame everything you do in terms of how your audience thinks and feels rather than how you think and feel.
There is a lot to do to host a successful webinar. But, if you arrange to do each thing in advance and have a cheat sheet or a to-do list to help you not forget anything, then you'll run through it with no problem. Let this be the start of your cheat sheet.
Successful webinars are possible with the right advanced planning and with specific goals in mind. You can host webinars and add another income stream to your business fast.
When you start up your business you’ll want to figure out your tax-related business identity. There are a few choices depending on where you live. In the USA you can choose to be a sole proprietor, partnership, a limited liability corporation (LLC) or a corporation. Each has different rules, regulations and tax consequences. It will depend on your individual business and what works best for you.
Some types of businesses are required to be in a certain category, but a large share of businesses can run as sole proprietors or LLCs easily.
This type of business set-up means that there is just one owner who is totally responsible for everything. It's the easiest way to start a business, and how most people get started as long as they're not in a category that requires another entity.
One problem with this type of business is that if something goes wrong and a customer or other person is harmed in some way and brings a lawsuit, they can win your personal funds and even take your home. Taxes are easy in the USA with the schedule C on personal income taxes.
If you are running a business with another person, then you may want to form a partnership. You don't have to in order to run a business with someone else, but it can offer another level of protection for both parties in the event of a disagreement or even a lawsuit. Income taxes are simple and somewhat like the schedule C reporting, with an additional information return filed. This type of business can be difficult at times, but it's just as easy to set up as a sole proprietorship.
Many people like to form LLCs because they have the opportunity to file taxes as a partnership, corporation, or even as a sole proprietorship. The LLC is mostly just to protect individual business owners from personal liability if something goes wrong and a lawsuit happens, or if the business goes under.
There are many types of corporations such as an S Corp and an INC. These are the most expensive types of entities to form, and have many requirements such as having a board, separate taxes for the business and owners, and other issues. You'll definitely need to work with a CPA and perhaps a corporate lawyer to help you form a corporation and keep compliant with the laws.
The business entity that you choose will make a difference in how you file income taxes and run your business on a daily basis. You'll need to speak to a financial expert such as a CPA to help you determine which entity is best for you.
One of the best ways to improve your value is to become an expert. Positioning yourself as an expert requires knowledge, skill and perseverance. If you don’t have those things right now, you can develop them as you move to position yourself as an expert. So don’t worry if you’re not there yet; you can get there.
Knowing who you want to work with and help is very important, because you will be able to create better services, products, information and education for them if you know who they are.
Once you know your audience you can narrow down your focus to one problem your audience has. That is your niche. If you can solve a major problem that your audience has, you're golden.
Once you figure out who your audience is, and what your niche is, you can start developing a brand. Is the brand going to be you, or is the brand going to be the solution? One will always require your presence, and another might be salable. It's up to you.
You can't present yourself as an expert with an amateurish website. It needs to be professional, and unless your expertise is web design it's not likely you can do this for yourself. The words on the site, the design of the site, the images on the site, all need to be created by individual experts.
As you brand yourself, you'll need to set up each of your social media profiles so that your brand works throughout the internet. While each social media site has its own personality, yours should show through.
Even as your website is being perfected, you can blog to show your expertise. Write your blogs directly to your audience to educate them about their problems so that you can start offering your solutions.
A white paper is a good intro to organizing information to educate your audience about their problems and your solutions.
Creating "how to" and informational videos and posting them on YouTube is a great way to position yourself as more of an expert.
As you gather more material, you'll eventually have enough to put together an eBook without too much work.
You can publish your book and sell it via Kindle free. It's a great way to get new customers.
Once you've successfully published a Kindle book, you might want to take it a step further as you get a large following and publish a paper book. You can do this with print on demand via CreateSpace.com and Amazon.
Networking at live and online events will help you get used to the idea of being at these events so that eventually you can present at them. It will also help you build relationships.
With your books you have a platform for your message, and you can now take that and speak at live events, both online and offline.
Don't just set up social media profiles and be invisible. You want to participate, share your knowledge and connect with others so you can build relationships.
Contact different groups and offer speaking services to them. Create a "one sheet" with the information about the types of talks you give.
Don't stop; keep going. Each thing that you do will build on the next thing, and before you know it you're positioned as an expert and the sky is the limit.
Becoming an expert is a process. At first you will feel as if you'll never make it, but everything you do builds on the next thing and eventually it will snowball to true success. Once it happens, part of you will feel as if it happened overnight, but in truth everything you did above built on the next thing and finally people started seeing you as an expert.
You need to create a budget for your home business in order to know whether or not you’re making a profit, expanding your business, and achieving the goals that you want. Budgets help you plan for the future, manage cash flow, and even secure financing if you should need it in the future.
When you've decided upon a business and a business, there are tools of the trade that you may need or want. See what is available so that you can research the tools and choose the ones that offer the most value to your business.
It can be tempting to run out and buy a file cabinet, paper, printer, ink and so much that you relate to an "office," but today you don't need those things. Instead "think green" and avoid most of that stuff. You don't need it, and you're not ever going to need it. Even when it comes to printing, unless you have a position that requires it, you will save money buying a second monitor instead of printing things out.
What items do you already have? You likely have a laptop, a desk, and other things that you can put into service already for your home business. There is no reason to go out and buy all new things when you are first starting out. Using what you have will enable you to spend money on things you don't have.
Don't get carried away in the beginning with adding extra phone lines, a new internet connections and things that you're not even sure you need yet. If you only add things when you're certain that you need them, you'll keep your budget lower and controlled.
Before you add a new expense to your business, ask yourself if the expense will create a return on investment or not. If not, ask yourself why you really need the expense. Does it play an integral part of your business to help it keep running? Do you really need it? You do have to spend money to make money, but you should be smart about it.
One of the most awesome things about working from home today is the cloud-based technology that is available. You can essentially rent software instead of buying it outright, which means that you can deduct it fully each month from your income, and then if you no longer need it you can stop. Plus, most cloud-based software allows for flexibility in terms of features that you may or may not need.
Your break-even point is the amount of money you need to make just to keep the doors open without actually earning a profit. It's your cost of doing business. This is an important number to note because it will help you determine your fees in the future.
Always take the time to look at your budget each year to make sure that it fits with your goals to maintain a lean business. Being lean with a home office is a lot easier than if you had a bricks and mortar business.
Your lean home business budget is an important part of running a home business. You have something a bricks and mortar business doesn't, and that is lower overhead and much more flexibility surrounding the costs to do business.
Before you get down to business with a business coach, it’s important to understand how the entire process works and whether or not you’re ready to work with a business coach. If you’re not ready, it’s simply not going to give you the results that you want. To have success working with a business coach, consider the following success tips
Working with a business coach can literally change your life. But, you must be truly ready to work with a business coach and do the work you agree to do, or it simply will not work. If you’re not ready to follow through, reconsider wasting your time and theirs.