A New Step by Step Guide – Backed by Proven Research
Need to get clarity around your goals?
Want to know what activities are going to lead to the most powerful results?
This guide was written for you – here is what it will cover:
- Establishing a baseline and setting a big hairy audacious marketing goal (Get 50 leads or 35% more than currently in one year).
- Identify 5 high-value activities that would help them reach that goal (What could you crank on?)
- Define core audience, ideal customers, what they need.
- Schedule this year’s primary brand building activities.
- Look at top 7 competitors, identify keywords + create content calendar.
- Budget ad spend monthly and increase ratio for working ads.
- Figure out what has been working (what’s been making $) + what could work well consistently.
- Track conversions and use CLV + Closing ratio to estimate lead value.
- Report monthly, and run heavy-duty experiments to test marketing theories based on ideal customers.
- Present your marketing wins to management + incentivize your team for further growth.
Being a marketing manager or marketing director can be extremely fun – because in contrast with working at an agency, you don’t have to split your effort between clients, but rather can dive all in on one client and do the absolutely best work possible.
However it is challenging, especially for small to midsize businesses where you may not have access to all of the resources – whether they be tools, team members or simply man-power that you can wield when at an bigger agency or business.
Having been a marketing director myself, I had to go through this difficult process myself – and in my 9 month tenure as a marketing director I was able to DOUBLE our website traffic, and help grow recurring revenue from 30k a month to 60k a month.
Would helping double your companies website traffic and recurring revenue – turn you into a marketing hero at your business, and to your boss? You bet it will.
I did all of this – with just a salary, and less than 2k a month in other money to spend, and I’ll be thinking that way during this plan (though you can and probably should scale it up from there.) The most important step will always be step #1! In our case, we need to figure out where your current website traffic is at (visitors and page-views), current leads or sales off your website, and current monthly recurring or average revenue.
Step one: Establishing a Baseline and Setting a Big Goal
- Set up Google Analytics if you haven’t – make sure it’s tracking leads (phone-calls and contact form submissions) or sales (ecommerce purchases and purchase value.) If you haven’t done this yet – check out this article about which metrics to track and – setting up conversions in Analytics.
- Record all of your monthly numbers for the past 3 months (ideally – 16 months to account for seasonality) if Analytics is already set up. Monthly Pageviews, Users / Unique Visitors, and Lead conversions. (Bonus points – also set up a separate tracking bucket for ‘soft conversions’ like newsletter signups etc.)
- Work with sales to figure out what monthly sales have been for the past 3 months (ideally 16 months) and the key elements that they’ve identified as a GREAT sales lead.
- Figure out what a ‘Big hairy audacious goal would be for every one of these key numbers’, and try to keep it to 5-10 numbers that actually matter for the bottom line. For instance if Pageviews, Visitors, Conversions, and Monthly Revenue had all gone up 15% this past year – what about 30% this next year? If the goal hurts to hear – but seems possible if you pushed, then it probably is a good one.
- So once you set the RESULT you want – outline the PURPOSE of why you want to get there, make it emotionally persuasive and think about what’s in it for you – your team, and your leadership to get there. Paint a picture of ‘after you’ve accomplished the goal’, what does it look like, smell like, feel like around the office or workplace. The clearer the picture, and the more meaningful and emotional the outcome you can paint, the more compelling this outcome will be for you and your team to drive the next step.
- What would it take for you to accomplish this gigantic goal? The rest of the steps to this series will help – it’s time to set up your MASSIVE ACTION PLAN, and I’ve found the ideal way to set up this massive action plan is around regular, rhythmic, weekly and monthly actions, rather then quick initiatives, or short-term pushes. What are the daily – weekly – and monthly actions you’ll take?
The rest of this guide will outline the activities I’ve found that have the highest possible rate of return of website traffic and leads – you may need to tailor some of the language to fit your situation, but the principles come from hard-fought wins and practice not theory.
Step two: Identify 5 High Value Activities That Could Help Your Reach Your Goal
What 5 activities if you just spent the rest of the year doing those things – would help you reach your goal. Hint: It’s not normally measurement, counting your money, and being frustrated with other people not doing what you expected of them. I mean ACTION. Actions like:
- Competitive keyword research and writing blogs and landing pages that convert.
- Heavily interacting on social media with Gary Vee’s $1.80 a day Instagram strategy – 10 comments on 9 hashtags ideal customers use (or how about just 10 comments on IG photos a day?)
- Attending events with a plan and going to lunches with referral partners.
- Guest posting on other peoples blogs for backlinks and doing HARO for publicity.
