Effective Simplicity – 3 Steps to Building an Online Marketing Plan

Effective marketing can help a business soar. Business people know this. Just watch a few episodes of the CBC’s “Dragons Den” to hear the most common response to the question, “What do you need the money for?” Pretty much everyone’s reply includes “marketing”. From launching a new business to growing an existing enterprise, the business world knows the difference marketing makes.

Online businesses rely on marketing to spread the word of not only their stellar products and services, but also word of their very existence on a very crowded Internet.

A marketing plan is the cornerstone of marketing a business, regardless the size or type of business. Online businesses must have a plan in place as an anchor and a guide. Plans can be as complex or as simple as businesses themselves, but for our purposes today we will talk about the components in a simple, basic plan.


effective marketing plan


1) Pick your channels.

The Internet offers many marketing channel choices:

  • social media marketing
    • Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter ads and sponsored posts
  • online marketing
    • content creation, search engine optimization, blogging
  • online advertising
    • online display ads, search engine marketing (Adwords)
  • offline advertising
    • print ads, TV, radio
  • events marketing
    • trade shows

You must pick those that make sense to your particular business. The shotgun approach of trying everything and throwing as much as you can to see what sticks makes no sense. This leads us to the next important point:

2) Do a few things extremely well.

Having picked your channels, now is the time to define what you are looking for from these channels and to execute them effectively.

The quick answer to what you are looking for is “more sales”. This is in no way specific enough. You wouldn’t tell your sales staff to just go forth and make “more sales” without being more specific on what’s expected of them. The same holds true for your selected marketing channels.

Examples of further goal definitions include:

  • increased visits to the website
  • requests for demos of products and/or services
  • click-throughs to online offers
  • increased engagement with potential clients/customers
  • downloads of unique content specific to your business

Obviously your end goal is to sell, but these specifics help to define which channels would be the most effective with these mini-goals. In online, rarely does a visitor go directly to a sale without involvement of the above.

Execution of these channels and tactics must be done effectively. Every detail possible. It’s far better to do something thoroughly and properly that doing lots of things half-assed. The key approach is take your time and learn this stuff really well.

3) Measure, tweak, and measure again.

Measure the results of your efforts. Is there room for improvement? What needs to be tweaked or changed?

The eventual results (or lack thereof) will either lead to your happy place or to the realization that this or that channel is simply not working.

The greater the expertise you have in these areas the easier it will be to get the results and the more efficient you will be with your time and resources. There are some really great tools for measuring how things are going at any time in the process. A common complaint is there are too many tools and no one has the time to learn them.

A simple, basic online marketing plan, in concept, is not that difficult to conceive or execute. There are many online resources to assist in learning all the details. The channels, themselves, such as Google Adwords and Facebook advertising, are deceptively simple to use by just about anyone.

Why, then, are there agencies and specialists that offer help in these areas? The answer lays in the details. Specialists know this stuff, inside and out, and can deliver these services effectively and efficiently. You can do it yourself, but it’s like those TV ads of the guy holding a scalpel to his chest while on the phone with a surgeon – should you really be doing this?

Regardless if your online marketing plan is DIY, or supported by the pros, simple and basic is a good starting point. Often, a simple approach is the most effective approach.

Is Guerrilla Marketing Still an Option for Smaller Companies?

Guerrilla marketing can be a surprisingly effective means of gaining awareness and strong brand positioning. The benefits of a successful campaign or event include:

  • Position your brand with impact
  • Gain instant awareness, hopefully even go viral
  • Motivate staff and encourage a cohesive team
  • Strengthen recruitment and attract like-minded candidates

So the allure is obvious, but is guerrilla marketing still within the arsenal of small and medium-sized business?

From Wikipedia: The term “guerrilla marketing” is traced to guerrilla warfare, which employs atypical tactics to achieve an objective. In 1984, the term guerrilla marketing was introduced by Leo Burnett’s creative director Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerrilla Advertising.

Levinson was a brilliant marketer, and perhaps his interest in such tactics stems from the late 1960s with John Cleese appearing in a bikini saying “And now for something completely different.” Cleese turned a typical and boring “And now a message from our sponsors” message on its head with drama and comedy. In three seconds he cut through both the noise and monotony to earn your rapt attention. (Marketers can learn a lot from watching Monty Python.)

But guerrilla marketing is not simply shock and/or awe, there needs to be a strategic intent. On YouTube, there is a limitless supply of testosterone addled young males willing to do stupid stunts à la Jackass. Slapping a corporate T-shirt on someone as they ride a bicycle off a 20’ cliff into a children’s pool filled with Jello has limited value. The key consideration is not just being noticed, but associating your brand with a positive experience or outcome. Simply getting people’s attention isn’t branding.

