There is a difference between marketing and marketing strategy. Marketing is your general branding, the mediums you reach out with and the messages you relay through those mediums. Marketing strategy focuses on making educated decisions on what your branding should be, what are the best mediums to choose from and what message will resonate most with your target audience. It’s important to differentiate the two as most people we encounter have marketing – but no marketing strategy.
So how do you create a marketing strategy? What do you do first? What must you have in place first before you dive into the world of marketing? I’ve created some quick ways to suss out a general business’ marketing strategy. However, note that even though these steps are written for anyone, I would still suggest seeing a professional to create a proper strategy. But for those who need to save a buck or two – here’s what I recommend:
What are your VMV (vision, mission, values) and how will you get there in five years? What are the steps each year that you will take to achieve your vision? Once you’ve defined your VMV and your annual goals, what does your first year look like? What are your objectives? Do your objectives align with your goal?
The second question to ask is, “who pays for your service and product?” I’m not asking what assets or people help make the process flow or who are the people that most buy your product. I’m asking you who in general? You can break down the demographics by location, age, ethnic background, sex, interest, behaviours, etc. This should be pretty straightforward.
Then I’ll ask you, take the most typical customer you have. Do you have a person in mind? If not, make one up that encompasses your most typical customer. Now describe the most typical day that individual goes through. Try to find some research on that demographic to support your description. Go ask the individuals themselves (if they’re real) – perhaps your current clientele if you’re comfortable. This should be an ongoing process. If you can get a research firm on board at this point – that would be fantabulous.
Familiarize yourself with the main mediums that your target demographic uses. For example, what website does he/she frequent? What stores does he/she like to go to? Where or who does he/she ask for when he/she’s looking for advice? What magazines or newspapers does he/she read regularly? These mediums will help inform you of where you should be buying advertisements or what groups your company should be involved in.
At this point, when you’re working with a marketer – they’ll know which mediums will suit you best and garner you the most impressions. Most will also be able to negotiate discounts because of their relationships or buying power.
Now that you’ve found out what mediums you want participate in (as defined in #4), you have to start looking at what you want to say in those mediums – this should be defined, again, by your target demographic.
I would look into the person you defined in #3 – and again – this is where research is super helpful. What resonates with them? What do they care about when looking at products? Is it fact? Is it emotion? Is it bang for buck? Is it customization? Is it proximity?
Now, bridge this with what your product can offer. Find the middle ground between a) something that really resonates with your client and b) something that you can really offer. If you work with a PR or branding firm or just a creative agency in general, make sure their messaging aligns with your VMV, goal(s) and objective(s). Keep in mind some agencies specialize in certain services, so you want to be careful of their insistent push in that direction. As long as they can showcase results in the number of impressions or rich interactions with your demographic, it’s probably a safe route to go.
Now take a look at your overall plan – does it align with your VMV and does it help you achieve your Year 1 Goal and objectives? Ensure that it does. Remember that you want every penny and effort to work towards the same goal. The more you diversify and split your demographic into two groups, the more you’re splitting your budget into too many fragments – making the impact twice as ineffective. Also, make sure you have your analytics in place! How are you going to calculate the campaign as a success? Depending on your goal(s) and objective(s) – perception shifting, brand equity, site visits – whatever they may be, make sure you’re measuring these accurately. This will let you know where to continue to spend your money and what is helping you achieve your goals.
Remember that even though something may look shiny and new (or just plain affordable), it doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your budget. Keep in mind your end goal and don’t get distracted by the shiny things. Always follow the strategy.
Business plan sketch via Shutterstock