I am all about strategy. Working smarter, not harder, has always been my motto, and in the world of marketing, having an effective strategy is the No. 1 way to do just that. In my experience, these six steps have been at the core of every killer strategy planning session I’ve been a part of—I hope they do the same for you.
1. Understand Your Company
Many businesses want to jump into the logistics of developing a marketing strategy before laying the groundwork. However, as the saying goes, you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.
Consider your past marketing strategies—where they’ve succeeded and how they’ve fallen short. I remind my clients that the way they’ve always done things is not necessarily the best way—there is untapped potential waiting behind the strategies you’ve never tried.
2. Know Your Audience
Your clients drive your business forward, and understanding their wants and needs will help to keep your marketing efforts focused and your goals clear.
When determining your target audience, do not just make assumptions. Beyond defining their location, age, gender and income demographics, you should also get an idea of what makes your customer tick.
Understand their interests, their buying motivations and their biggest concerns and complaints with the industry in general. This information could prove to be invaluable in the implementation of your strategy.
3. Perfect Your Brand
To perfect your brand, you must first define your brand. In the world of marketing, the term “branding” does not only refer to your logo. While a logo is a physical representation of your brand, branding itself includes the way people think and feel about your company. When your business name becomes synonymous with the thing you are selling, you know you have a good brand.
Ask yourself what you want people to feel when they look at your website. What do you want them to think about when they see your logo? Once you identify these objectives, you can work backward to produce visuals and deliverables that speak volumes.
4. Consider Your Goals
A marketing strategy would be useless without specific goals to achieve. Decide how you see your business growing in the next five years, and then set specific, measurable, attainable goals to help you get there. Your marketing strategy should explicitly reflect and support your goals.
For example, if you want to want to reach 60,000 subscribers by the end of the year, your marketing plan should include convenient ways for customers to sign up for your mailing list. If you want to rank organically in the top three for the word “bakery” on Google, you should implement SEO techniques with a specific focus on that keyword.
Tracking conversion and engagement allows you to analyze the success of your efforts and reevaluate if needed. Setting clear goals helps to ensure that your marketing strategy stays on track.
5. Research Your Competition
Marketing is a competition. It’s all about promoting your business better than anyone else. While you may look at another website or brand for inspiration, your research should focus on how your competitors are connecting with clients online. What promotions are they offering? What strategies have they implemented?
Overall, this step can help you determine what others are doing right, as well as identify any holes (a.k.a. opportunities) that exist in the current market.
6. Choose Your Channels
Marketing comes in all shapes, sizes and possibilities. This step comes last because you’ll want to use the data gathered previously to inform you of which channels to choose. Without understanding your target audience, for example, you may not understand the value of utilizing social media.
Social media marketing, search engine marketing and content marketing are the three main spheres that stem from digital marketing. From there, you may choose to implement remarketing campaigns with social media management or local SEO with blogs and website copy.
Bonus Tip: One of the first things we ask our clients as we begin to develop a strategy is, “What is the value of a lead?” This question helps to optimize a company’s sales funnel. Breaking down the client experience—from awareness to interest to desire to action—can help you identify which points require more attention and how different marketing strategies can move customers further down the funnel.
Investing in marketing tactics without a strategy is throwing away good money. Without a clear-cut road map and a direction to reach your goals, your business may never see the success it deserves. The power of a marketing strategy cannot be understated. If you don’t have one, get one. if you have one but haven’t implemented it, start now. If your current strategy isn’t working, reevaluate. A powerful marketing strategy can help you make sense of all the noise and be your skyrocket toward success.