Here is a smart example of positioning a brand or concept; who wouldn’t want to check out the Copenhagen Zoo after seeing this bus in downtown Copenhagen? Check out creativeguerrillamarketing.com for many examples of effective, fun and incredible in-your-face and experiential marketing.



By definition, guerrilla marketing employs atypical tactics. And may seem more difficult to successfully pull off a stunt today, with the public’s sense of awe dulled by years of reality television and YouTube binge watching, but some still rise to the challenge.

Remember when flash mobs were popular? Seemingly, out of nowhere strangers started dancing and joining a choreographed number. The public was typically mesmerized and overcome with joy at having stumbled into a Bollywood moment. Marketers and corporations were quick to see their value and dreamed of long-lasting brand attention with viral video play. Originally associated with low cost and a one-time or short-lived event, once corporations jumped on the band wagon these attributes went by the way-side — big budgets, slick production and involved campaigns replaced sweat equity.

Planning and successfully implementing guerrilla marketing is not easy It requires an out of the box or novel idea, great creative and coordination, superior planning and logistics… a truly talented team is required, and the finances to pay for it. But, if you have the resources and you can pull it off, the effect can be tremendous.

Perhaps Coke launched the biggest guerrilla marketing blitz yet with their campaign for Coke Zero, which (uncharacteristically for guerrilla marketing) uses virtually all forms of advertising (albeit interactively). A very sophisticated, technologically advanced, and expensive marketing campaign that is most definitely unexpected. (Check out their YouTube overview.)

These days, with higher public expectations, and the need to support with a large media buy and significant logistics to navigate, it seems that only large corporations have the financial strength to play with the guerrillas. Perhaps smaller firms can take advantage of social media to even the playing field a bit, and the PROSAR team will explore that in a future blog article. For now, what are your thoughts on the use of guerrilla marketing by smaller companies, or better yet, do you have an example of how it has worked for your company?

How to Unleash Your Content Marketing Superheroes

In marketing your organization online, “content is king” is more truth than cliché. All the advertising in the world cannot compensate for a lack of substance on a website. As Bill Gates observed back in 1996, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

Generating original, relevant content can be a daunting task for many organizations. Transmitting expertise and knowledge, in just the right online doses, can be difficult to start, edit and polish. It can cause procrastination and neglect in building a website beyond something that just looks good. The power to rise above your competitors resides in your own staff. These tips will help shed reluctance and release their inner content marketing superheroes.

Content marketing superhero
Image Credit: cyano66/Thinkstock

Commit to a Content Strategy

At a minimum, everyone should commit to extending your organization’s expertise and value to your online presence. This will help bring the internal perception of your website to something more than just an online brochure and as something that is important to everyone in the organization. This can get staff thinking about what needs to be online to reflect what your organization is really about and how to attract and impress new visitors.

Draw up a Content Calendar

A content calendar is your plan on how your business will deliver its expertise and uniqueness online. It is the details on how to implement your content strategy.

A content calendar describes the topics, details and schedule you will follow to keep an ongoing delivery of your organization’s value online. Content delivery needs to be consistent with no gaps. Visitors need a reason to return to your website. Each time they do is your opportunity to further a relationship. A calendar keeps you focused on your online commitment.

Start With an Outline

Content can be in any form that your target audience finds engaging; blogs, guides, videos, case studies. All of these formats begin with an outline. Begin by answering this question: What is it that you are saying and to whom? Answering this should lead to what would be the most effective format for your message.

After the “what” and “who”, make notes of the major details to deliver your message. Point form is fine. The idea is to capture your ideas without a lot of censoring at this point. Editing and polishing are the last steps.

Get Help if Needed

If your organization has the necessary skills in copywriting/editing, graphic design, video production, website maintenance, and content promotion, you are ready to polish your content and publish it via (or linked to) your website. If not, you’ll need some help.

Many businesses do not have all of these skills. Not having all of these may have held them back from producing original content in the first place. The point is that the guts of original content best comes from your organization, regardless if you have all of the resources to complete the package. Your organization’s expertise and knowledge is the foundation to all original content creation, and original content is the best content.

You may need help with the strategy, or the calendar, or the polish and promotion of the content. Regardless, your own staff can be content marketing superheroes by tapping into the knowledge they have and use everyday. They just need to commit to it and get started. They may be surprised and proud of what it can end up as. Some of the greatest superheroes are those that didn’t know they had it in them.