All too often companies approach their marketing efforts with a general plan and not a clear strategy. What’s the difference? A plan may consist of some general goals and ideas about how to reach them. On the other hand, a strategy is data-driven, targeted, and includes ways to track and measure results so that you can make informed business decisions. With a clear and comprehensive strategy in place, you can go beyond getting by day-to-day and start working towards your 1, 3, 5, and ten-year goals.
The Basics of Marketing Strategy
Before we get into the specifics of what should be included in a comprehensive marketing strategy and how to build one that speaks directly to the challenges and needs of your business, let’s take a moment to talk about it in more general terms. You need to spend the time upfront to determine who your audience is, where you can reach them, what they care about, and then nurture the heck out of them. You also want to be known for what you do – so strategically placing your brand in certain places is key.
If there’s one thing to invest a lot of time in, it’s research. Doing your market research allows you to spend time better understanding the market and your place in it, who your audience is, what their specific pain points are, and much more. Keep in mind that oftentimes, the marketing strategy recommendations we provide for our clients can range anywhere from 20-50+ pages in length. It’s not because we have a lot of killer suggestions; instead, it’s because the plan includes a lot of research that is influencing our recommendations. This includes research around your competitors, the market you’re looking to penetrate, your pricing model(s), industry trends, customer insights, and more. That is the kind of deep-dive you want to be conducting. Once you have this information, then you can start investing money in marketing.
Pro tip: Before you spend money on marketing, spend time upfront on research.
A successful marketing strategy also requires consensus about key objectives from leadership and essential stakeholders. Everyone needs to be on the same page about company goals, the ideal rate of growth, etc. If you are running the marketing department, you don’t want to make assumptions about where the company is going. Clarify these issues and get everyone on board. Having a clear vision and the full support of leadership will help you succeed.
Examples of Key Objectives
While key objectives will vary, here are some common examples:
- Develop and implement new tactics that will engage existing contacts.
- Identify new revenue streams.
- Streamline current communication channels and ensure a more consistent look and feel across all platforms.
- Grow our digital presence and engagement across social media, specific to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Once you and your team have generated and agreed upon the key objectives that should be guiding your efforts, you can start the market research process.
How to Understand the Competition
Getting to know your competition can be an invaluable tool that allows you to better understand your place in the market. In turn, you can use this information to differentiate yourself. Are your competitors doing it better, faster or cheaper? If so, that is totally okay. The point is to use that information to show how you are different.
Perhaps your competitors have extensive teams that allow them to bid on larger projects. You may be able to position yourself as a boutique business that offers a more personalized touch.
One valuable tool that can help you analyze your competition is the SWOT method, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. You can use this approach to understand both your own business and your competitors.
As you get to know the competition, don’t forget to look at the different marketing tools and strategies they are using. There is no harm in taking a page from their playbook and seeing if these same tools might also work for you.
Who is Your Target Audience?
Everything from the average age and educational level to the income and location of your audience will influence how and where you are able to connect with them. There are three easy ways to get to know your target audience:
- Fill out customer profile worksheets. These are designed to ask specific questions about your ideal customer so that you can actually imagine who they are and how they make their buying decisions.
- Take a closer look at the tracking and analytics tools you already have in place. This will give you an idea of where your audience consumes and engages with information. These are available via social media platforms such as Facebook and are available through Google Analytics, which can be installed on your website for free.
- Talk to your existing customers and interview them about where they research products and businesses and the most important factors in their purchasing decisions.
How to Choose the Best Platforms for Your Audience
Once you understand your audience, you can focus your efforts on using the platforms that best speak to their behaviors. The key here is to understand that you don’t want to put all your effort into just one platform, but you also don’t want to spread yourself too thin by trying to do it all.
Pro Tip: Focus on 1-2 platforms and do them really well rather than trying to do it all.
It can be tempting to try and cast as wide a net as possible and have a presence on every social media site, run a website, send out emails and print advertising and generally hit your audience from every angle. However, this isn’t a realistic approach and if you are making a poor showing on certain platforms, it can actually damage your brand.
