We always like to think our marketing strategy is the best. That it’s smart and effective.
But, how do we know if it’s truly effective?
At the end of the day, a marketing strategy is only successful when KPIs are achieved. Whether it’s increased revenue, brand awareness, audience growth, or all of them, hitting your benchmarks requires careful planning, honest reflection, flawless execution and meticulous attention to detail. This is where success lies. Tactics are merely a function of the strategy behind the campaign. And, if that strategy isn’t sound, the marketing is sure to fall flat.
How can you develop a comprehensive, top-notch marketing strategy? The answer, as is so often the case, is to simply start with what you know.
What Sets Your Brand Apart
Any marketing strategy worth the effort must begin with an honest appraisal of the brand. And, there’s nobody that knows your company better than you do. Be honest about your brand’s current reality. Even the most successful brands have opportunities.
Know Your Brand
As a marketer, you should already know the ins and outs of your organization. But within that knowledge, there are potential blind spots. Don’t rely on assumptions. Look at the facts. What does your brand truly communicate? What is your core audience really look like? What do they really want—and need? These fundamentals should build your foundation. So, while you know your organization well, what you pay attention to is critical when developing a successful marketing strategy.
You might not have thought about the concept of a SWOT analysis since you were in college. But assessing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that exist for your organization is one of the best ways to truly understand your business and what makes it truly unique. You’ll learn what your company does well, and you’ll also identify inefficiencies within the marketplace that you can exploit. Best of all, you’ll learn what the competition is really up to, and what your company can do to counteract your opposition.
Know Your Competition
As important as it is to understand your own business, it’s just as important to know the other companies in your industry. Competitors pose the biggest threat to your company’s success. They can undercut your business in a variety of ways, from pricing to advertising. Knowing what these competitors are up to will prevent you from being blindsided.
Analyzing your competition does more than simply protect against threats. It can also clue you into things that you could (or should) be doing. Methods of advertising, the tone of marketing messages, website design, and marketing strategies are just a few things you can pick up on by studying the competition. You can then assess how your business might incorporate some of the better ideas.
Know Your Audience
All businesses believe that they know their customers well. But the reality is, there’s always more to learn about your customers. Merely thinking that you understand your audience only gets you so far. A data-driven approach is necessary for genuinely identifying what makes your customers tick.
Creating buyer personas is the absolute best way to build a marketing strategy. Who are the people that you’re targeting, and what are they like? What demographics do they have in common, and what is their buying cycle? You can find the answers to many of these questions by analyzing your customer database and Google Analytics, which provides in-depth data regarding visitors to your website. Combine this data with your insights and identify the best way to reach each persona.
Know the Market
It’s not enough to be an expert in your industry. You also have to keep an eye on the bigger picture. Understanding what’s going on in the world in a broader sense will help you to craft a better marketing message.
This year has seen a massive shift in the way businesses advertise. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced enterprises to change their tone, abandoning long-term marketing plans in favor of gentle encouragement and empathy. Social changes have also forced businesses to take a stand on important issues, incorporating political and racial issues into their advertising. These are just two examples of how a marketer must adapt to a changing world at a moment’s notice. These changes can happen at any time, so companies must always be ready to change.
Start With Research
What we’ve discussed so far should be the basis for any marketing strategy. This vital work lays the groundwork for everything that happens afterward. It’s only when you truly know yourself, your customers, and your competition that you can begin to spot and utilize a competitive advantage.
However, it might seem like a lot of work that you’d honestly rather not do. It’s an understandable mindset, but it’s not a good one. That’s because rushing into marketing without doing the necessary research results in misdirected marketing that doesn’t serve any purpose. You can’t appeal to people if you don’t understand them. You must have a full picture of your customers and the marketplace. Without this knowledge, you’re merely guessing. And guessing doesn’t bring in the money needed to keep you in business.
A continued dedication to research will build on your initial observations and allow you to devise an effective marketing strategy. Look at your customer base and start to figure out the thought process behind their buying decisions. What motivates customers to buy? How did they get to that point? What research are these consumers conducting to validate their choices?
Data will tell you part of this story, but it won’t give you everything you need. The missing piece comes from the customers themselves. That’s where market research comes into play.
Conducting Market Research
Now that you’ve got some knowledge of your customers and how they behave, it’s time to take it to the next level through market research. Market research means going beyond the company and seeking out data from outside sources. Although it’s not directly related to this type of market research, the data you’ve collected about your customers from internal operations is a high starting point for market research. It helps you to identify areas where you need additional information to get the full picture of the customer experience.
Market research helps to fill in the blanks of your data. For example, you might already know that people prefer a particular advertising medium. Conducting market research can show you why those people feel that way. Understanding the thought processes behind the actions highlighted by data is very helpful in piecing together buyer personas and assessing consumer behavior as a whole.
