Strategy is important. It dictates what actions you will take when faced with specific circumstances. Without a good plan, marketers can feel that they are flying blindfolded. You have no idea what effects your actions are having, and your business image can suffer as a result.
A comprehensive marketing strategy offers a precise plan based on industry research and knowledge. A good plan also offers flexibility and the ability to change course when appropriate. All this is well and good, but how do you go about creating a strategy to market your business?
1) Understand who you are selling to
This is this first and most important step. Like the foundation on a skyscraper, if done incorrectly the whole structure will suffer. This step is done by identifying what type of person is buying your product or service. What makes them unique? How can this person be reached?
A tool that every marketer uses is the buyer persona. Personas are semi-fictional characters based on research and educated assumptions that represent your ideal customer. Who are they? What's their life like? Why do they have a need for your business? If you can correctly identify your target audience or audiences, you can move to the next step.
2) Know what the competition is doing
It is generally useful to know what advertising and marketing campaigns your competition is doing. If your competition is advertising on the radio and is successful doing so, that would indicate that a large portion of your target market can be reached via radio. In contrast, if you notice that a competitor has sunk a lot of time into advertising with little return, it would be best to stay away from what they are doing.
3) Create realistic goals and performance indicators
A business uses marketing to increase its customer base and drive old customers to return. How do you know if your marketing is being successful though?
Generally, it is useful to have a timeline with goals and key performance indicators so that you have a grasp of where you are in relation to where you want to be. Goals and indicators function as a road map for your strategy and are critical in creating a great marketing plan.
However, it can be difficult to know how to create a performance indicator. An accepted way of doing so is to look at your revenue and metrics for the same time period the year prior. If your numbers are steady in comparison to last year and then jumped when you began marketing, that may indicate that your plan is having a positive effect on your business. Formalize these as your performance indicators if they are useful.
4) Run a cost/benefit analysis
It is important to know how much it will cost you to carry out your plan. If the plan will cost more than what you can realistically expect it will generate in business, it is time to adjust your plan. In most cases, marketing is a long-term investment that will be giving returns even after a campaign has expired, so keep that in mind when deciding if your plan truly is worth carrying out.
You can use the numbers and indicators from past campaigns as a way to evaluate the cost/benefit analysis, but you'll only really truly know about the results after the campaign has been implemented.
5) Carry out your plan
Once you feel confident that your strategy is strong and will meet the goals you have created, it is time to carry out your plan. Remember to keep an eye on your performance indicators and to analyze how your plan is doing with regards to your timeline. Remember to keep your plan flexible. If you indicators are not showing any real impact on your goals, it could be time to change up your strategy.
After a marketing strategy has run its course, you should look over what happened during its duration to see what worked and what didn’t. There can be a lot of information gathered from past marketing strategies, and anything you learn should be applied to future strategies. Marketing is a constantly evolving field, so make sure to keep up to date with the latest tips and practices to get the most out of your work.