Your business needs the RIGHT Marketing Strategy. Period.
After reading this guide, you will not need to check any other marketing resource. You’ll be able to start implementing the right strategy right away. But before we jump into all the exciting stuff I will share in this guide, I want to preface it with the following.
This guide is not just a ‘guide’. It’s a blueprint, a roadmap, a proven Business Marketing formula that’s designed to put you ahead of the game. In my humble opinion, what you learn in business marketing degrees (diplomas, bachelors and even masters) doesn’t teach you ‘real world’ effective business marketing. There are some online programs or courses people sell on platforms like Udemy or even their own online learning platforms that teach ‘business marketing’. You can literally pay $20 for a business marketing course or pay tens of thousands of dollars to get a reputable degree in marketing. Yet, find yourself not fully equipped with the tools and knowledge you need to start or grow your own business or the business that you work for.
See, I believe in free education and knowledge. I think the only cost for knowledge is your time and effort to grasp it and learn it. I have put a tremendous amount of time to develop this guide based on my 12 years of experience in sales and marketing working for global enterprises, small businesses and running my own marketing agency.
What you are getting in this guide is the bird eye view. You are getting my collective knowledge ‘unfiltered’ yet organised in a fashion that allows you to start applying these principles the very next day.
Feel free to keep checking and coming back to this guide as it will be forever evolving with the latest and best practices in the world of marketing.
So, enough of this rant and let’s jump into it.
What is a Marketing Strategy really?
“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” ~ Seth Godin
The definition of a Marketing Strategy
A marketing strategy covers the entire business’ plan to find, reach its target buyers and turn them into customers and advocates of the products or services the business provides.
Generally speaking, it involves things like the value proposition, key brand messaging and guidelines, buyer personas, key insights on target customer demographics, amongst many other components.
I don’t want to get caught up on the philosophy of what a marketing strategy is but rather share with you practical principles that help shape your marketing strategy to the best form it can be.
In saying that, here is my definition of a marketing strategy.
A marketing strategy is a comprehensive view of how a business understand, approaches, conducts, operates and executes its plans to reach their prospective customers and convert them into loyal customers and brand ambassadors.
The term ‘marketing strategy’ gets thrown around in almost every marketing conversation or business meeting. A lot of the times it’s not used accurately. So, I want to go over this to ensure that we’re on the same page.
A marketing strategy is a holistic framework or an overarching game plan that how a business creates awareness, reaches prospective customers and enables the sales process to convert leads into buyers and customers.
In the context of B2B (Business-To-Business), your marketing strategy does not cover the actual sales process that your BDMs or Sales Agents manage. Instead, your marketing strategy will do the hard work of generating leads, take them down the funnel, and enables the sales process. In businesses that don’t involve sales people (e.g. ecommerce), your marketing strategy would cover the entire process up until the purchase takes place.
A marketing strategy covers important components like your value proposition, brand messaging and tone of voice, customer personas, data on target customer demographics, and other high-level elements. It also contains your customer acquisition framework, i.e. how you generate leads and convert them.
Here is what your marketing strategy should include
- Brand Identity (e.g. tone of voice, colours, logo, etc.)
- Value Proposition (why would people buy your product)
- Market Research (data on market size, competitors, etc.)
- Buyer Persona (who your buyers are)
- Product & Pricing Strategy
- Customer Acquisition Framework & Strategy
- Sales & Marketing KPIs & Objectives
Every marketing strategy will differ and depend on the industry, product, business size, competition, and many other factors.
Advice: Don’t copy your competitors marketing strategy blindly. At best, it will get you to 2nd place in the race. It’s good to understand what your competitors’ strategies are but more important is setting a strategy that works for you and allow you to reach your business goals and objectives.
Are a marketing strategy and a marketing plan the same thing? No. So, what’s difference then, you might ask. Here is how you should view both.
The anatomy of a successful marketing strategy
In a world where consumer demand and awareness is changing and growing at an incredibly fast pace, and with new technologies constantly emerging that are impacting us in many ways, why bother have a marketing strategy? Wouldn’t it be obsolete in a few months? If you think that your marketing strategy is an everlasting document or a framework then you’re right, there is no point. But a marketing strategy shouldn’t be viewed that way. In fact, it should be always on a ‘work in progress’ status. Constant improvement is the name of the game.
What you’ll tend to find is that perhaps the core of it will remain for quite sometime, maybe a few years or longer. However, there will be many moving parts that will constantly change to adapt your business to a lot of market shifts.
The reason a marketing strategy is so important is because it gives you guidance, a sense of direction, and a framework to operate within and help keep everyone on the same page.
However, every rule can be broken when and where it becomes evident that it’s not achieving it’s intended purpose and the ultimate goal anymore.
To be effective, every marketing strategy needs to have the following qualities
- Consistent and coherent concepts
- Comprehensive & well-rounded
- Flexible and gives room for creativity
- Focused on the big picture
- Supported by research & data
- Mindful of long-term goals
- Equal emphasis on short-term objectives
What makes a marketing strategy powerful?
