A marketing strategy is a business’s overall game plan for reaching prospective leads and turning them into customers. Much like a game of chess, marketing strategy is concerned with evaluation, positioning, control of key areas and setting goals. The word strategy comes from the Greek language (στρατηγία stratēgia) meaning ‘art of troop leader; office of general, command, generalship’ and the ultimate goal of a marketing strategy is to achieve and communicate a sustainable competitive advantage over rival companies but where do you begin with writing one? Read on to find out.
Defining your goals is the first step in preparing your marketing strategy. Goal setting can encourage new behaviours, motivate, guide and focus us on things we want to achieve. When writing a marketing strategy, listing your goals will give you a clear direction of travel for everything that is to follow, so before you begin:
- evaluate your current position in the market and consider this from both your perspective and your customers perspective
- consider how this knowledge can help you find a niche or unique selling point
- review your growth to date and set your goals accordingly
- match your goals to the overall vision you have for your company
- pick a small number of goals that you believe are obtainable and manageable but not easy – Rome wasn’t built in a day
- remember that sometimes you will fail and not reach all of your goals – don’t think in terms of success and failure but rather hits and misses, which will enable you to learn from any mistakes you make
SMART goals are one way to set goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. So what does this mean?
- Specific: detail the problem or opportunity you want to address and consider what needs to be accomplished, where do you want to be in three to five years time, what steps need to be taken and what is the budget to achieve it
- Measurable: make your goals measurable – doing so will make it easier to track your progress and know when you have completed what you set out to do
- Achievable: goals need to be attainable, not impossible to achieve – ask also, what things could block you from achieving your goals
- Relevant: why are you setting a particular goal – while it is good to break things down to make them more manageable, keep referring back to what you want to achieve overall so you understand how your goals fit in with this
- Timebound: what is the timeline for the project, when will it begin and when does it need to be completed by – asking these questions will ensure you remain focused on what needs to be done
Having clear goals from the get go means you can change your tactics as work progresses and also if you find certain ideas are working better than others.
Another method is to use the SOSTAC framework. SOSTAC stands for situation, objectives, strategy, tactics/actions and control.
- Situation: where are we now
- Objectives: where do we want to be
- Strategy: how do we get there
- Tactics and actions: what do we need to get there
- Control: how will we measure performance
There are various techniques for undertaking research.
Market research is the action of gathering information about consumers’ needs for the purpose of guiding decision making. If a business doesn’t know who they are, what they are selling or who they are selling to, how will it convince people to buy their products and services.
There are different types of market research.
- Primary research: this is information you have collected on your own from say surveys, interviews, feedback forms, polls, surveys, focus groups and customer observation – its strength lies in that it comes directly from customers themselves
- Secondary research: this is second or third party data or information – it might be news articles and reports researched by people outside of your organisation and also includes information about say the market size of your industry and your competitors
- Qualitative research: this can be primary or secondary and gives an insight into how customers think and feel – by asking qualitative research questions, you can gauge whether your product or service is meeting your customers expectations and if not, why not
- Quantitative research: this can also be primary or secondary but focuses on collecting numbers for statistical analysis – think followers, subscribers, page clicks and bounce rates
- Keyword market research: this is the process of finding the search terms that people enter into search engines – once you know what people search for, you can incorporate these keywords into your online work, so that when people search for these words, they find you
- Trends and opportunities: trends and opportunities are exactly what they say on the tin – to identify these you need to research what is ‘on trend’ right now, what has fallen out of favour and what isn’t being done by your competitors that would enable you to create a niche market for yourself
Take a look at what your competitors are doing and how this could affect your marketing strategy.
By checking out your competition you can determine your likelihood of success and also assess how what they are doing might impact your plans. Competitive analysis could include:
- subscribing to receive your competitors’ emails
- following your competitors on social media
- examining what your competitors write and create – who it is aimed at, how often it is produced, what it is about and who is writing it
- reading industry magazines and websites
- attending trade shows
A SWOT analysis will help you define your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It will help you understand what differentiates you from your competition and how you should position yourself in the market. A SWOT analysis will also help you develop your communications strategy and understand your unique selling point.
Create customer personas
A customer persona is a profile that represents your ideal customer, enabling you to tailor and personalise your marketing. Consider the ideal age of your customer, their gender, location, occupation, hobbies and lifestyle. Also, how, when and where do they shop, what is their online behaviour, who are they influenced by and what brands do they already buy or aspire to buy. Gathering this information will help you to personalise your marketing material so it can be targeted to your chosen audience.
