Whether you’re starting a new business or have an existing one, creating a marketing strategy is essential if you want your business to be successful. Business owners who opt to take a haphazard approach to marketing rather than a planned one, end up with far from optimal results and often find themselves hemorrhaging money.
Creating a marketing strategy isn’t difficult. Invest the time to consider your approach and you should reap the rewards.
Here, Gina Hollands, Commercial Director at marketing agency PMW, explains the 3-step method you can use to create your own winning marketing strategy.
First of all, what’s the point of a marketing strategy?
Well, it helps you get and stay organised, control your spend and measure the outcomes. Also, you can’t do a marketing plan (a table of which marketing activities you’re doing when) until you have an effective strategy in place.
How to create your own marketing strategy
Step 1 – Gather your facts
Take time to answer the following questions:
- What is your product/service?
- What makes your business different from the competition? This is your unique selling point (USP) and can help define your key message.
- What is a realistic budget you’re comfortable with spending on marketing over the next 12 months? Do not assume at this stage that your marketing will work and you will make more money; base your budget on what you can afford now.
- Who is your audience? Think about gender; age; profession; location; interests; income; family; other brands they buy into; buying behaviour; hobbies; media they absorb – such as social media, magazines, broadcast channels; and problems they encounter (and how your business could help solve some of them).
This allows you to create a ‘customer persona’. You might have several different personas who are your customers. Give each one a name and a face and add this to your marketing strategy.
This is a great exercise to help you get to know your customers (or potential customers) but beware – you can’t pigeonhole everyone or predict every single buying habit – so always approach with an open mind.
- What do you want to achieve? Rather than fluffy objectives, such as ‘to sell more’, think in terms of specific goals, e.g. to increase website traffic by 10%; to increase 5-star reviews from 80% to 90%; to increase volume of sales by 100 units. Being specific will ensure you can measure results and gauge the level of success of your strategy.
- By all means, check out what the competition is doing, but don’t get bogged down by it. And certainly don’t copy! If you are going to look, then make sure it’s because you intend to do things better.
Step 2 – Decide on your message
This is where your USP comes in. Consider also what problem your customers have and how you can help them solve it.
E.g. if you offer a virtual PA service, your customer’s problem could be not enough time to carry out administrative tasks.
If you sell sustainable clothing, you’re offering a way for someone to feel good, look good and express themselves.
Perhaps it’s less about a problem and more about improving a situation further. This is often the case with luxury products. E.g. if you sell scented candles, your product’s power lies in being a wonderful gift or a way in which people can create a more desirable home.
Once you’ve established the problem/improvement, then define your message. For example:
“Perfect PA provides customers with an important asset that cannot be bought – time.”
“Glorious Apparel is an easy and affordable way for people to save the planet, without compromising on style.”
I’m not saying this is your tagline – it most definitely isn’t. In fact, you may never use these words overtly to promote your business. It’s more about you gaining an understanding of the impact your product/service has. This, in turn, allows you to get creative with how you will promote it.
Step 3 – Choose your channels
So, you know who you want to talk to, and you know what you want to say. Now it’s time to decide how you’re going to say it, that is, which channels are you going to use to convey your message? Will it be through social media, advertising, events, PR, SEO or a mixture?
You can’t do everything, not unless you have endless budgets, so you have to prioritise. Do this by establishing the following:
- Are your customers more likely to be reading a certain magazine or searching the web? Do they favour Facebook to listening to the radio or vice versa? It makes sense to work out where your customers are and choose your channels accordingly.
- Where do your skills lie and what can you afford to outsource? If you’re a whizz with Twitter, then it makes sense to take this on yourself. However, if you don’t even know what SEO stands for (search engine optimisation, which in layman’s terms is improving the visibility of your website) then it makes sense to appoint an expert to look after that side of things – that is, of course, if you’ve established that your customers are likely to be searching online for a solution to their problem.
- Keep your objectives in mind. If one of your aims is to increase sales, then perhaps Google Shopping might be an option. If you want to enhance the reputation of your company, PR could be more important to you.
- Be selective. At PMW, our motto is to do something well or not at all. It’s better to choose a handful of channels and use them to excellent effect, than to spread your approach too thinly and miss the mark.
Now you have a fully-formed marketing strategy. What’s next? The marketing plan. I like to lay this out in table format, so I can see on a single page my marketing activity and when I’m planning on running it – but that’s another subject in itself!
Create a new marketing strategy every 12 months as it may need refreshing. Analyse results to find out how effective it’s been. By the time year one is up, you may have a new offering, a different budget and a refreshed set of objectives.
Enjoy the cost-savings and wonderful feeling of organisation that your new marketing strategy gives you!