Every business is a unique organisation with a different set of opportunities and challenges. To formulate a powerful strategy, you need to take a deep look at as much internal and external factors, trends and components as possible.
In saying that, a lot of the time, an effective marketing strategy comes down to 3 main topics or questions you can ask yourself.
- What can contribute to the biggest increase in sales?
- What can bring the biggest improvements in profit margin?
- What products can help shorten the sales cycle and increase the velocity of sales?
Being guided by these 3 questions as you formulate your marketing strategy can help ensure you are on the right track.
Now that you know your strategy is focused on these 3 key primary elements, here are 6 other components you might want to ensure are prominent in your strategy as well.
A. Be 100% Consumer / Customer Centric
There is only one boss. The customer. Sam Walton
Keeping the consumer or customer at the centre of everything you plan is going to bring an unbelievable advantage over your competition. Whilst your competitors are somewhat or entirely focused on returns and organisation-centric goals, focusing entirely on your customers will be a winning card if not in the short-term, certainly in the long-term.
Ask yourself, what value are we giving to our customers, how do they perceive it and how does that value compare to that of our direct and indirect competitors?
Are you having your customers at the heart of your product development, messaging, human resources training and development?
B. Build a strong emotional attachment
Buying isn’t just about ‘it makes sense’. Most of the time, buying something comes down to the emotional connection the buyer has with the product and the company. Of course in a B2B context, logic tends to be the more dominant driver of purchase as you deal with sophisticated groups of people who by default are looking at things from a more objective standpoint.
For example, if you were to buy a software license that helps you improve your business processes, let’s say a CRM, you are more likely to not be emotionally attached vs. if you were to buy a home, car, or even a holiday. In saying that, an emotional bond is powerful in any type of marketing and it amplifies your chances of selling.
To establish an emotional connect, you need to understand your audience on a deeper level. This means that you have to get to the level where you understand how they spend their time, what topics they care about, what language vocabulary they use, what they find funny and interesting, etc.
Another important step to establish strong connection, is being crystal clear on why you are in the business you are in. Why you do what you do? Having a concrete idea on the purpose behind your business is instrumental.
Once you have that level of understanding, you can start crafting stories that can build these connections by creating a relationship between your purpose, product and the psychological and emotional make up of people. Stories can be in any medium, from Ads to press releases.
C. Create a strong omni-channel structure
Omni-channel marketing is the future.
marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaign.
Reaching customers in just one form or through one channel is like trying to make a 60 second elevator pitch to the CEO of a company and expecting it to work every time. High risk. You need to leverage a multitude of platforms to reach consumers and pitch to them.
Omni-channel marketing requires a solid data & analytics capability and tools to ensure your marketing campaigns are headed in the right direction.
What can an Omni-channel marketing structure look like. Let’s say you have fashion brand and you have a few stores and well as an online store. You could run
- Location targeted search ads to target consumers as they are out shopping and searching for your product
- In-store promotions interconnected with online voucher systems
- Specific re-targeting ads to people who purchased in-store
- Specific re-targeting to ads to people who purchased online
- Instagram Influencer marketing campaigns for online sales
- Upsell / Cross sell YouTube Ads for repeat sales and customers
and there are probably 1000 different ways to establish strong omni-channel marketing campaigns. You need to start somewhere, utilise data and research, and stack up your framework as you go.
D. Ensure it’s scalable and agile
There is no point in having a strong strategy that you can’t scale quickly. An important aspect of any strategy is that it allows your business the ability to scale fast. If part of your plan relies on a specific product or a partnership that requires time a substantial time to build, scaling the business will become a challenge. Ensuring that the key components of your marketing strategy are scalable is imperative.
E. Leverage positive association through partnerships
This is a lot deeper than using influencer marketing. Positive brand association is about finding key people and organisations that are help very high up in the eyes of your target audience and working out deals, partnerships or collaborations. This is not about quantity. It’s purely about hand selected a group of people and organisations that will add tremendous value to your brand perception and value.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan
A marketing strategy guides and directs your marketing plans which are frameworks or documents that outline how you are going to implement and execute various components of your marketing strategy.
Marketing strategies normally have longer lifespans than a marketing plan would as they are about the bigger picture more rather than the low level details of execution. For example, your value proposition is typically part of your marketing strategy and ad copy is part of a marketing plan. Your value proposition is not going to change every week or month but your marketing plan likely will.
We went through what a marketing strategy should cover. Here is what a marketing plan should achieve.
- Execute parts or all of the objectives in the marketing strategy
- Provide feedback and insights to the marketing department
- Achieve objectives in set timeframes
- Work in coherence with the other parts of the business
- Build on top of previous marketing plans
- Factor in the outcomes of the previous marketing plans
A marketing plan is a collection of marketing tactics. A tactic is specific action you choose to take throughout your strategy to help you reach your end goal.
