Marketing Plan Software – Will It Work For Your Business?

Marketing plan software developers suggest that their tool will help you create a plan for your company without knowing anything about marketing. All you have to do, they say, is point and click.

So the question is, do they really work for your business? As a marketing coach, I’m inclined to say no. And yes. Let me explain.

Like all tools, you’re going to get out the equivalent of what you put in. This is true both for your investment in the tool and in your ability to use it effectively.

A $100 hammer is the same as a $10 hammer in the hands of rookie carpenter who has never hammered in a nail before. But in the hands of a journeyman carpenter, that same $10 hammer can be used much more effectively. And when you combine the higher quality hammer with the expert carpenter, the output potential is much greater.

But do you really need a $100 hammer and a journeyman carpenter to hang a picture frame? The obvious answer is, “no, you don’t.” But if you’re hanging a masterpiece, you want to be darn sure that it looks great and won’t fall off the wall!

What I’m getting at here is that there are many factors that you need to take into account when you’re trying to determine whether or not to use marketing plan software to create a plan for your business. If you do decide you use software, which version will you use?

What Hammers and Marketing Plan Software Have In Common

A marketing plan is an essential component of any successful business because it describes both the business objectives, core customer base (or target market) as well as the competitive factors that stand in your way.

Since your business requires customers to survive and thrive, and since marketing is about the acquisition and retention of customers, your marketing plan will ultimately determine the fate of your business.

For that reason, the future of your company could rest upon your decision about whether or not to use marketing plan software to create the plan that your business will rely on for the foreseeable future.

Just like the journeyman carpenter who can use just about any hammer to do an above average job, you also need the marketing and business savvy to create an effective marketing plan for your business. When you have that essential knowledge, which hammer you use (your selection of marketing plan software) becomes less important because you’re more likely to produce an above average result.

Of course, again like the expert carpenter, when you combine exceptional knowledge with exceptional tools, the likelihood of producing a masterpiece goes up exponentially.

So, when it comes to marketing plan software, the key lies not in the tool you select, but in your experience and level of understanding of core marketing concepts and principles.

Insurance Agency Web Marketing Plans

As insurance agencies create their marketing plans for the upcoming year, many will focus on insurance agency web marketing as a key marketing driver to generate insurance agency leads. Web marketing is not merely a trend; it is a new way of doing business, and one which agencies cannot ignore. The days of agency growth from a purely referral driven perspective are gone, as more and more communication becomes virtual in nature, as networking moves from handshaking to internet surfing, and younger buyers embrace digital communication over face to face meetings.

Yet what does web marketing mean these days? According to Wikipedia, web marketing “refers to the placement of media along many different stages of the customer engagement cycle through search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), banner ads on specific websites, e-mail marketing, and Web 2.0 strategies.” This serves as a reasonable definition for our discussion, as we answer important questions relating to insurance agency web marketing: Let’s begin by identifying the key components of an insurance agency web marketing plan:

  • Agency Web Seminar Marketing
  • Blogging and Vlogging
  • Insurance Agency Website Design
  • Insurance eMarketing Campaigns
  • Insurance Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Insurance SEO (Insurance Agency Search Engine Optimization)
  • Pay Per Click (Google PPC, LinkedIn PPC, etc.)
  • Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon)
  • Insurance Agency Telemarketing (augments web marketing)

Arguably, insurance agency web marketing always begins with a comprehensive insurance website redesign, unless the agency website was recently completed and is up to date. An insurance agency website must be graphically attractive, it should have current and compelling content, a blog (and vlog if possible), and industry news to mention a few important elements. Video is becoming increasingly more important as it provides a medium for the quick conveyance of information in a compelling and personal manner. Website video can also be leveraged on YouTube to further increase insurance agency internet presence. Vlogs, which are video blogs, can be very helpful to a website. Vlogs can be a talking head video, recorded PowerPoint presentation or even voice over photographs. They integrate the contextual power of a blog with the enhanced impact of a video or PowerPoint.

Content is king on the internet, and insurance agents should take great care in the creation of their website content. A graphically attractive website, short on content, will result in a sub-optimized insurance search engine marketing result, adversely impacting insurance agency SEO efforts and mitigating website stickiness and efficacy. These days, a key aspect of any insurance agency web marketing plan should include an annual review of website content. Further, the content should be of interest to both prospects and clients alike.