There are two types of market research. The first, primary research, involves working directly with customers. Primary research can take a variety of forms, including in-person interviews, focus groups and surveys. This research allows you to get what you need from the very people you’re trying to appeal to, and it’s an advantageous and valuable process. The downside to primary research is that it can be time-consuming and expensive, but the insights you’ll draw from this research are invaluable.
Secondary research, on the other hand, does not require communication with customers. Instead, secondary research relies on data collected by others. This is research that was conducted previously, potentially for a different purpose than you want to use it for, so there’s a chance you might not get everything you’re looking for. However, secondary research is a quick way to obtain information at a lower price than primary research.
Armed with the knowledge of your business and your customers, you’re ready for the next step. It’s time to figure out what you want to achieve through your marketing. Fortunately, you’ve already done half the work — setting goals is a lot easier when you know where you’re already at. Now, you just need to identify where you want to go.
Goal setting is typically tied to a key performance metric, or KPI. The actual metric will vary from industry to industry and from company to company. The main thing to remember is to focus on a figure that directly impacts the bottom line. Striving to get a certain number of likes on a social media post is a bad goal because likes don’t translate directly to sales. Instead, focus on numbers that really move the needle, and that can be easily tracked.
Setting goals with no plan and no accountability is always a recipe for failure. The SMART framework for establishing goals is a great way to turn a thought into an actionable plan.
- Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve
- Measurable: Select tangible data points that can be tracked
- Attainable: Choose a goal that can be completed on time and under budget
- Relevant: Pick something that aligns with your business
- Time-Based: Your goal should be doable within a specific timeframe
Using these rules, you can quickly tell if a goal is stable or if it falls short in some way. For instance, you wouldn’t make a goal of being the biggest company in your industry. It isn’t measurable, it has no timeframe, and it’s probably not realistic at first. Instead, pick something smaller that’s achievable. A better goal is to become the top hit on Google for a desired keyword within two months since doing so will result in an additional thousand website visitors each month. This follows the SMART framework, and it has an apparent reason why accomplishing this goal is so important.
Identify Channels, Platforms, and Messaging
The research and analysis you’ve done so far has led you to the fun part — marketing to your desired customer base. This is where you get to apply everything you’ve learned and craft the perfect marketing strategy.
There’s no right way to market, so your research will inform your actions at this point. You know who your customers are and what types of marketing messages they like to receive. Take that information and apply that as you set up your marketing platforms. If you have an audience of millennials, for instance, social media is a great place to start, and the exact platform depends on the preferences of your customers. For older consumers, it depends mainly on the feedback you’ve gotten through your market research since older doesn’t necessarily mean offline marketing is best.
The unique preferences of your audience also dictate the messages you send. A snarky tone might appeal to younger consumers but might turn off older customers. At the same time, being serious all the time might alienate more fun-loving portions of your audience. It all depends on the results of the research you’ve conducted. Fortunately, you can take advantage of platforms like email marketing to send each segment a different message explicitly tailored to the likes and dislikes of that group.
Measure and Collect Data
The last topic is by far the most important one. If there’s one constant in marketing, it’s that everything is changing all the time. Look at how the world was just six months ago — it’s virtually unrecognizable to how things are today. A marketer that wasn’t on top of that change would look foolish in this climate.
That’s why it’s essential to measure, collect, and monitor data at all times. Data analysis isn’t just for the initial phases of devising a marketing strategy. It’s a practice that must be conducted at all times. If anything, it’s even more critical to collect data after your marketing campaign is underway.
Why? Because data will let you know right away if something isn’t working. You don’t want to wait through three months of diminished sales to figure out that your marketing is missing the mark. If you know early, you can make changes that will right the ship and get your company back on track. Keeping a close eye on your KPIs will ensure that your marketing is always operating at its highest levels of efficiency.
You can also use this data to update the initial research you conducted. Just because people preferred one thing a year ago doesn’t mean they’ll continue to favor it in the future. Keep tabs on your buyer personas, your market research, and your internal operations. Update your processes as necessary to reflect what’s going on today. It’s a continuous process that requires dedication and attention to detail, but it’s well worth the effort.
Creating an effective marketing strategy isn’t a simple process. It requires constant evaluation of your company, your competition and your customers. It requires an obsession with data and improvement. But becoming an expert in these areas will only enhance your ability to market. It’ll also help improve your customer service and your anticipation of market trends. A slow and measured approach to research will pay off in the form of a great marketing strategy that serves as the basis for increased revenues and profitability.
If you’d like to learn about how we can help you to follow these steps and devise an effective marketing strategy, contact us today.