Do you have a marketing strategy? Would you even know where to start? I meet a lot of companies that are posting regularly on social media, putting out PR and updating their websites, but they’ve not asked themselves a few key questions first, like who are they targeting and why. So here’s my mini guide on how to build a basic strategy that should improve your marketing.
Before we get into the detail, I think it’s first of all important to state why a marketing strategy is needed, and how it differs to a marketing plan. Basically, a strategy is what you’re going to do and the plan is how you’re going to do it. It’s no more complicated than that.
Think of the strategy as laying the foundation. Imagine marketing is like building a house. If you go straight in for the roof or doors, they’re just going to fall down. You need a strong foundation and then you need to build it up section by section if you want it to hold.
The marketing strategy provides those firm foundations. It’s where you’ll make the key, overarching decisions such as what you want to achieve, what your messaging is, who you’re targeting and what you’re targeting them with. Then the tactics follow in the plan where you’ll decide how you’re going to make it all happen.
If you went straight in and just looked at the tactics, you might decide you’re going to blog and do social media. But how will you know what to blog about, or what to post on those social media channels? Or even what social media platforms to use? Without a strategy driving your tactics, it all becomes meaningless actions that you end up doing for the sake of it. Marketing becomes a tick-box exercise.
To build that strong foundation, I always recommend looking at four things. That’s it.
- What do you want to achieve?
The first step is to put in those marketing objectives. I say it all the time: if you don’t know what you want to achieve, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? Having two or three objectives normally works best, and the more specific you can make them, the easier it will be to create a plan of action and measure the results. So rather than just say I want to grow the business, decide how you’re going to do it. Is it through cross-selling to more customers, introducing the brand into new markets, or do you need to get in 500 or 750 new leads over the next twelve months? There is no right or wrong answer here. It has to be what you want to achieve in your business.
- Who are you targeting?
This is really easy for some businesses. They have a niche market and know exactly who they need to speak to. In that case, this question is already answered. Others, however, have a harder job. If you have a service that could suit any business or a product that could suit any person, then you need to think it through. It might seem good to have a vast market, but being seen as all things to all people means you won’t connect with anyone. The best thing to do is niche down. Choose just one or two segments of the market and target them, always keeping in mind how it will help you achieve your chosen objectives. It might seem like you’re cutting out customers, but by actually speaking to a smaller segment, with everything aimed very much at them, you’re far more likely to grow sales.
- What are you targeting them with?
Different customers can have different needs, and you might sell a range of products or services. Therefore it’s always a good idea to narrow things down to make it easier to manage. This means rather than telling your chosen segments about everything you do, decide instead which of your products and services you are going to focus on, again keeping in mind your objectives. This doesn’t mean you need to forget about your larger offering, but by picking and choosing you can more easily send out messages that make sense to people. Then direct them to your website where they can learn about your full range. Just as with the customer segments, the more focused you are, the more success you’re likely to have.
- What is your position?
Every single well developed brand in the world has a ‘position’. Think of it as your marker in the sand of what you stand for and who you are. It summarises your differentiation and will tell the world why they should buy from you. A position in itself can be an internalised message and then I advise you to translate that into a marketing message that you send out into the world.
So what makes you different or interesting or better? Are you the company that hangs on to tradition because your customers like that, or are you the business that is always looking to the future? Do you offer a more personal customer service than your competitors, or are you about speed and getting the job done, which you know your customers like? Whatever it is, find out where you stand in relation to your competitors and celebrate that.
Your strategy can be as complicated as you want, but why not begin with something simple and see how it helps your marketing? All you need to do is identify a type of customer and then promote a relevant product and service to them. Do this in line with the message of why you’re different/better/more approachable and you’ve got a fantastic starting point. Just sorting out these points alone will make your marketing easier to execute.