“If you build it (from research and planning, with competitive and market insight, staying true to your brand, launch an engaging and effective presence where you know where your ideal customers are) they will come.”
Anything of value requires planning. And building your brand and your business isn’t any different. That's why having a strategy is so important - now and as your market changes (or you change the market).
Having a marketing strategy that supports your business goals is critical to achieving success. The process over the years has not changed, however, the “how” and “why” has. I just read today an article on an Australian company that’s been using the same marketing strategy for 70 years. I’m sure other successful businesses use the same strategy that’s helped them achieve levels of success they wanted. They just modify it over time to meet consumer and technology use. As business practices, technology and consumer shopping behaviors evolve, so should your marketing.
In order to create the most compelling strategy that you can use now and in the future, follow these 8 steps:
Know your core competency. Who are you? Ask your customers then your employees. How your customers perceive you is how the market sees you. If the outside perspective of your brand differs from how you view your brand, the disconnect needs to be addressed.
Identify your ideal customer. What customer data do you have? Of all your customers, identify those businesses in which you’d like more. Create three or four segments that align with your business goals. Place each customer in a segment (if you aren’t sure, start with an “all others” segment, too, and diversify later). Segmentation is important when it comes to marketing. The more refined and targeted your message, the higher your response, engagement and action. Everyone is not your customer.
Create a competitive grid. Who are the players in the market? Every market has multiple players in the same game. The problem is standing out. To identify your brand’s uniqueness, create or use my competitive grid template and list 3-5 of your competitors. Make a list that shows the mission, value proposition, location, top customers, products/services offered, pricing, market perception, social presence and engagement. Create a scale and rank each brand. Knowing how you are different is the key to your brand’s success. Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your industry to stay informed of changes and advancements to keep your leader position. You can either fit in or stand out. Not both.
Situational analysis. What do you do well and…not so well? Most brands will focus their efforts on strengths but don’t realize their weaknesses. It’s important to keep both in check so you know what you can leverage internally and what you may need to outsource. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses (internal to the company) as well as opportunities and threats (external to the company) is key to understanding your brand and the industry landscape. Create a situational analysis/SWOT to understand your strengths and opportunities. Here's a SWOT template with questions to consider.
Create KPIs. How will you measure performance against company goals? Key performance indicators are a specific measurement of activity used to meet business goals that are measured against a specific benchmark. Keep in mind KPIs provide focus and unite your team towards achieving a common goal. For this reason, it’s important that each KPI is clearly defined, communicated and team members understand all. Include KPIs in your marketing strategy and how and how often you will measure the success against the goals.
Tactical plan. What and where are you going to communicate to your target audience? A content calendar is helpful in planning, managing and monitoring your activity. It’s extremely important to have a plan that you can share with sales so they understand how you are helping them achieve sales goals. Keep in mind all tactics must be associated with a company goal as well. If it doesn’t support sales and the overall business objective, then remove it. The goal is to maximize time, effort and budget to meet goals. Track progress and report findings monthly.
The budget. How much money do you have to spend? Make sure you do your due diligence to obtain marketing budget and plan approval. Also show how you are leveraging social networks and the cross-platform messaging to drive behavior. Whenever money is being spent, show the “why” and how it impacts sales. Find out if marketing employees, freelance and/or consultants are included in the marketing budget. And confirm all activity supports sales efforts and align with company goals.
Tracking and modifying. How are the results? If you done steps 1-7, you are golden! Make sure you have an easy to track results spreadsheet or are using a third-party resource. You should have the company goals, sales goals, marketing tactics that support each and marketing goal listed. You should monitor results on a regular basis to make sure there aren’t any issues and all engagements are responded in a timely manner. Document results on a weekly or monthly basis and compare to your projections. Are you on target or do you need to make adjustments? It’s OK to make adjustments – but understand “why” the results aren’t what you expected before you make changes.
Once the document is complete and approved for ongoing use, the monitoring and managing of the data is easier. Developing a marketing strategy takes time, patience and a lot of planning. Understand who your stakeholders are, the time frame for budget approvals, resources and strategy approval deadlines. If you are an entrepreneur and doing this for your brand, set a deadline and consider having a business associate hold you accountable.
Lastly, as you’re constructing and managing your plan, consider the growth of the company and when additional resources will need to be added. Just another reason to create a marketing strategy that supports sales goals and aligns with company objectives – it will grow as the company grows. All stakeholders need to align so everyone is moving in the same direction.
Nothing of value comes fast.