At the heart of almost every successful company lies a great marketing strategy. Some built it into their initial business plan before they made their first dollar. Others learned the hard way that it’s nearly impossible to succeed without one and crafted one retroactively. Many other great, long-lasting businesses have had to re-evaluate theirs over time and re-invent their plan time and time again. Regardless of which of these situations your company is in, there are basic tenets to a good marketing strategy. There is also a progression of steps to discover the information you need to thoughtfully make (or re-make) yours in a meaningful way that apply to any business in any industry.
Gather All the Stakeholders
Let’s begin with something that many companies get wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing something as simple selling ice to people who live in the desert or something more complicated like presenting crm integration solutions. No one person, from a CEO to a marketing assistant, should create a marketing strategy unilaterally. This means you must have all key decision makers and stakeholders involved in its creation or recreation. In some businesses, this may be the management team or partners. Others may choose to assemble a task force made up of a combination of executives and rank and file employees. The key is that everyone emerges with a clear understanding, if not consensus about what the marketing strategy is, and the tactics it entails.
Objectively Evaluate Your Company, Industry, and Competition
Once your group is assembled, it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror at your company. What are its strengths? That may be an easy discussion to start with, but you must also move on to its weaknesses and missed opportunities. You need to objectively consider the good, bad, and ugly aspects of your business. Be careful not to devolve into a gripe-fest or airing of grievances. Rather, have a whiteboard session where people list in single words or key phrases what’s working and what isn’t. This is also the time to be honest and clear about your standing in your industry and category, and your market position versus your competition.
Identify Your Audiences as Specifically as Possible
Next, you need to look outward. Talk about your core audience (the customers who loyally support your business already) and your target audience (the desired demographic whose business you want to earn.) Hopefully, there is already some overlap. If you are in the enviable position of having conquered the majority of market share of your core audience, you can talk about expanding more into a new target audience. Care must be taken, however, to not alienate your existing clientele in the process.
It can be extremely helpful at this point to use brand personae to put a name or face to your customers. Whether you have formal market research or are just basing your plans on sales trends, you can discuss and land on demographic traits for these customer groups. For example, you might call your core audience member “Debbie,” if she is a 55-year-old mother with kids at home making $45,000 a year. This is just an example of the attributes you can ascribe to brand personae. You can go even further. Talk about what kind of car Debbie drives, what she likes to watch on TV, and what her hobbies are. The more you know about her, the easier you can market to her.
Determine Your Value Proposition
Let’s move beyond your company and your customers for a moment and focus on your product. What does it do that your competitors’ does not? Does it have an exclusive feature? Is it made of higher quality materials? Does it retail for a lower price? Examine your product line and develop a succinct value proposition based around what differentiates it from other similar products. Hopefully, your product line will work as a stand-in for your company, and by determining the product value proposition, you will be able to extrapolate it to your entire business.
This may be the most important step of the process because this is ultimately what your customers will care about. Always assume the customer is asking “Why should I buy this?” or “So what?” when they see your advertising. Give them specific and concise answers to those questions.
Research and Discuss All Available Media Options
Marketers have more advertising channels available to them now than at any time in human history. This doesn’t mean they should use all of them. As you work to craft your marketing strategy, evaluate which media and platforms are good fits for your products. If you sell agricultural implements, for example, you might be better served by print ads or broadcast commercials than digital banners or paid ads on Pinterest. Look through the biggest traditional, digital, and social media platforms, discussing the pros and cons of buying each, and researching which demos they’re popular with along the way.
Consider Hiring a Media Buyer or Advertising Agency
Some companies can handle their advertising and media buying with an in-house marketing department. Others who are working with a smaller team (or single marketing person) may want to employ a media buyer for placement or an advertising agency for full-service production based on your strategy, goals, and brand identity.
Set A Budget
Now it’s time to get into the dollars and cents. This can be tricky without firm market research, but hopefully you have a dedicated advertising budget or can carve one out based on a percentage of projected revenue. Take the total number and roughly divide it proportionately among the advertising channels you plan to purchase.
Establish Metrics to Measure Success
Before you commit to your marketing strategy, take the final step of determining how you will measure your media dollars’ success or lack thereof. This could be a percentage of revenue increase, a rise in click-throughs or appointments set. Whatever that metric is for you, set a measurable and achievable number that you will consider to be a win, and constantly check to see if you are on pace to hit it, adjusting if necessary.
A great marketing strategy can be your road map to success, while a poor one can lead you to ruin. Use these tips to help you craft a meaningful and effective path forward.