- Setting up a sequential ad sequence on Facebook and Instagram, Google display re-marketing, and bidding for your top 20 modified exact-match keywords in Google search ads.
These are just MY high-value tasks (and suggestions) – you need to find yours.
If you spent 40 hours a week on these 5 actions, and your company was at 3 million in revenue this past year, I have no doubt you could get them to 4 million. The key is action – and action in places that actually make a difference for your business in the long term. Not indecision, constant measurement, and over thinking. Measurement should happen, but it should be 2 hours the last couple days of the month, not the whole month.
Notice how we started here rather than ‘audience personas’ – but as it relates to SALES, I do want to set up the ‘Ideal customer’ next, and what they will need to make a purchase to decision, so we can support their mindset with content.
Step three: Define core audience, ideal customers, what they need
Who is the ideal customer?
This question is one of the most important questions you can ask when doing marketing for a company you are new to.
What does the ideal customer need along the way – to do business with you? What situations are they – what small details or problems do they run up against along the way to your solution that you could help? What scenarios lead to you, what is their main concern when they come to you?
Answering these questions can get you off into a theoretical wonderland, and for that reason in the same brainstorm you come up with all of these theoretical attributes, needs, and scenarios you also create a list of real world outcomes that these individuals would resonate with: kind of content marketing, facebook ad, or event strategy that you might implement based on them.
Yes – I love giving them names, but I might suggest using combinations of real ideal customers rather than pulling them out of thin air. If you have to Early 50’s mom’s that have been perfect customers and one is names Sarah, and one is Darla – consider making your ‘persona’ Darah – and thinking of problems those two customers have faced, needs they really have – and brainstorm content and ads that you know would actually appeal to them. The best part about personas is that you can make your audience very small, get specific, and solve actual, real-world problems.
Step Four: Schedule This Years Primary Brand Building Activities
When all else is equal it can be the tie-breaker.
When your the only brand they remember, there might be no competition.
How will you be endearing your brand name, logo, and tagline to your ideal customers this year? Make a list of possible ways you can get the word out about your speciality, get your logo on some banners and special events, and specific ads you might run just for brand-building.
For instance – I have a minute ad that I run for the purposes of brand building on Facebook. It’s a one minute video that starts with our logo, my face, and the emotionally resonant “Professional Visibility.”
I’ve figured out that these two words trigger the exact emotional draw that we fulfill, and now use the phrase in our Google Ads, website home page, and by getting these three elements in front of people in the first 10 seconds of the ad, I can get some pretty cheap video views and just remind people of what we do.
Quick list of things you might want to do for your brand awareness:
- Get P.R. using connections and things like ‘Help a Reporter Out’
- Impressive Business Cards
- Sponsoring Events
- Speak at Events
- Publish a Book
- Use Google display ads for remarketing
- Using Google Ads for your brand, and your best Content that ideal customers might want, not just landing pages that are intended to convert them into customers
- Post at least 3x a week on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn as appropriate (do 3 posts for sure, but the top 3 that are appropriate for your company should get the most love)
- Using Facebook Promoted Posts for your best content
- Use remarketing or ‘People who like their page and their friends’ (or both) in combination other smart audiences to promote a 1 minute brand-heavy video on Facebook, with the crucial pieces in the first 10 seconds
Once you’ve chosen what those brand-building activities are – it’s time to get the campaigns scheduled, and the weekly activities (perhaps HARO, 3x Instagram / Facebook / social media posts a week, and promoting your best content on Facebook or LinkedIn).
Here’s a simple recipe for picking the right events:
- Place priority on events where consumers will attend – At the end of the day, these are the people you really want to talk to. This is where you can collect feedback, add to your marketing lists and make real relationships with future evangelists.
- Pick events where people will actually be interested in your business – This may sound obvious, but if you just go to some local fundraiser, you’re probably not targeting your ideal audience.
- Sort by cost – Most events will charge for a table and for other extras like banner space. Sort all the data you have collected and go to the events you have time for based on a priority of which events will be the most beneficial. It’s easy to casually select events without really looking at all the information you have. But don’t be lazy – think about what’s going to work best for your business.
Charting up-coming events and getting a little information about them can save you from wasting your time and focusing on what events are the most beneficial for your business.
Mini Lesson from Shopify – How to Find Great Events to Sponosor
Step Five: Look at top 7 competitors, identify keywords + create content calendar
Content is king. But creating a promotion strategy around that content is queen – and the queen is running the household.
The best place to start – is building promotion INTO THE CONTENT from the start, by choosing terms that your ideal customers are searching, that has a decent ‘keyword volume’, meaning a lot of people are searching it – and then really tailoring and targeting that content to fulfill what the searchers are looking for.
