How good is your digital marketing plan? Answer these 7 questions to find out.

If you’re like most small businesses in Lorain County, you probably don’t have a dedicated marketing person. In addition to running the day-to-day operations, you’re trying to create a marketing plan to drive more foot traffic from your website or generate online sales, but do you have a plan for success? Does your plan answer the right questions?

Create an online strategy for your small business that gets results.

How many of these questions do you know the answer to?

Take the following quiz to find out.

Question 1: Who is your audience?

You have to know the answer to this so you know what marketing tactics to use to reach them. Your audience is your pool of existing or potential customers. Are they primarily male or female? Is there an average age? Why do they do business with you? The more you know about them, the better you can target them with special offers or other messages. For example, knowing that 80 percent of your customers are female will probably require a different message than if 80 percent are male. Focusing your limited marketing dollars on the biggest pool of customers is usually the best idea, but you can’t do that if you don’t know who your customers are.

Question 2: Where do your customers live?

Similar to knowing who your customers are, you need to know where they live. Avon? Avon Lake? Elyria? Or do they come from all over Lorain County? Just the eastern half? Statewide? Knowing where they are helps you target your message even further. If all your customers are in the eastern half of the county, you can focus your digital advertising by zip code, or if you want to broaden your reach, you can focus marketing efforts on the western half of the county.

Question 3: What story are you trying to tell?

No, we’re not talking about how you have great customer service. Every business makes that claim and it does nothing to differentiate you from the competition. To really win people over, you have to tell them a story that really explains who you are, what makes your business different and why they should do business with you. You tell your story through content, and while it varies by business, it’s usually done by providing information that helps the customer understand the problem he or she is facing. It is not about your solution; the focus is on helping the customer understand the problem by providing your expert insight. When you do this, you are building trust by sharing information with no guarantee you’ll get anything in return. This trust starts to tell a story about who you are and why someone would do business with you.

Question 4: What are your marketing goals?

Can you identify specific objectives you want to achieve? Or are you just doing random things in the hopes that something will work? If you can’t quickly sum up your marketing goals, your chances of success are slim -- and how would you even know what success looks like if you don’t know what the goals are?

Question 5: Why are you doing the things you are currently doing to market your business?

This is closely tied to the prior question. If you’re spending a lot of time on Twitter in an attempt to promote your business, ask yourself why. What specifically are you trying to achieve via Twitter? More leads? Brand awareness? Special event promotion? The point is to make sure you understand why you are doing what you are doing.

Question 6: Where can you reach your target audience?

Knowing where your audience lives is one part of the equation, but knowing where they hang out online is the other. Is your audience on Twitter? Facebook? Do they respond to digital ads? If you don’t know where your audience is, how are you going to reach them with your message?

Question 7: What resources do you have to implement your plan?

If you haven’t analyzed what resources you have -- and maybe you’re the only resource available -- you risk setting unrealistic expectations. A 25-point digital marketing plan is great, if you have the time to implement it. Creating a wishlist of tasks that no one will ever get to does you no good.

If you don’t know the answers to any -- or all -- of the questions above, your digital marketing plan may be lacking. Refocus on identifying all the key aspects about your customers and understand who they are and where they are, both online and off. Once you have done that, establish clear goals for what you want to accomplish and compare them to the resources you can dedicate to the goals, adjusting accordingly.

Todd Shryock is the director of content for Emerge Inc. If you have questions about whether your digital marketing plan is effective or not, contact him at tshryock@emergeinc.com.

Emerge is an Avon Lake (Lorain County)-based provider of web, mobile and content solutions, and serves the communities of Avon, Avon Lake, Lorain, Elyria, Wellington, Grafton, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake and all of the Western Cleveland suburbs.

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