Entrepreneurs know they need marketing, but often don’t know how to do it themselves, don’t want to do it, and can’t afford to pay someone else to handle it. Then just add a few extra things like social media, SEO, and content management to this already overwhelming marketing equation and watch their heads explode. Things tend to go off the rails when you lose sight of the fact that marketing is there to support your business goals. The goal here is to help you stop flushing your marketing dollars down the toilet and get results. So, let’s get the bad news out of the way. There’s a lot to know, so this is just meant to provide a quick overview of the basics. The good news, however, is that you don’t need to know everything, that the logic required to create your marketing strategy is not rocket science, and it can be applied no matter what stage your business is in. Understanding the basics will allow you to make good decisions and get more out of your marketing budget. So, let’s begin.
MARKETING STRATEGY VERSUS MARKETING PLAN
A marketing strategy is a high-level plan that outlines what marketing objectives need to be achieved in order to reach your business goals. In other words, your marketing strategy is dictated by your business goals and leads to your marketing plan. Each business goal can be supported by multiple marketing objectives and each objective can be supported by multiple tactics (Refer to Figure #1 below). The marketing plan is a more detailed roadmap for how to implement the marketing strategy and achieve the marketing objectives you’ve set by using a series of tactics. Here, you will coordinate and plan the specific activities you will carry out and when (based on your budget).
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Identify your ideal customer. Knowing who your customers are, what they care about, and how you can solve a problem they have is the starting point for all your marketing. If you’re not sure who you’re trying to speak to, how can you get a message to them? The more specific you can be, the better. Take a look at this example for more help.
Create your message strategy. This step is probably the most difficult, and also the most important. What do you want to say to customers? Your message strategy is not the copy you’ll place in ads, but a statement that captures how you want your customers to think about or describe you. This article will give you ideas on how to get started and includes examples. Your message strategy is the foundation of all of your marketing communications and relates to concepts like differentiation and positioning. By setting your message strategy, you can ensure your customers receive a consistent message, no matter how they encounter your brand.
Find out where your customers spend time (both online and offline). Why buy Facebook ads if you know your customers don’t use Facebook? Focus on getting your message in front of potential customers only, not everyone. By identifying what your ideal customers care about, it will help you learn where they spend time online and offline. Spend your marketing dollars putting your message in these places.
Select the appropriate marketing channels. You have distribution channels to get products to customers, so now you need to think about the ways to get your message to them. Social media, emails, direct mailers, and magazine ads are just a few examples of potential channels that allow you to get your message to your ideal customer. Now that you know where they spend time, it should be easy to pick your marketing channels. Select the channels that will put your message in front of potential customers only. One trick to stay organized and ensure you’re covering all your bases is by creating a grid like the one below. Place all of your marketing channels down the left side and your segmented customer groups across the top. Place an ‘X’ in the boxes to indicate which marketing channels will be used to reach customer group.
Set goals and metrics. How will you know your marketing efforts are working? Just like business goals, marketing objectives need to be measured. For each set marketing objective, decide what you will measure and when. For example, one marketing objective could be to increase the number of website visits by 5% each month. Use tools like Google Analytics to measure the number of website visits before you start any of your marketing efforts so you can make a later comparison to gauge how well your marketing is working.
This is simply a quick overview, but by understanding what your customers value, you can really put those marketing dollars to work. Create a clear, consistent message and try to focus on only put it in front of the people who matter – your customers![Photo Credit: Laura Dinneen]