Social media marketing incorporates Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and StumbleUpon to mention just a few of the major opportunities, allowing agencies to dramatically expand their marketing reach. Social media marketing offers insurance agencies the ability to expand branding, share content, establish subject matter expertise and participate in discussions. There are many aspects of insurance social media marketing to consider. For example, a simple blog entry can be utilized in many ways to expand reach. A blog can be tweeted, reblogged, ePublished, and incorporated in a newsletter or eMarketing campaign. In this case, one blog is reused five times, though there are methods where one blog can be used ten or more times, dramatically expanding internet reach and enhancing cyber presence and insurance SEO. Why is social media marketing a critical component of an overall insurance agency web marketing plan? Social media marketing creates a cyber foundation for an agency to build upon. Ultimately, social media marketing, if used correctly, can become one of the key drivers for insurance agency leads. For the purposes of this article, we’ll add blogging and ePublishing to the social media marketing category since these are tightly interconnected. Blogs which are repurposed as articles can then be shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and StumbleUpon, helping insurance agency SEO.

Social media marketing along with insurance agency SEO help with organic search engine rankings. Another option is paid engine ranking placement otherwise known as PPC or Pay Per Click advertising. At the top and side of the organic SERP (search engine results page) are paid PPC ads. When an internet user clicks on one of these, your agency is charged a fee. These fees can range from under a dollar to $15 or more depending upon the competitiveness of the search term. For example, let’s say that your PPC keyword phrase is New York Business Insurance, and when someone types in that keyword phrase your PPC ad appears. Depending upon your budget and keyword phrase bid, you might appear on the top, and when someone clicks on the ad, you are charge a PPC fee, let’s say five dollars. The great thing about this is that the volume, efficacy and conversion ratio are really easy to track. The negative is, of course, that you are constantly paying out ad fees. Thus the difference between organic and PPC, and predicated on your insurance agency web marketing plan, you may have budget for only one or the other, or perhaps for both.

Web seminar and eMarketing campaigns represent a compelling outbound approach for agents. Agency webinars offer the ability to communicate on a high level with B2B prospects. eMarketing campaigns that offer educational content are much better received than insurance product offers or pitches. A long term approach to agency web seminar marketing can yield significant dividends, though it is important to note that eMarketing and web seminar programs can often take up to 6 months to establish a following.

Lastly, where and how does telemarketing fit in, after all, it is not technically a web marketing solution. Telemarketing, or in this case perhaps appointment setting is a better description, can be an important component of an overall web marketing plan. After all, these web marketing leads need to be followed up upon. If producers are busy with renewals, or if they only have time for warm prospects, the outsourcing an appointment setter can be very helpful to an agency’s overall pipeline building effort. For example, when doing an eMarketing campaign, all prospects who click through to an agency website and all webinar registrants should be called directly after the web seminar to ensure that the agency has taken advantage of their web marketing efforts. If producers don’t have the time to call, the calls should be done with a qualified appointment setter. After all, the primary purpose of any web marketing plan is to drive qualified leads into the pipeline.

X-Ray Vision For Web Marketing

Seeing what others miss
How many small business owners really have an accurate description of their web market?

The reason this question comes up is because the vast majority of business web sites do not even speak to their market. In fact, the only people the web site speaks to are company people such as owners and managers.

We can all see the company clearly in any business design, but our market is not interested in our company. They have their problems and they have no need, right now, to know what wonderful people make up this business web site.

If our market cannot see how the web site is trying to help them then help is not there. If our intention is to build a relationship with our market then the help we offer needs to be the first thing our market sees. They love this and they want this and it is the best part of our marketing.

How do small business designs block their own market?
A good analogy is found when we meet someone that only talks about themselves. We get bored instantly when we realize they have nothing of interest to offer us.

I remember growing up as a young kid and with friends we would sometimes run into this older character that bragged about his rich uncle that had a Cadillac a block long and he had to take it to the airport to turn it around.

