How many of the following marketing methods have you tried?
- Facebook Ads
- Google Ads
- Influencer Marketing
- Loyalty Rewards
- Trade shows
It can be hard to figure out what will consistently bring new customers to your business. And if you feel like you’re always chasing the latest trend, you’re not alone.
A surefire way to waste time and money on marketing
Most small businesses take an ad hoc approach to marketing. Why? Because you’re busy and you’ve got a limited budget. So you end up trying a little of this and a little of that in search of a magic bullet.
But marketing doesn’t work that way. If all you ever do is try, fail, and move on to the next fad, you’ll never see the results you’re looking for. And you’re all but guaranteed to waste time and money.
Paid ads, SEO, email. . . they ALL have the potential to generate business for you. But they don’t work in a vacuum. You have to know why you’re using them, how they work together, and what to expect as a result.
In other words, you need a marketing strategy.
What is a marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy is your game plan. It spells out how you’re going to turn complete strangers into customers. It takes into account your target audience, your value proposition, and your available resources, then details how you’re going to funnel leads through the buying process.
"Essentially [a marketing strategy is] a formula for how a business is going to compete, what its goals should be and what policies will be needed to carry out these goals." (Michael Porter, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors , NY, Free Press, 1980)
How to plan a marketing strategy
1. Set goals for your marketing
Your goals are your guideposts when determining a marketing strategy. But here’s the key: they need to be well-defined. “Make more money” or “find more customers” won’t cut it. Here are some examples of goals you can use to define your marketing strategy:
- Launch product x in geographic region y
- Launch product line z in your online store
- Build name recognition among your target audience
- Increase the percentage of sales that happen online vs in store
- Drive foot traffic to your storefront
- Fill your calendar with paid appointments
- Get more people to subscribe to your SaaS
- Attract investors to your business
- Sell more of your most profitable product
It’s OK to have more than one goal - and for your goals to evolve over time. But write down what it is you want to achieve right now.
2. Know your customers
It’s surprising how many businesses overlook this absolutely vital aspect of marketing. If you don’t know your customers, you can’t possibly market to them. . . at least not effectively.
The more you know about your customers, the better, but at the very least you need to understand what problem you solve for them. People don’t buy products or services... They buy solutions. Meaning, no one buys an umbrella. They buy a way to stay dry in the rain.
Not sure what problem you solve for your customers? Ask them.
The other thing you need to pay attention to is how your customers feel before, during, and after they make their purchase. Humans are emotional creatures and you need to speak to those emotions if you want to connect.
3. Map out the customer journey
This is where your marketing strategy can pay big dividends because rarely is a customer going to see your product/service and buy on the spot. More often than not, they are going to go through some sort of buying process, a.k.a. buyer’s journey. When you understand this journey, you can guide prospects along it rather than just waving at them as they pass by.
Ask yourself these questions:
- When someone needs my product/service, where do they go looking for it?
- Who will they be comparing me to? How can I stand out?
- What questions do I need to answer before they will feel comfortable spending money?
- Who might they look to for a recommendation?
- Where will they make their purchase?
- After the purchase is made what might leave them unsatisfied?
- What other products or services complement this purchase?
- How long will it be before they need a replacement/upgrade?
Go ahead and plot out these points on paper so you can see the customer journey.
4. Define your marketing message
Now that you understand the customer and how they go about making their purchase, it’s time to define one overarching message you want to convey in your marketing. For example:
This isn’t just about writing a catchy tagline. This is an exercise in defining your unique selling proposition and creating consistency throughout your marketing.
5. Choose your marketing media & create marketing content
Now, you can start planning actual campaigns that you will run.
Because you’ve taken the time to get to know your customers, you should have an idea of what media you will use to reach them. Choose the marketing platforms (Facebook, Twitter, TV, newspapers, billboards, trade shows, etc.) that make the most sense for you and your audience, not the latest trend.
Once you’ve chosen where to market, begin creating content. The content you create needs to be consistent in it’s messaging but tailored to the platform. And just about every piece of content needs a call to action to move people along the customer journey.
6. Measure results & make adjustments
Now, the odds of hitting it out of the park with your marketing on the first try are slim. The way to achieve success is to measure the results of your campaign and make adjustments based on how people react to it. For example:
- Not getting clicks? Maybe you need a better headline or a more enticing offer.
- Getting clicks but no leads or sales? You might need to improve your call to action.
- Are people unsubscribing from your email list? Try segmenting your list.
- Are people abandoning your shopping cart? Look for technical issues.
And so on.
7. Rinse & repeat
Every marketing campaign you run needs to have a strategy behind it. That means carefully considering your goals and the buyer’s journey every time you launch a new marketing initiative. It may feel like a lot more work up front, but it will focus your time and resources on the marketing tactics that have the highest potential rate of return.