Empathy mapping is another technique that can be used to understand your target audience. This focuses on four key areas.
- Says: what do customers say out loud for example in an interview or telephone call
- Thinks: what do customers think during their experience with you
- Does: what does the user do and how do they go about doing it
- Feels: how does the customer feel about the experience – do they feel fearful, overwhelmed or excited
Your should also consider:
- Hear: what do customers hear from friends, family, bosses and influencers
- Pain: what frustrates customers and what obstacles do they face in dealing with you
- Gains: what are their wants/needs and how do they measure success
After you have identified your desired customer personas, the next step is to work out how these personas think and make their decisions to buy, so that you can convert these fictional personas to living breathing customers. The marketing funnel focuses on four key areas and by using the example of clothing, we can see how it works.
- What do customers see: this could be clothing they see on websites and magazines, on social media and television, in blog posts and videos
- What do they think: this is the consideration stage when people are thinking they might want to buy some clothes and are looking at various websites and company reviews before deciding where and what to buy
- What do they do: at this stage people have undertaken research, decided they definitely want to buy clothes and want to buy them immediately
- Care: this is existing customers who have now bought clothes from you – what can a company do to show they care about these customers and how do the customers demonstrate their appreciation
Each stage provides opportunities to connect with potential customers by providing information or solving a problem.
What else needs to be incorporated into a marketing strategy
Unique selling point
Knowing what makes your company different to others is known as your unique selling point (USP). Your USP needs to be clearly shown on your website, in emails, on social media, advertising and packaging. It needs to be incorporated in your brand strategy and your content strategy also, as these are the methods you use to communicate.
A brand is one of the strongest assets a company has. Ask yourself, is your brand consistently represented across all channels, namely your logo, website design, print marketing materials, business cards, advertisements, packaging and social media. You can learn more about branding in the blog post below.
Content and communication
Content is any written words you use to convey your brand. Content also needs to be consistent and to provide useful information to your customers as well as purely for selling. So consider writing a regular blog that solves a problem, answers a question or entertains. Providing added value in this way, will help keep you uppermost in customer’s minds and when your audience needs your product or service they will hopefully think of you.
Once you have great content, you need to ensure it is getting read. What communication strategies do you need to put in place to connect with customers?
- Owned media: that is anything online that you own or produce, say a website, blog, your social media channels, podcasts, videos and webinars
- Earned media: that is material written about you or your business that you haven’t paid for or created yourself
- Paid media: that is sponsored social media posts, display ads, paid search results, video ads, pop-ups, and other promoted multimedia
Use a mix of communication channels and choose the ones that work best for you.
Search engine optimisation
Now you have fabulous content and you are working hard to ensure it gets read but search engines need to be able to find you too. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is what search engines use to index web pages, enabling content to be found and will improve the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines. So, make sure that your website is easily navigable and clearly presents the information you want to convey and that your customers are looking for. You can learn more about SEO in the blog post below.
Tactics and actions
And there you have it – once you have your strategy in place, all that is left is to decide what tactics are most important to the success of that strategy, for example, you may decide to re-vamp or review your website, start writing a regular blog, begin sending newsletters or to start creating podcasts.
Finally, tracking, measuring and reporting your success should be something that is put in place immediately to establish your baseline, for without it, how will you know if you have achieved your goals and how will you know what is and isn’t working. Measuring results will show if you are achieving your goals and enable you to change your strategy if not, so continuously test, learn, refine and reflect.
In late 2021 I became a digital marketing student, learning a wide range of skills on a digital marketing boot camp. After 12 weeks I was required, with my fellow students, to write and present a marketing strategy and this post demonstrates some of what I learned during this time. It couldn’t have been written without We Are Digital Training who gave me the opportunity to learn and develop new skills with them. More information about my training can be found in the blog post below.
Sources and further information
- Corporate Finance Institute: What are SMART goals
- The Chartered Institute of Marketing: SOSTAC planning framework
Market research and market research tools
- Alexa: Four types of market research to fuel your marketing strategies
- Answer The Public
- Digital Marketing Institute: The beginners’ guide to defining buyer personas
- HubSpot: How to do keyword research
- HubSpot: What is the buyer’s journey
- Neilsen Norman Group: Empathy mapping
Paid, owned and earned media
- Campaign Monitor: What is owned media
- HubSpot: Earned media explained in 400 words or less
- HubSpot: Paid Media, Explained in 400 Words or Less
Search engine optimisation
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