Not sure which social media platform is right for you? Check out our webinar to learn more.
How to Establish a Marketing Budget
Establishing a marketing budget is perhaps the trickiest component of any marketing strategy. You will need to take a look at your analytics and start crunching some numbers. Here are some key questions to consider:
- What are the hard costs that I can calculate for certain?
- How many people will I be able to reach?
- How much am I willing to spend and potentially lose?
- What is my customer acquisition cost?
Analytics is the best way to gather information that will help you answer these questions. Once you begin to implement strategies, you will want to regularly monitor your analytics so that you can make informed decisions based on performance and tweek strategies as you go.
How to Lay Out Your Marketing Tactics
You’ve done a lot of research. You have key objectives, strategies, and a budget in place. Now it is time to start reaching your audience. Here is how to do it:
- Build a good looking website. Don’t try to cut corners when it comes to creating your website. Investing in a quality website will help people find you through search engines and drive organic traffic to your site. Need a few recommendations and on a budget? Check out Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly, for starters. If you’re looking for a more robust site using platforms such as WordPress, give us a shout and we can help you out.
- Email campaigns. Email is a great way to nurture and cultivate relationships. Just remember that the goal of any email should be to inform and educate. Don’t go for the hard sell in an email – and don’t regularly send out content that’s not relevant to your customer’s needs or interests.
- Social media. Build your brand and engage with potential and existing customers on social media platforms that are relevant to your audience and your business. For example, if you run a photography business, you will likely be spending most of your time on Instagram and not Twitter. Not sure which platform is right for you? Check out our webinar to learn more.
- Public relations. Invest time in building relationships with local media outlets and influencers. Networking with the right people can help you organically expand your reach. A huge benefit to good PR is that you can have others talking about your brand on your behalf, which builds credibility – big time.
- Traditional marketing. Yes, traditional marketing methods are still alive and well. Print materials, radio spots and even billboards are effective ways of reaching your audience. The main challenge is measuring your ROI. You may have to get creative about tracking performance. QR codes are one way to use print media to engage customers and send them to a link that can easily be tracked.
- Memberships. Join professional groups and sign up for memberships so that you can network with others and build brand awareness.
- Events. Hosting events is the perfect way to engage face to face and they are easy to promote on social media.
- Chatbots. It is nearly impossible to constantly monitor your website and social media accounts. Chatbots allow you to automate communication with customers. The bots can provide immediate answers to common questions and move the customer through the sales funnel. Perhaps best of all, the customer will never know they are talking to a bot, so you will still look like a customer service superstar.
- Blog. Regularly publishing informative and entertaining blog posts will help establish you as a thought leader in your industry and adding fresh content to the site will give your SEO a boost. In addition, this is content that can be used to cross-promote on social media, include in your customer newsletters, and even pitch ideas to local-area media.
- Videos. People love to watch short videos, especially when they have the chance to engage by posting comments and questions. Whether you create a YouTube channel, post instructional videos on your website or host Facebook live events, videos are a powerful tool.
Monitor, Measure, React
It would be nice if you could develop a marketing strategy, put it into action and sit back to reap the rewards. Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works. You will need to monitor and measure results to see which tools are working and make adjustments as you go. Keep in mind that business and marketing are dynamic industries and a strategy that was effective 6 months ago might not be performing as well today.
Be sure that when you establish your goals and objectives, you’re also setting up realistic ways to measure them. For example, if one of your goals is to grow your social media presence, make sure you’re evaluating your analytics before, during, and after each campaign. Most social platforms have built-in insights you can lean on; this, coupled with Google Analytics, will help you see how your actions are leading to conversions.
A “plan” might be a good start, but a marketing strategy is the type of tool that will help you think big picture and set you on a trajectory that will allow you to meet your short and long-term goals. Follow these tips to begin researching, shaping, and implementing a marketing strategy that speaks to your business, your goals, and your audience. Need some additional support? Be sure to check out our Marketing Strategy webinar for a more in-depth look at this process, or just give us a call. We’re happy to help.