A marketing strategy – you know you need one, but with so much expert advice online, you may be a little bit confused as to what it actually is and how you go about constructing one.
A marketing strategy is the big plan, the grand scheme, the roadmap, the overarching plot in the story of how your products and services reach your target audience and turn these individuals into paying customers. It describes your value proposition, the core message of your brand, your unique selling point (USP) and all of the information that will help you to formulate a marketing plan. Okay, so the marketing plan is a different kettle of fish, but we’ll discuss that later.
Some businesses think they have a marketing strategy, but when different members of the team are asked to explain it, you may generate a mixed response. This is very dangerous because it may mean that your business is ploughing ahead without a set direction, wasting money and resources.
Okay, now we’ve cleared up the vocab, let’s begin.
As the definition above states, your marketing strategy is at the heart of your business activity. What is your storyline? What are the main objectives? Who are your ideal customers? Where are you positioned competitively? What are the current strengths and weaknesses of your value proposition?
This is the stage at which you ask all of these questions and do the necessary research in order to answer them.
A marketing strategy cannot exist without a defined set of long-term marketing goals. The inbound framework suggests that these need to be SMART goals:
- Specific: You must explain your purpose on a very granular level that leaves no room for misinterpretation.
- Measurable: Specify the criteria by which you will establish whether you are progressing towards your goal or not.
- Attainable: The goal must be realistic and within your team’s scope of capabilities.
- Relevant: The goal needs to be tied to the core value proposition of your business.
- Timely: There must be a hard deadline by which the goal is fulfilled.
Conduct a SWOT analysis
Now is the time to establish what your strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities are. Having a clear idea of your business’s exact position in terms of the prospects ahead as well as the issues you need to address, and understanding where your company is in relation to its competitors will help you to formulate results-driven plans.
Know your Buyer Personas
Your buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. You have to generate a strong image of who your most likely customers will be because it will affect how you formulate and deliver your message to that audience.
The way to go about identifying your buyer personas is through collecting data, conducting interviews, studying demographics, reading customer reviews and looking at current insights from your social media platforms and website.
Once you have gathered and reviewed all of this data, you will start to have a better overview of the buying habits of these individuals as well as the best channels to use for communicating your message to them. All of this information will help you to understand the size and growth of the market you are trading in, too.
Analyse your competitors
No business operates in isolation, and there’s so much to learn from your competitors. What are they doing wrong? What are they doing right? Which areas can you compete in? What opportunities are they missing that you could pick up?
Studying trends in your industry will help you to stay competitive and agile, giving you new ideas for the future and the incentive to keep improving.
Just like the SWOT analysis you conducted for your own business, you need to find your closest competitors and identify their supply chains, their pricing and marketing tactics, the strengths and weaknesses you can visibly recognise and how you perform relative to these.
Your marketing campaigns will not always bear the same cost, however you do need to have an idea of your overall marketing budget in order to realistically plan for your quarterly, monthly and weekly efforts.
When looking at the big picture, here are a few of the more significant costs you need to prepare for:
In order to set your business up for success in the digital realm, investing in a powerful, navigable, well-presented website is crucial from the outset. Speak to multiple developers, ask to view their portfolios, and make sure that whoever you choose to work with will take the time to understand your business and your customer in order to create the perfect website.
Digital account manager / digital marketing agency
How you manage your digital assets will be largely dependent on the resources you have at your disposal. You will have to make the call whether to hire someone in-house or decide that a digital marketing agency specialising in growth is a better option for your business.
You must factor in the cost of both these alternatives against the return on investment (ROI) you expect to receive and whether the results will be scalable.
Content will also be a crucial part of your marketing efforts. You will need individuals that specialise in video, copywriting, photography and graphic design. You need to be on top of your media game in order for your marketing strategy to resonate with your audience, so be sure to factor in these costs and whether it will be feasible to have in-house professionals or outsourced specialists.
Paid media budget
With Google continuing to wage war on click-through rates from organic search results, it’s never been more important to have a paid media budget.
There are a lot of channels you can choose to spend money with - Google Ads, display advertising, social media ads - but you won’t necessarily have to cover all of them. Work out where your target market is most likely to find out, and identify the best channel for each specific campaign.
Nailing your marketing strategy is the beginning of something truly great for your business. It’s the act of marking the map, envisioning your journey and knowing exactly how you’re going to get there. There something profoundly reassuring about that, for you, your stakeholders, your employees and, indirectly, your clients / customers.
Of course, you will have to continuously analyse and measure all your marketing activities to make sure that you’re staying on course, but once you have the framework of your marketing efforts in place, the sky’s the limit.