I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with some incredible companies around the world, ranging from fledgling startups all the way up to multinational bluechip corporations.
I’ve served those companies as head of my agency, a hired consultant and even as an interim member of their founding boards. Throughout all of my engagements, one thing has remained constant and true: Companies that have a plan, and execute against it frequently win, whereas companies that tend to “wing it” and fly by the seat of their pants, always run into speed bumps and frequently fail.
I am all about strategy. Working smarter, not harder, has always been my motto, and in the world of marketing, having an effective strategy is the No. 1 way to do just that. Here are 6 effective components of just about every strategy I’ve ever built:
1. It starts by first understanding your own company.
You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. Right? To start consider your past marketing strategies—where they’ve succeeded and how they’ve fallen short. I remind my clients that the way they’ve always done things is not necessarily the best way—there is untapped potential waiting behind the strategies you’ve never tried. After all, If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.
2. Know (or quickly and deeply learn) your audience.
Your clients drive your business forward, and understanding their wants and needs will help to keep your marketing efforts focused and your goals clear.
When determining your target audience, do not just make assumptions. Beyond defining their location, age, gender and income demographics, you should also get an idea of what makes your customer tick. Document their interests, their buying motivations and also their biggest concerns and complaints with the industry in general. This information could prove to be invaluable in the implementation of your strategy as you look to build profiles and find more new customers just like your existing customers.
3. Master your brand.
Contrary to common belief, the term “branding” does not simply refer to your logo. While a logo is a physical representation of your brand, branding itself includes the way people think and feel about your company, how you communicate, what type of service you provide, the quality of your products, the ability to elicit emotion and loyalty from your customers, what you fundamentally stand for as a company and so much more . When your business name becomes synonymous with the thing you are selling, you know you have a good brand.
Ask yourself what you want people to feel when they look at your website. What do you want them to think about when they see your logo? What type of experience should they have when engaging with your products and services.
4. IMPORTANT – It starts with your goals!
A marketing strategy would be useless without specific goals to achieve.
For example, if you want to want to reach 60,000 subscribers by the end of the year, your marketing plan should include convenient ways for customers to sign up for your mailing list. and other ways to funnel data directly to your database. If you want to rank organically in the top three for the word “bakery” on Google, you should implement SEO techniques with a specific focus on that keyword.
Also, work backwards. If your goal is to increase revenue by X% over current numbers within one year, work backwards. Start with the goal and think about all the micro-goals it will take to get to your ultimate goal. It’s not a straight line to revenue growth. For example, you may need to increase the number of customers you’re emailing – your micro goal would be to increase your subscribers (subscribers who can purchase from your campaigns.). If you’re selling online, than ranking your site (or products) higher on Google to drive more traffic would be a good start. Work on your micro goals to help reach your ultimate.
Tracking conversion and engagement allows you to analyze the success of your efforts and reevaluate if needed. Setting clear goals helps to ensure that your marketing strategy stays on track.
5. Research your competition.
Marketing is a competition. It’s all about promoting your business better than anyone else and convincing customers they should choose you over anyone else. It’s easy to look at another website or brand for inspiration, but your research should go deeper. It should also focus on how your competitors are connecting with clients online. What promotions are they offering? What strategies have they implemented and how they’re attracting new revenue.
Overall, this step can help you determine what your competitors are doing right, as well as identify any holes (a.k.a. opportunities) that exist in the current market.
6. Finally… Pick your channels.
Marketing comes in all shapes, sizes and possibilities. This step should be last because you’ll want to use the data gathered in some of your earlier steps to inform you of which channels to choose. Without understanding your target audience, where they are, what they link and where they’re spending their time for example, you may end up focusing your efforts in the wrong places.
So… Are you a “Wing it” type of company or do you have a clearly defined set of goals and a strategy to help you achieve it. A strategy that has measurable, actionable controllable steps should help you reach new heights of business growth. That said, strategies are fluid, often times with good ongoing analytics, you’ll find the need to adjust your strategy, and that’s ok. Track often, adjust when the data tells you to!