How to Create a Marketing Strategy in 4 Steps
How do you plan on introducing your brand, business, or product to the market? In the simplest of terms, that is the goal of any marketing strategy; to match your offering to a market of potential customers.
This article will delve into four essential steps to take when creating a marketing strategy. But before we dive in, what exactly is a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy is a plan outlining how you’ll bring your product or service to market with the end-goal of turning prospects into customers.
Step 1: Define your objectives
The reason most marketing strategies fail is that:
- There’s no concrete goal that is actionable, measurable, specific and with a date
- There’s no strategy in place to achieve said goal
- There’s not enough data to support the strategy
Often, marketing tactics are deployed without a strategy in place, and strategy gets a bad-rep for being a convoluted, document-heavy plan with little action. In reality, a strategy is in place to support a tangible outcome for the business, and subsequent marketing channels are employed to achieve that goal. When you’re creating a marketing strategy, the first step is to determine what your business goals are for a given period (we recommend planning annually). In 12 months, do you want to increase revenue? Do you want to acquire net-new customers? Define tangibly the goals your business wants to achieve and a KPI attributed to that goal. For example, an eCommerce company might want to increase revenue by 30% year over year.
Step 2: Identify your audience and your market
There’s a reason people say, “Closest to the customer wins.” It means that people who know their customer the best, have the best opportunity to attract, engage, and convert them. The customer profile, brand positioning, unique selling proposition, and more are key branding elements that will be instrumental to every marketing strategy. A brand strategy is the foundation for businesses that will outline the key aspects of your brand, supporting your marketing efforts, 3 of which are most important:
Ideal customer profile(s)
Who is the target audience for your product or service? What behavioral characteristics do they have? What demographics define them? The more specific you can be about the customer you’re after, the better your strategy will be. Oftentimes, businesses cast too wide a net, confusing the market and diluting their message. The more specifically you target customers, the more lucrative your strategy will be.
Positioning in the market
Brand positioning is often encapsulated in a positioning statement that outlines:
- Your target customer
- The market category
- The value your product/service claims
- Evidence to support your value claims
So let’s take our aforementioned ecommerce client. Let’s say they offer decorative pillows. Their positioning statement might be:
For the [busy apartment-dwelling families], company X provides [decorative pillows] that [won’t stain or your money back guaranteed], because [they’re manufactured with 100% machine-washable microfiber covers].
What distinguishes your product from the competition? What can you offer with your product/service that others cannot? Boiling down your value to a singular unique value proposition or unique selling proposition is not an easy task. When your USP is clear and true to your brand/business, it will help you gain a better competitive position and ultimately grow your business value.
Take inspiration from these USP examples:
- Geico: 15 Minutes Could Save You 15% or More on Car Insurance
- FedEx: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight
- LL Bean: Free shipping to US and Canada every day. No minimum order, no end date.
Who are your direct and indirect competitors? Start by creating a list of your top 5 direct competitors and go through their positioning, unique selling points, audience targeting and product in order to determine how you can best set yourself apart from them. Sometimes the only difference between a product is its branding. Take for example Burger King and McDonalds. They offer the same menus, same pricing, and the same customer service. What distinguishes the two is their branding.
Step 3: Use data to create your media-mix
There are dozens of different media channels you can use to access your audience and depending on the maturity of your business and marketing, you may or may not have a good handle on the channels that work for your business. The dream-state to get to as a marketer, is to be able to quantify the ROI for every channel you use in your media mix. This again, goes back to the creation of goals for your business and how those media channels ladder up to achieving those goals. Using past data and your customer profile, you can define the channels that will best bring your product and service to the market you want to capture.
Step 4: Deploy, test, iterate, re-deploy
Every marketing strategy should be tested and iterated. Prepare to be wrong, and be delighted when your assumptions are right. You should develop your testing plans at the time of deployment and have milestones and tools to evaluate your findings. For example, let’s say you’re deploying a new Facebook campaign aimed at re-engaging past customers. Your goal is to get them to purchase on your website and you might want to test different messages. This can all be tracked in a simple project plan or spreadsheet, in which make sure to include the following:
- A description of what you’re testing
- The goal of the test
- Your hypothesis
- How you’ll measure success
Follow a testing cadence of monthly for iterating and learning and quarterly for re-deploying.