How to create a marketing strategy
Everyday, even every minute, hundreds or even thousands of products and services compete with each other for the most basic thing they can get from you as a customer - your attention. Not a subscription, not a purchase, they are not even asking you to visit their site. Most companies have a hard time even getting on your radar.
You’d think that with the overwhelming advent in popularity of Internet for marketers and users alike, getting people to notice your business would become easier. But, because everyone is using it nowaday, it creates even more digital noise, so noticing your new brand is just as difficult, as before… That is if you don’t have an adequate marketing strategy in place.
In this post we’ll take a look at the basics, components and some examples of effective marketing strategies as well as how to make a marketing strategy that will work in your business.
What is a marketing strategy
Before you get frustrated because you don’t know a thing about “marketing” or “strategy” at all, the whole concept is actually pretty simple.
A marketing strategy is a set of goals you want to achieve with your marketing activity. In most cases, these goals would be to increase the awareness of your brand and, ultimately, generate and increase sales. A successful marketing strategy should incorporate long-term activities that would bring you closer to your overall marketing goal.
It also incorporates a marketing plan and implementations to achieve those goals. Do not confuse a strategy with a plan, as these two are different and answer different questions. Here’s how they stack up:
- Marketing strategy. This is WHAT you want to inform your potential customers about (your unique-never-seen-before solution, how is it different from the competitors, etc);
- Marketing plan. These are the general approaches to HOW you’ll be communicating with your potential clients (campaigns, promotions, etc);
- Implementations. The exact activities and their frequency for achieving your strategic marketing goal.
Benefits of creating a marketing strategy
Like with any plan or strategy, it’s always better to have one, than doing everything at random.
Marketing strategy is a key link between your objective and achieving it. What it does is lay out a distinct set of small aims, principles, and activities to take on to achieve your overarching marketing goal. Keep in mind that marketing strategy does not include the exact steps and actions you need to make (that’s what a marketing plan is for), but it’s more akin to a blueprint.
Here are the most obvious benefits to creating a Marketing Strategy:
Easier to make business decisions.
In most cases, a marking strategy can serve you as a beacon towards your objective. Imagine that a marketing opportunity arises, something that would help you promote your business for a relatively cheap price in a rather popular food blog.
At a first glance, the opportunity is great. However, is this the right audience you need? Does this coincide with your marketing objective of further nurturing and improving relations with the existing clients? Most likely, no. This isn’t something you should follow through as it doesn’t help you reach your goal. Marketing strategy helps you remind about this.
Get a direction to follow.
It’s a common case when there’s so much works you need to do that you don’t even know where to start from. Or, what might be even worse, you spread your resources so thin that they are unable to produce any tangible results. Similar to the previous point, if you do a marketing strategy, you can keep your resources concentrated on one or several key activities.
Keep you in the right direction.
It’s easy to stop amidst an activity that would eventually produce great results, because it fails at first. In such cases it’s so tempting to drop it halfway through. But if your create a content marketing strategy that should last for 6 months, you you shouldn't stop after just a month. Your blog has only started gaining readers, so such activity needs time to gain a momentum.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses
To create a marketing strategy you should approach it in full arms. This means facts. Facts about your product/service, about your competitors, about the market in general and facts about your audience. Some of these facts are, unfortunately, more of an assumption, a weighted guess, but you should aim for the most accurate and real data you can get for a strategy to work as intended.
Those facts is the information you should put into your marketing strategy. And nothing can help you with organizing and outlining those facts than the good ol’ SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis helps you assess your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities on the market and establish potential threats. By conducting it you, can assess all significant factors that could positively or negatively impact the successful path to your objective.
Each one of these four categories clarify where you stand and how you can use it in your marketing strategy. This includes:
- Strengths. Positive qualities and aspects, internal in nature and under your control or influence. Your workforce and other resources, business processes and other internal components that you can use and adjust accordingly.
- Weaknesses. Negative internal qualities particular to your business. Your physical location, resource scarcity, unavailability of important technology, etc. Keep this in mind when trying to improve your company organization in future.
- Opportunities. External factors that can have a positive impact on your business. They aren’t under your control, so such aspects should be monitored closely for some well-timed actions. This may include market qualities such as the lack of competitors, the popularity of issues you’re trying to resolve and the overall demand for your type of goods.
- Threats. Just like the above, but in reverse. Everything negative you have no control on the market. Your competitors and their actions, governmental regulations, weather conditions, etc. You can’t predict them all, but it’s best to be aware about at least some of them and have a backup plan for such occasions.
The analysis is pretty straightforward and requires just some research and several brainstorming sessions. But it’ll give you a more or less realistic view on you company and things you can rely on in order to make a marketing strategy. It’ll also help you draw attention to your strong sides and, hopefully, after this your weaknesses won’t matter that much.
