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Marketing plans are usually one and done things. Instead, they should be constantly reviewed and modified, and they should have clearly defined and obtainable milestones.

A lot of businesses create a “marketing plan” on their own to achieve some objective, maybe it’s financing, maybe it’s getting something else done.

Rarely is a digital marketing plan created by a professional with all the up-to-date technologies and opportunities available to them. How can somebody without industry experience be the one creating a marketing plan for a business?

If you have someone right out of school with no experience, or you have someone who’s just putting together a digital marketing plan without any experience or knowledge of how to obtain the goals that the digital marketing plan is set to yield, it’s definitely not a solid plan.

The first place to start is with the plan itself.

Think back to school when you had to write an essay for a class. You did the research, you put down the facts, you made it nice and pretty, you handed it in. That’s where it ended.

However, after years of writing essays in school, many business owners are in the mindset that this is how you create a marketing plan. You just put down what you think you want to do, guess your advertising expenses, guess the cost of customer acquisition, etc. And then that’s the Holy Grail for a lot of these businesses.

Meanwhile, they’re never modified, the goals don’t change, the cost of acquisition doesn’t change, channels don’t change.

If you were selling something and crafted a digital marketing plan three years ago, it likely focused on Facebook and Google ads. But the ability to sell through Instagram was not available three years ago. These digital marketing plans need to be kept up to date to stick with what’s actually working now.

Just because something was working at the time of creating your digital marketing plan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for the business. Maybe you find a specific channel that’s now profitable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but your plan needs to change.

We see a lot of customers really struggle in trying to evaluate certain channels of risk. Do they want to go into Google ads? Do they want to try social media advertising? Do they want to try specific bidding strategies? We find that a lot of businesses just really aren’t sure because they’re not confident in their digital marketing plan.

And if a startup is just getting off the ground, how could they possibly know their cost of acquisition? They don’t have a significant amount of historical data reporting to gauge it from.

Obviously, they’re in business because they’re knowledgeable about the industry, or what they do, or the service they provide. That’s a good start because at least they know how to deliver the product. At the end of the day, you can have the best marketing but if your product is bad, it’s not going to work.

So, let’s assume that an electrician is competent, he knows exactly what to do, provides good service, can answer the phone, can explain the solutions to the customer without any issues. Great, now he’s got a business.

But as far as how much it costs to acquire a customer, there’s no magic number. No one can tell you, “This is what it’s going to cost to get a customer on Google ads.” They can tell you that a click is three dollars, five dollars, twenty dollars, or whatever it is, but how many clicks will it take until you get a customer to call you? You’re never going to know until you actually run a campaign.

Now, for business owners who are risk-adverse and don’t want to spend a whole bunch of money just to spend money, there are several options. There are safety mechanisms that can be put into place, and levers that can be pulled to ensure that their campaign is set up for success. If you keep an eye on the campaign and closely monitor it, you’re going to catch where certain keywords might not be working. If you pay attention and you know what you’re doing, you’ll make sure you’re not wasting your spend.

We see a lot of what we call “shiny object syndrome,” where a new marketing channel comes out and businesses want to get on there. There’s nothing wrong with dipping your foot in the water to test the grounds, to see what works and what doesn’t.

But, let’s say you’re a doctor. Then acquiring a customer through Instagram is likely not the best strategy compared to Google ads. Unfortunately, some business owners hear “Instagram,” and they see other businesses on Instagram, so they think they should get on it too. So, they go headfirst into a channel without any real understanding of how it works, or the user intent, or exactly how to get a customer, or what they can afford to acquire the customer.

You can have the same business advertise on both Google and Instagram, and the actual cost of customer acquisition is going to be significantly different.

Your digital marketing plan has to be a living document, so to speak. It’s not something you can just etch in concrete and never look at it again. Things change, so how could you possibly correctly project years ago? You have to change it according to technological updates and the changes in your industry.

These plans need to have obtainable milestones and clearly defined goals. At what point can you evaluate how your digital marketing plan is working? Even if you don’t have a full understanding of the channels or what works, you must still have a clear, defined understanding of what works for your business.

Only then can you find the marketing channels that will fit within your plan. If you charge $100 for one hour of your services, then no matter how you figure out the numbers, you’re working with $100. You need to understand that the time, the cost of goods, the cost of customer acquisition, all of that falls into what you sell.

What really allows your business to either be profitable or to sink is knowing your numbers. You must have a clear understanding of how and where your ad and marketing campaigns are performing.

There’s no master checklist that works for all businesses. It’s really a matter of sitting down. It doesn’t have to be anything super formal. But before getting started in digital marketing or advertising, you really need to have a clear understanding of what your goals are and what you want out of this effort.

This process can start before you even have a website. If you want a website, then what’s your goal of the website? What are you doing with it? What do you want? What is its purpose? If we’re going to spend time, effort, money, resources to build something, what are we going to do with this thing after the fact?

From a marketing standpoint, so much of the work we put in is at the initial phase because we need to make sure from our side that our client has an understanding of what will work for their business. If we spend three months running ad campaigns and then all of a sudden, they figure out, “Oh, well I don’t know my numbers and I don’t want to continue advertising.” That’s not a good situation for either of us.

They’ve spent money and obviously time. We’ve spent time and effort to optimize their campaigns. We set up the conversion tracking and analytics, and starting sifting through the optimizations, but the optimizations never actually see fruition. So, understanding the numbers and your goals is really the key to ensuring that your marketing campaign is successful. The takeaway here is to really have a clear understanding for your business when it comes to your marketing based on what you want out of it.

Learn more: In-House vs Marketing Agency: Which Is Better?

A lot of people, especially people who’ve been in business for a long time, find it’s a little bit of a learning curve. An older generation certainly comes from magazines, print, TV, and radio where you didn’t have these options. You didn’t have the ability to track conversions or understand exactly how your metrics were performing.

Businesses really just need to have an idea, even if it’s not exact, of who they want to reach. At that point we can reverse engineer and find, this is how much it costs, this is how much we can afford. So, is this specific strategy or this channel profitable?

We’re targeting a very specific person with an intent. We’re not just blasting out random emails to people. We’re not blasting out ads to the entire population and praying a small segment of them will be interested in our service or product.