We weren’t fooled but we got a good laugh. At least he was entertaining even if he wasn’t helpful. And after the second time there was nothing new and we got bored by his bragging because this guy didn’t care who he talked to as he just kept telling the same stories.

Isn’t this just like a typical small business web site?
Not once on the page is there any recognition of who the web market is. Not once does the web site mention a problem their market experiences and the causes for the problem. Not once is there a sense that the web site cares about the market and wants to serve that market.

No, all that the web site shows is that the only interest is in selling us something whether we need it or not. That’s their story being told over and over.

The bottom line about customer relations
As small business owners we get in our own way and totally block any communication with our own market when we focus on our product or service. Nobody is interested in us talking about ourselves and what we have to sell.

Read any business home page and it tells you about the company and why you should be impressed with the company, but you cannot find a clue as to the market. Not even with X-ray vision can you find who the market is.

Our market wants to know how we can solve their problems and we totally ignore the issue while we talk about product features and benefits. We actually think that a product description is real content – but no one cares about our product description, in fact, no one even cares about our product until they know it really has a solution to their biggest problem.

How does it feel?
How does it feel when someone ignores you?
How does it feel when someone asks you to buy?
How does it feel when someone asks us how they can help?

The last of those 3 questions is what attracts us the most. It captures our interest and our curiosity. It is just like getting a free gift because that is what it is, and we are going to benefit by learning something we never knew before.

How did we get here in the first place?
How did we come to build such poor marketing web sites? We got here by listening to web designers instead of thinking with a business mind. Web designers paid a lot of attention to us and our business and it all felt good and so we thought we were on the right track. The end result is that our web site pays a lot of attention to our business and zero to our web market.

Lesson learned
We cannot let our web designer be the one to design our web site. All we want our designer for is to do the technical aspects of building a web site. It is our job as small business owners to figure out what our web market wants and how to serve them best.

Okay, so you want ideas on how to display your helpful information and a web designer could help if they forgot all about their trendy design packages. It is going to take something different in web design to put your helpful information first, but in bite size chunks.

Navigation for information is going to take some thinking. Hypertext lists may work. Paragraph intro with hide and click drop down information may work. Hover text with slide in info may work. The real job of a web designer is to help you find and use the best means of providing information to your market.

Seeing your market
I challenge you to go look at your home page, or any other business, and see if you can figure out who the market is. Almost all small business web sites fail to identify their market and you can’t build a relationship by saying, “Hey you, look at what we have!” But you might sell if your web site said, “Hey farmer Jones, would you like a fence post that lasts 100 years?”

How do you get X-Ray eyes?
To acquire x-ray eyes you just need to look inward, that’s where you find all your insight. It’s not difficult at all and if you’ve ever been caught daydreaming then you are using insight.

We need to pretend that we are the market. We are the homeowner with a leaky pipe, or the guy with a hole in his shoe. Whatever we sell we need to be that market and wrap ourselves up in the problem that this market has. If we don’t feel the pain then we can’t talk about it, and we want to talk about that pain and how we are going to solve the problem that creates the pain.

When we then put our eyes back on our own web site we can see through the filler we thought was real web content. We can see as our market sees and we will find lots of things in need of change.

Using logic and foresight
Analysis and logic can confirm, or it can contradict the feelings and insight you have about your market. I recommend using insight and if logic doesn’t back it up then toss out the logic.

Why toss out the logic?
The web does not work with factual data like demographics. Instead, web marketing works best with psycho-graphics where beliefs, habits, Likes & dislikes, and shared values play a big role in defining a market. These are intangible and emotional values that are difficult to back up with logic.

We need to go with our emotions and intuition because they are the same tools we use when developing social skills, and our web site is sorely lacking in social skills.

Before we even think about connecting with social networks we need our web site to express its own social attitudes.

Web Marketing Consultancy: A Solution to Your Web Marketing Needs

Marketing is a key function of any business enterprise. Business enterprises exist to serve customers and consequently earn rewards in the form of profit. These involves product design, product branding, product packaging, product publicity, product promotion, product selling and delivery. Internet has radically changed the way we interact, communicate and generally the way we live. In this revolution, marketing has not been left behind. A kind of marketing that has come up to fit into this new revolution is known as web marketing.

