Design Your Garden Before You Plant It

Integrated and connected marketing are two of the most effective online marketing strategies to date, and they have become the de facto standard for Fortune 500 and larger companies. In fact, judging from the growing number of C-level executives at Connected Marketing Week, ongoing education is a prime objective for large corporations.

What about small businesses? Why do we see fewer and fewer smaller companies making a showing at educational events like SES?

I spoke to a gentleman last week who is focused on ramping up his company’s online marketing initiatives. Even though his small business has a heavy emphasis on innovation and online community, he feels like large conferences are a waste of his time and money. He sees them as forums dedicated to Fortune 500 and multinational companies, with no information that he can use for his business.

When I asked him if he had a written strategy for his marketing team, with metrics in place to help the team meet objectives, he admitted that everything was mostly off-the-cuff. He listed out the different marketing platforms he wanted to compete in. He wants to be relevant in organic listings, paid listings, social media, and email. As we continued our discussion, he also mentioned offline marketing tactics that he’s currently using. And the more he told me about his current situation, the greater the frustration in his voice.


Like many small businesses, this owner was using disparate marketing tactics, with no overarching strategy to manage ROI. His situation reminded me of the frustration gardeners feel when they plant without first planning and designing. It’s a complete waste of money in some cases, and requires a time-consuming fix in all cases.

Simple Marketing Planning for Small Businesses

For very small businesses without the budget to attend these events, think like a gardener or landscape architect and design a plan:

  • Asses the environment. Assess your marketing plan and website analytics (or better yet, hire a consultant to do it for you).
  • Get the lay of the land. Next, determine what type of people you’ll market to. Examine and list your market’s pains, goals, and aspirations.
  • Keep an eye on the weeds. Discover your top 20 competitors in your niche, and do some intelligence on their strategies and tactics.
  • Nourish the soil. Understand the psychology of your market.
  • Plant. Write, test, and iterate sales copy based on your market’s mindset. (I’ve found that it’s best to hire a copywriter trained in writing for conversion, instead of trying to do this in-house.)
  • Maintain. Create and stick to a marketing calendar – to take advantage of seasonal upticks in market interest, etc.

The hardest thing for entrepreneurs is to take the time to do this simple exercise. Entrepreneurs are high-energy people bursting with enthusiasm. They often wear the hat of CEO, CMO, and COO. Juggling so many hats often yields marketing efforts doomed to failure. I often find that small business owners are convinced that they lack some secret technical knowledge about online marketing and social media. In most cases, however, just a few days of planning will make all the difference. It’s one thing to use every Internet marketing tactic that’s popular right now. It’s quite another thing to create an integrated and consistent cross-media strategy bringing high returns.

For most small businesses, social media is a prime source of effort, and by creating a simple strategy using the steps outlined above, you can use social media to build your own mini-platform. Additionally, there are several useful gems any small business owner will gain from learning in an environment with companies who are already doing it right. While I’m not promoting that all small businesses rush to SES and Connected Marketing Week, it really is a great resource for businesses large and small.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.