Key elements of a successful marketing plan
Marketing plan is an important component of your marketing strategy. It’s a set of activities and complementary factors to what will help you achieve your marketing goal. Marketing plans will obviously differ between industries and company sizes/ambitions, but the common elements include:
- Executive summary. An overview of your marketing plan. Mostly focuses on 4P’s: product, pricing, promotion and placement. It describes your offering, involved staff, processes and philosophy of your organization.
- Situation analysis. This should include the results of your SWOT analysis so that every operator involved in the realization of the marketing activities be able to consult and use it in their messaging.
- Goals. They describe the exact results expected from your marketing activities. It’s best to measure them in the sales figures equivalents, but that’s not always applicable.
- Tactical programs. The set of directions and activities that shall be carried out on the daily basis in order to achieve the above stated goals.
- Implementation. The exact actions that will be employed to realize your tactical program. Who will be doing it, how exactly and how often is the correct thing to describe here.
- Budget. How much should be spent on your marketing activities.
- Measuring. An important aspect to not only marketing, but any activity in general. You need to know how successful were your marketing endeavours, and how much closer your became to your goal.
Steps to create a marketing plan
With all the components in place, here’s how you need to combine and follow them through to create a marketing plan:
1. Assess your current situation
The longest journey starts from where you stand. So you need to have a clear understanding of your situation at the moment. What market share do you have? How many new users you receive daily? How many active returning ones there are, etc. By taking a snapshot of your current state you’ll be able to compare it to the new results you’re getting thanks to your marketing activity and clearly understand how successful it was.
2. Establish your target audience
Imagine who is your ideal customer. A simple description would work. Who are they, what are they doing, what are they interested in, what they might need? Everyone else who doesn’t fit your description would only waste your resources. Cater and develop a marketing strategy for them - the most obvious category - and you'll get the fastest results.
3. List your goals
What exactly are you trying to achieve with your marketing activity? Which figures do you want to increase? Complete the list of goals and prioritize them to consult in further actions.
4. Develop strategies and tactics
The most important aspect of your plan is the set of actions you’ll be taking to reach your goal. An effective business marketing plan targets prospects at every stage of your pipeline, everyone from cold leads to regular clients (although can vary due to the set goal). Decide what channels you’ll be using (should depend on your audience) and what results you’ll be trying to achieve with them.
5. Decide on a budget
Sometime it’s the other way around and you need to figure out how to effectively spend a rather thin budget, but it’s significantly better to decide on a budget after you’ve decide on the actions. This would allow you to go full out and, if something doesn’t work, it’ll mean that the channel/method doesn’t actually work for you, and not because it was only a half-measure of your marketing efforts.
Good examples of marketing strategy
There are dozens of marketing strategies to consider. Coming up with your own, based on your own experience is something that will arrive some time later, so, for now, check these strategies and give them a try.
One of the most important questions to answer to your potential clients is “Why should I choose you”. What makes your offer more compelling than the others on the market. Maybe it’s the price, maybe it’s the quality. Maybe it’s even something completely unique! This should be at the core of every your message and distinguish you on the market.
Collecting customer and lead email addresses is something every company should do. By shooting an email message to them all (or just a segment) with a relevant information might be an effective way of reminding about yourself, introducing some new offers or providing discounts.
Hold a contest
Who doesn’t love free stuff? By incentivizing your audience to share information about your offers via their social media accounts is a rather simple, yet effective way of increasing awareness and attracting new clients. The actual prizes will quickly pay off, and the return might be a quite significant one.
Similar to the previous one, a referral program might be a special offer for clients who’ll recommend your services to their friends for an incentive. Partner programs are also like that, but partners that bring you new clients will work for a percentage. What’s great about this method is that studies show a higher retention rate for referred clients than, for example, cold call leads.
Search engine optimization
How do you expect people to learn about your product? Certainly your other marketing efforts have an impact, but most often people go to Google to answer their questions. This isn’t something simple to leverage, but optimizing your site to be high on the search results page will greatly improve your organic traffic.
In a similar manner, people on the Internet read blog posts and lengthy articles that would potentially answer their questions and provide guidelines with solutions. This is where you can leverage your blog and provide your potential clients with useful articles on topics relevant to your industry or activity. Create a digital marketing strategy for building trust and providing value to prospects that might be compelled to try out your services because of it.
- Define your goals and decide on activities around them;
- Carry out a SWOT analysis. It'll turn up useful on several occasions;
- Measure end results and compare them to your starting stats;
- Employ several marketing activities at the same time, combine, and repeat the ones that work best.