The best way I’ve found is to drum up content ideas – by ‘ethically stealing them from competitors’. I strongly suggest you do this if you haven’t yet.
Step One: Make a list of 7 top competitors.
Step Two: Use Ahrefs or SEMRush to figure out what terms they are ranking for that have a high volume of searches per month.
Step Three: Come up with creative titles of blog posts or landing pages that target these keywords.
Step Four: Create a content calendar around these terms.
Step Five: Refresh this strategy regularly, by diving back into competitors, and by looking what’s working on your site – for instance find keywords in the average position of 11-25 in Search Console, and increase the quantity and quality of content, do on-page SEO, and earn links to them to get them onto the first page.
As a lightly different alternative, check out this brilliantly simple infographic guide on how to do competitive analysis from Cognitive SEO:
Step Six: Budget Ad Spend Monthly, Monitoring, and Increase Budget for Ads That are Working.
I love organic search traffic.
But we do spend money on ads, and there’s 4 paid ads things I’d suggest for sure if you do absolutely nothing else.
- Re-marketing – clicks are pennies on the dollar because you are retargeting people that have already been on your site!
- Target your top 20 most lucrative terms on Google ads!
- Do a short one minute brand-centric video on Facebook, and make the first 10 seconds all they’d need to see for you to be happy. (Show the brand/logo, emotionally resonant image, powerful brand-endearing slogan perhaps.)
Here’s a little video explainer of how I’d allocate money on Google Ads – if you’re already doing remarketing (which should be your #1 first step.)
Now some companies may have very little to spend on marketing – and if that’s the case, I’d suggest continuing to apply your effort via keyword research, and writing for content marketing because that’s something you can control. But if you’re new to a company and they’re spending half their marketing budget on print collateral, printing and trade shows (if they are becoming less effective over time – which is not always the case,) it might be time to try to carve out half that budget and get it spent on digital ads instead.
Likely – if you’re working with a small to mid-size business you’ll need to figure out what a reasonable, but budget-conscious amount to spend each month might be. For simplicity sake – we’ll say for every 500k in revenue you have you might spend 40k in marketing and 20k in DIGITAL marketing (this an average – use the Marketing Budget Calculator to get suggestions for your situation and industry), and perhaps 25% of that should go towards PPC, Facebook and other paid ads. So for 500k revenue, 5k for paid ads, one million revenue 10k, 5 million – 50k, son and so forth.
Two major factors that will affect this average:
- If you have a higher than average ‘cost of goods sold’ number – i.e. Construction for materials etc, you would want to adjust this number downwards a bit.
- If you are in Ecommerce, or have a B2C product you would want to adjust this number up – up to 3x or 4x.
Once you have the initial budget in place – start with some of the ads I mentioned above, and then expand outwards from there, constantly learning and experimenting with new formats and A/B testing. (Google Ads and Facebook Ads both make this relatively easy to do.)
Step Seven: Figure out what’s working (making $) and what could work well consistently if you pushed harder on it.
Find what’s working and what you could push harder on with more positive results.
It’s something people don’t always think of – they ask ‘what do you need help with?’, ‘what problem are you trying to solve?’, but when tackling a new client – or as a new marketing manager, your apt to make your hard work go farther if you lean into your strengths.
Lean in to what the company is already doing well – and your marketing dollars and effort goes way further than trying to bolster weaknesses all the time.
Make a list of the top 5 marketing activities that are making the company money.
If you’re having trouble working with leadership to identify these activities, see STEP ONE, and make sure your analytics are set up to get attribution. You can see where most of your conversions are coming – or make sure there’s a spreadsheet (whether it’s from Trade Shows, or referrals) capturing where the leads are coming from, if you don’t already.
If you already have this attribution – it’s simple. Prioritize the activities related to the things that are working now – what weekly activities would push the successful categories even further. These items should be the pillars of your marketing plan.“Stop getting distracted by your little failures and insecurities. Train your brain to focus on, be grateful for and push on what’s working.” – Tim Brown Click To Tweet
Step Eight: Tracking conversions with ‘Customer Lifetime Value’ + Closing ratio to estimate lead value.
So now that you’re tracking conversions – figure out what each lead is worth on average!
Work with your sales and management team to determine what the average ‘Customer Lifetime Value’ or CLV is per customer or client. Whether it’s $40, $4,000, or $40,000 you should have a very clear idea of what the average person or company spends with you. You know how to get an average 😉 Take what your customer list has spent with you, and divide it by the number of customers.
Then – (this might take a little longer) take the amount of closes you get from your website and divide that by the number of leads you get.