Web marketing refers to use of the web as a resource for marketing purposes. Any marketing strategy and plan must be able to meet the ‘4P’ of marketing. That is Product, Price, Promotion and Place. Internet, being a recent concept, is a challenge to many business enterprises that have always used the traditional mode of marketing.

Beginning with the first of the ‘4P’, that is, Product, you will find that products offered on the web are basically intangible. For example, you want to buy a pizza or a chair on the web, you won’t be able to find them in their physical form, yet you have to buy. Therefore, the web product must be packaged in such a manner that enhances the look and feel that customers would have otherwise enjoyed had they visited a physical supermarket. This requires special marketing techniques.

The next ‘P’ is the price. Factors that determine price include cost of advertisement, publicity, selling and delivery. How do you price in a situation where your advertisement bill depends on the number of clicks per product? How do you reflect the cost of delivery to clients whose geographical location is scattered all over the globe and so unpredictable? This makes pricing of web-based products to be so complex and thereby defines the complexity of marketing.

The second last ‘P’ which is promotion and which encompasses publicity and advertising is another complex phenomenon. Promotion over the web is usually done through various ways, the most common being through search engines such as Google. Unlike the traditional bill boards which can be numbered, web advertising can be done on millions of sites which fluctuate randomly. How would you be able to assess the impact of your promotion in such a volatile situation? That becomes a big challenge. This and many other such challenges require professional help which can be availed through Web Marketing Consultancy.

The last ‘P’ which refers to place is a very important part of marketing. Place in this case, refers to where the product is delivered. With web marketing, the product can be delivered through hundreds, or thousands or even millions of web sites. This too is volatile and fluctuates very fast. How are you able to tell how many shopping sites your product has been assigned by Google? How can you monitor such? These are some of the challenges faced by web marketers.

To overcome this challenge of how to deal with internet which is increasingly hooking up a lot of potential clients, Web Marketing Consultancy becomes necessary. Web Marketing Consultancy is a professional service rendered by Marketing Consultants. They are professionals engaged in devising the best marketing plan that ensures not only that the product reaches the web market but satisfies the needs of ‘4P’.

Many business enterprises are in a transitional period, trying to enter into a market that had previously been unknown and whose dynamics are unpredictable. To make sure that a business enterprise reaps maximum gains in this market, Web Marketing Consultancy becomes a key to success.

How to Make a Marketing Plan

Marketing plans can vary in size and some of the largest companies on the planet will have plans that are quite detailed. There are no extremely right or wrong ways to make a marketing plan, as long as it is created in a professional manner.

Also the plan does not have to be completed in one sitting. Take as long as you need. Some companies might have taken months to make the appropriate marketing plan when they first got started. However, it does not really matter the length of time it takes to make it, but rather what are the essential components you would like to put inside of it.

When you are writing your company’s marketing plan, the plan should be allowed to cover at least until the next projected sales year. This will give your company time to evaluate how effective the plan was and make any changes for the upcoming year. Therefore, aim to have your marketing plan compiled and ready for the start of the new fiscal year. This way any issues that need to be changed, can be done right at the beginning. As you modify your plan, you can allow it to become more advanced by inserting a section that outlines where the company would like to be within the next three to five years. What this does is sets a goal that the company can work towards.

Keep in mind that it is essential to have it readily accessible to all of the key decision-makers of the company. This can mean having it bound or placing it within a folder. Once you have made your plan, it is essential to review it to see if the company is sticking to the key objectives that were listed and outlined within the plan. It will also be essential to use it to monitor how well the sale of the product is happening.

Keep in mind that writing a marketing plan is one of the key elements of your company’s future and should not be taken lightly. This is considered one of the areas of “advanced” marketing. Therefore, when compiling your strategy, also consider the challenges that your company can face if there is a sharp turn in the economy. This information should be clearly outlined, so that everyone knows what and how the solution is to be done.

It is vital to remember that a company should spend some time in producing a marketing plan. Some companies only produce a business plan, but fail to look at the relationship between marketing and the success of the business. Even though the marketing plan is just one area of the business plan, it should not be overlooked. This is the plan that you make that will be used to see the goals within your business plan come reality.