Although almost any company nowadays is actively engaged in various marketing initiatives, many marketers fail to drive up real tangible results. The most important thing to achieve something is to have a ready to go, thoroughly polished plan.
Creating a reliable and effective marketing strategy is a laborious task involving multiple stages and researches. However, every effort is worth the time. A thoroughly done, informative marketing strategy gives a holistic view of what needs to be done and helps align the efforts of team members, presenting each employee with a clear view of what is expected by them.
These efforts will also help you acquire valuable insights during the ideation process such as USPs (unique selling points), competitive advantages, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and content ideas.
What Is a Marketing Strategy?
On a daily basis, we have a countless number of tasks, overlapping with one another. When we add the constantly evolving market and customers’ consent, it’s just impossible to aim all your marketing efforts in one direction, follow the same style, and create a holistic brand image across all channels.
Often, the contribution of marketers towards the company’s success is hard to estimate because you act much more as a support mechanism for the business rather than as the main character. Yet, a deal is closed as much by the salesperson, pitching the offer, as by the marketer, planting the initial emotion towards the brand and attracting users’ attention.
However, while the sales person’s contribution is easily measurable, being the price of the closed deal, the marketer’s contribution is much more complex to measure, as it’s tricky to estimate what percentage of the closed deals could be attributed the marketing team.
A marketing strategy is a thorough game plan that shows how the company will reach and convert potential clients, achieve greater results, and meet strategic business goals and measures key performance indicators tracking the effectiveness in completing each of the goals.
What You Need Before You Start
A marketing strategy will give you a birds-eye-view of all your goals and the initiatives connected to them. To be able to accurately plan everything you’ll require a significant amount of information up front.
First of all, to attract and convert leads you should know who these people are, where do they reside, what channels do they use, what drives them to act, what they like, what engages them, and what are their pain points.
In other words – you need to make a psychographic profile of your ideal customer. You have to use the data you have about current clients, listen to conversations in social media, stalk forum threads, and conduct interviews with current and potential customers.
Then you have to group the collected information into buyer personas, that will help you get significant insights into all client-related goals in your marketing strategy.
Another useful data you’ll need to know is where on the market you currently are and what competitors are doing. Competitor research will help you acquire it. Such information will be useful to come up with strategies to increase your market share and reach a larger audience.
A SWOT analysis is an honest and informative presentation of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, forming the acronym SWOT. Its main purpose is to help you identify problem areas that need to be addressed and opportunities you can leverage.
Use the data gathered during the competitor research to compare your company against others in the same industry and come up with competitive advantages, unique selling points, and market opportunities for your product or service.
For example, let’s say you’re selling consumer goods and among your strengths is your service, but your weaknesses are the lack of digital presence and the inability of users to purchase your product through a digital channel.
Digitalizing your currently outstanding service and opening a direct sales channel (website e-commerce, Amazon, eBay, etc.) is an amazing opportunity that will increase your market segment and will reduce the threat of losing clients due to the inability to offer a convenient service for the digital era.
Another vital element of the marketing strategy is the strategy canvas. It is a line graph that displays the company’s performance in key areas and overlays it with industry or competitors benchmarks. As with the SWOT analysis, the easiest way to do it is to use the information gathered by your competitor research. Take the current market position of competitors and industry leaders and turn it into a score against which you could rank your company for each key area.
The main purpose of the strategy canvas is to present your company’s current position in an easy-to-grasp infographic way. It helps align team efforts and points weak links within the division to know what needs to be improved and how quickly should each of flaw be addressed.
Using Balanced Scorecards
A balanced scorecard is the core of any strategy. It’s a block diagram displaying key goals, their relations, and progress made on them to provide managers with powerful monitoring capabilities.
This holistic view of all initiatives, goals and their connections also grants your marketing team an additional layer of flexibility, as when you change a certain element of the strategy you can view what goals and initiatives the changed element affects and it what way.
One of the main characteristics of a balanced scorecard is its multi-level approach – breaking the strategy into layers you could easily view and understand, seeing the relations between them. Useful exemplary levels that will help you understand the internal process better and see their external impact is to break the scorecard into 4 perspectives:
- Finance Perspective – goals relating to the financial aspect of your marketing efforts, usually presented as the highest layer as it’s the financial expression of all other goals’ results. Examples: “Control Marketing Costs” or “Increase Revenue Stream.”
- Customer Perspective – goals relating to the customers’ viewpoint. Examples: “Raise Brand Awareness,” “Generate More Leads,” “Educate Target Market” or “Clear Value Proposition.”
- Process Perspective – goals connected to the internal processes that are happening behind-the-scenes from a customer viewpoint. Their results directly affect the goals at the customer level. Examples: “Automate internal processes,” “Introduce a Reporting Framework,” or “Facilitate product development/service design ideas.”
- Employee Perspective – goals linked to the employees and the corporate culture within the company. These goals are the basis of the marketing strategy and support all others. Examples: “Adopt a Proactive Mindset,” “Think Critically,” or “Optimize Marketing Toolkit.”
Scorecards present goals at different levels within the organization to align efforts and ensure all team members understand what’s needed of them. This way the marketing strategy is presenting the goals of all stakeholders – employees, managers, partners, and investors.
Balanced scorecards are incredibly useful because they serve as a simple infographic presentation of your whole strategy, breaking complex relations into easy-to-gasp goals, layers, and initiatives.
Although if done correctly the marketing strategy can be an extremely powerful tool that drives your company’s or department’s success, it’s a cumbersome initiative that requires a ton of research, both initially and during the creation. Furthermore, a marketing strategy without a knowledge-centric approach, using all aspects of the strategy to gain insights and polish your creative efforts, is as good as missing.
So, roll your sleeves up, open an Excel sheet and a browser, and start surfing the web to collect the data that will help you slash through the competition and become the audience favorite. Start gathering your data and look for the upcoming second part of this article, where we’ll explain in detail how to create and polish each part of the marketing strategy.