So for instance, if you had 40 leads but only close to – we get a ratio of 2 / 40 (1 in every 20) … or 5%.
To get the estimated lead value – we take 5% multiplied by that ‘Customer Lifetime Value.’
Yay! If you had an average CLV of $4,000 – we now know that every lead off the website is worth on average of $200.
This is useful because we can now push for more leads with clarity around what a lead is worth, and not just for unclear ‘conversions’, which we can often detach from.
Cold hard cash is a little harder for leadership to ignore, and if you involve them in this effort to determine the CLV, they’ll be able to “buy-in” and getting “buy-in” is huge for long-term success in your marketing efforts as a marketing manager.
Here’s an example of how we do this match automatically through our Google Data Studio dashboards for clients:
Step Nine: Report monthly, and run heavy-duty experiments to test marketing theories based on ideal customers.
By this time – you should be clear on what has worked, what activities you’d like to prioritize and can push on relentlessly with positive results. You should have clarity on what kind of money you’ll be spending on ads, and social promotion – you should understand the general ideas of what social channels you’ll be spending time on the most to promote.
Now – it’s time to start running heavy-duty tests.
Every good test should start with a theory:
Theory Example #1: “I believe that if we publish one 3,000 word guide a month, that’s targeted at a term our competitor currently owns in search, we’ll increase our blog traffic by 30% this year.”
How do you make this test happen? Well – you write a guide a month of course! I think writing is a core skill for a marketer, and if you pair it with keyword research you’ll be unstoppable.
Theory Example #2: “I believe that people want testimonials front and center on our homepage, and more people will convert into customers when this is present.”
How do you make this test happen? You can have a big visual testimonial section designed + developed, and then use Google optimize to test this hypothesis.
Theory Example #4: “I believe using alert words like ‘fear’ or ‘scary’ in conjunction with a body part – like ‘Scary Lack of Eyeballs?’ will grab peoples attention better than my more meat + potatoes Google ads campaign.”
How do you make this test happen? How do you make this test happen? Put them head to head in Google Ads, with the same budget, and same targeting for the same time period, and see which one gets more clicks!
Theory Example #5: “I believe that spending $5 bucks a day for Facebook video ads with the name/brand, my face, and our (emotionally evocative to the prime demographic) tagline will increase the amount of brand recognition over the next 6 months.”
Here’s an example of our ad like this that closed 6k in business for us in it’s first $300 worth of Facebook ad spend – and I was just shooting for brand visibility:
How do you make this test happen? Create the ad of course – put the elements you want to be re-iterated over and over again in people’s head front in center in the first ten seconds, and track the amount of branded searches you’re getting in Google Search Console – and see if it goes up. For us – mentioning Professional Visibility constantly on our ads, we also wrote a very useful piece that goes in-depth on Pro Visibility and we can see how much traffic that term will get over the life of the tests.
All of your tests – will lead to wins.
Or at least new information – which if continually pursued will lead to wins.
The key is to make the tests happen often, and to integrate the new information as soon as you get it. Get around people that are also testing, and absorb information from them as well. For me it’s our local search engine marketing organization MnSearch that I learn from speakers, and other people on the board with me – so not every mistake or successful pilot campaign, I have to make and can learn some things from them along the way.
Step Ten: Present your marketing wins to management + incentivize your team for further growth.
Presenting your marketing wins is a super important skill.
It’s not just for agencies, if you have any kind of responsibility within your marketing team that requires results – you need to learn how to present those results to management, and in a way that resonates emotionally.
First of all – use Google Analytics, Search Console, and Ahrefs to track search marketing wins.
LinkedIn Ads platform, Google Ads, & Facebook ads to track wins there.
And a spreadsheet to track wins across the board, month over month numbers – and if you shot for 50% increase in overall leads or whatever your ‘big hairy audacious goals’ are, when you hit 25% (year over year for the month), present that to leadership – and use that to carve out more budget for your tests or initiatives that have been yielding results.
Presenting wins – requires attribution. Attribution is sometimes manual, but for website attribution of channel – it’s just looking back at Analytics and ‘Conversions’ > ‘Overview’ > ‘Source’.
Make wins dead simple – obvious, and try to bullet point exactly what led to those wins, both so they know about your smart thinking and hard work, but also to get budget for the things that are actually leading to success.
Figure out what leadership cares about and boil those down into key headlines in your presentation – with only a few bullet points under each headlines.
If you’re just starting as a marketing manager – the take-away from this section is really push for what 3-5 Key Performance Indicators matter to your leadership, and make sure those are the 3-5 headlines in your presentation or report after 3 – 6 and 12 months.