The best business owners know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. They are strategic. They don’t blindly and randomly post on social media when inspiration strikes. The best business owners always have a plan.

The Danger: Busy Business Owners Winging It

Unfortunately, planning requires dedicated time.

Busy small business owners sometimes are seduced by charismatic but hollow marketing consultants. They spit out flashy marketing plans that dazzle in the short-run but very rapidly prove useless. These plans are often focused on the Awareness stage of the buyer journey where the metrics are easier to boost but are far less impactful on the bottom line.

2 wasteful examples I hear about all the time are:

  • Wrong Priority – SEO campaigns that focus on dramatic increase in traffic – but so few meaningful leads come out of it!
  • Wrong Channel – FaceBook Ad campaigns for B2B businesses – but that’s not where their audience plays!

After some months have gone by, these business owners come around. And once bitten, twice shy. They shun further digital marketing initiatives after getting ‘burned’ the first time.

But the inaction on this front nags at them. Because all small business owners know deep down that marketing does drive growth.

This article is designed to empower small business owners to do-it-themselves. This is exactly how we go about creating Actionable Marketing Strategies for our clients.

Step 1. Know WHY you need a marketing plan.

Every business has different needs. Digital Marketing is not always about Awareness and ranking on Google. Sometimes, other stages of the Buyer Journey need your attention.

Common Goal 1 – Catalysing Referrals

For businesses with strong networks, catalysing referrals is the low-hanging growth opportunity. Therefore, prioritising the Delight of their customers to unlock further referrals could be the way to go. Sometimes, all a business needs to catalyse referrals is to systematically stay front of mind with quality, delightful content.

Common Goal 2 – Improving Conversions

Where a business has a steady and strong funnel of enquiries, the natural next step would be to focus on improving conversions. Here, focusing on the Consideration stage of buyer journey is the priority. The goal of this kind of marketing plan would be to support the buyers as they interact with the brand across different channels.
These are general examples. Marketing plans can of course serve a variety of other more specific goals – on-boarding, change-management, trust-building, etc.

Step 2: Know THE Metric That Matters Most.

The best marketing plans seek to deliver ROI. But what defines “Return” is where most marketing plans fail.

But here is an extra detail that matters: a purposeful marketing plan BOTH defines the metric that matters AND puts a value to that metric.

For example, if the Metric is “new clients” and each client is $1,000 worth of business, then when you spend $5,000 on 1 years worth of content and it gives you 20 new clients, your ROI is $400%.

Some common metrics are:

  • New Clients – the most meaningful

  • New Leads – for businesses with confidence to convert

  • New Referrals – for businesses with a strong network / community

  • Higher Conversion Rate – for business with steady leads but low conversions

Why is website traffic not a meaningful metric?

Ranking better on Google is important, but it can be hard to define the impact of that extra traffic to the bottom line in the short term. Having an additional 1,000 visitors is great, but does that translate to more business?

This is why the ROI on SEO spend is hard to quantify and measure meaningfully for a B2B brand.

The most important metrics for a business do not come from Google Analytics! The best Digital Marketers will often need to work with your analogue business intelligence.

Having laser sharp focus on THE SINGLE metric that matters across your whole organisation will help keep the marketing plan honest.

Step 3. Know Your Audience.

Buyer persona slide found in Catalyst Contents marketing strategy actionable playbook

There is a real human being that will be engaging with your company’s stories. The more your content speaks to the heart of their needs, the better it is for both them and your brand.

I encourage my clients to discover similarities in their audiences based on the following criteria:

  • Context – why do they start searching out for your product / service? how do they hear about your brand?

  • Motivations – what are they looking for? what do they want / need? are they acting out of fear / desire /

  • Pain Points – what issues do they have with the product / service on offer?

  • Personality – are they introverted or extroverted? dominant, compliant, steady, influential?

  • Buying Triggers – what gets them across the line?

  • Stumbling Blocks – what prevents them from pulling the trigger?

  • Journey – how do the interactions with your brand unfold from discovery to purchase and beyond?

This is, by far, the most important step.

Steps 4 – 8. Messages x Channels x Ideas x Frequency

Sample slide taken from Catalyst Contents actionable marketing strategy playbook

After the audiences are defined, common patterns will emerge. This allows a marketing team to create distinct buyer personas. Knowing each persona will help your business:

  • define the key messages to help them realise product-customer fit
  • know which channels to play on
  • generate ideas to create the most relevant content to address their needs / fears / pain points
  • appreciate the ideal frequency for engagement

Step 9. Know Your Competition

Competitor research slide taken from Catalyst Contents actionable marketing strategy playbook

Chances are your business is not unique. Others offer similar products and services. Sometimes targeting the same buyer personas!

Therefore, differentiation is super critical. You want to give customers a reason to pick you over your competitors.

My clients do both a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the competition. This exercise helps us appreciate what strategies they are using and whether they are after similar buyer personas.

Among the things we look for in a competitor analysis:

  • search metrics – position tracking, ranking distribution, keyword gap, etc.
  • website data – visitors, pages, post titles, messaging, etc.
  • social channel metrics – followers, posts, engagement level, etc.

Armed with this information, marketing teams will be able to make better strategic decisions. Steps 4-8 may have to be revisited and refined further. The creation of a marketing plan is a non-linear, iterative process after all.

Step 10. Prioritisation

This exercise above will leave you with LOTS of ideas. A wish list will emerge. Based on the resource realities, budget realities and expected impact of the various lines of action, a business will have to prioritise which content marketing initiatives to pursue and when. Having a flexible 3-, 6- and 12-month plan can be helpful.

Step 11. Make it Actionable

Timeline for marketing execution

After “know your audience”, this is the most important step. Until now, it’s been all talk.

And translating the clear ideas into an actionable plan is not difficult. It involves 2 elements:

  • delegation – who is lead / person-in-charge (PIC)
  • timeline – what needs to happen when, what are the dependencies

While there are many fancy tools out there, we find the humble spreadsheet gantt chart to be the simplest.


We hope this guide article has been helpful. Here is a template of Catalyst Content’s Actionable Strategic Marketing Plan. Feel free to use this to develop your own!

Download Our Actionable Strategic Marketing Playbook
Published On: October 30th, 2021 / Categories: Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Marketing Strategy /