To summarise, a strategy is your destination — it’s the achievable, focused plan for getting you to your target. A marketing plan is a series of marketing tactics that are concrete, measurable and definable steps within your strategy that allow you to achieve your goals.
Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Campaign
When it comes to marketing, there can be some confusion over the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing campaign. They’re both the same thing, right?
We established that a marketing strategy is a framework of your overall strategic plan. A marketing campaign is a much more granular activity that focuses short-term initiatives to achieve specific and measurable goals. For example, a marketing campaign be a Google Search campaign that generates leads and enquiries for your new online course. Or it could be a Facebook Ads remarketing campaign targeting people who abandoned carts on your online store.
A marketing campaign is a piece in the puzzle of your entire marketing strategy.
The right marketing strategy will help you reach your business goals in the shortest, most profitable and sustainable way possible. To achieve that, you need to get the fundamental concepts correct. A SWOT analysis is always a great exercise to use when creating a solid marketing strategy.
If you don’t know what a SWOT Analysis is, here is an overview.
A SWOT Analysis is a fairly simple and straight forward concept, yet if done correctly can be very powerful and impactful for your business. Every successful strategy needs to be built on a SWOT analysis because it allows you to understand where you currently are, what’s your potential and what can be detrimental to your business.
A SWOT analysis is not a marketing specific tool. It’s a general business exercise that can be applied to marketing, sales, product development and many other aspects of a business.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.
Looking at your business from this lens is a good way your aligned with your vision, goals, growth trajectories, and success benchmarks.
Strengths and Weaknesses represent the current status quo of your business, and Opportunities and Threats are about anticipated scenario that can happen in the near future which are influenced (not entirely) by external factors including competition, technology disruption, demographic shifts and even political agendas.
Let’s go into every category of the SWOT analysis to understand what it entails and how to approach it.
A strength is an area that your business does well and better than others. Your strengths should be things that set you apart and you take pride in having or doing. It could be assets, ways of doing things, processes, people, certain technology, or even values and vision, although these can be easily replicated, at least on surface.
Your strengths are what make you unique and different than your competitors but should also be things that your target audience perceive as valuable. There is no point in having a point of strength that no body cares about.
A lot of the times when a company buys another company or in mergers and acquisitions, it’s about improving the ‘Strengths’ of a company. Think about when Facebook acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. They recognised that these were areas they need to add to their portfolio of STRENGTHS.
If you are a personal brand type of business, your strengths will be things related to your experience, knowledge, skills as well as connections, etc. If you are a products or service based type of business, your SWOT analysis will entail a vast range of areas.
Here are some questions that will help you understand your strengths.
- Does my business have a clear unique selling point (USP)?
- What separates my from most of my competitors?
- Do we have exceptional human resources or collective knowledge and experiences better than our competitors?
- What assets do we have?
- Do we have intellectual property including trademarks that are more superior?
- How loyal are our current customers? Are they brand ambassadors?
Being crystal clear on your strengths will set the stage for the 3 other categories, help you develop a stronger value proposition, and enable you to develop a stronger brand moving forward.
Weaknesses are the factors or parts of your business that are holding you back from reaching your true potential. These could be internal or external factors but they are essentially things you need to overcome to thrive.
Turning weaknesses into strengths is how organisations thrive, compete and win at the highest level.
For example, back in 2013, Microsoft identified these key weaknesses.
- Poor acquisitions and investments
- Dependence on hardware manufacturers
- Criticism over security flaws
- Mature PC markets
- Slow to innovate
3 years later, they made one of the best acquisitions in my opinion when they acquired LinkedIn. This is not only diversifying their portfolio of revenue streams and industries they operate in, it’s allowed them to become a major player in the social media world with LinkedIn currently having over 700 million users.
It’s not always simple to identify what your weaknesses are. Understanding your weaknesses is an exercise where you look internally within your organisation as well as externally at all direct and indirect competitors to identify, how you compare in the key areas that are driving their success.
Here are some questions that will help you understand your weaknesses.
- Is the business showing signs of decline in sales or profits?
- Are there clear gaps or areas of ‘waste’ in the business processes?
- How does the value and uniqueness of intellectual property compare to your competitors?
- How diversified or undiversified is your product range?
- What’s your rate of innovation?
- Do you have any resource limitations including financial and human resources?
- How likely your customers would leave you and go to your competitors?
As one of the richest people on the planet and best investors of all time, puts it. “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Warren Buffett
Opportunities are about your vision and where your business is headed. How do you see your industry and the world in 2 years, 5 years and 10 years? What forces are shaping your sector and your audience behaviour, perceptions, wants and needs?
Opportunities are everywhere. It’s a question of which ones you want to capitalise on, how you can execute plans that leverage them and what ROI can your business expect from them.
Leveraging opportunities are not just on a product strategic level. They are most certainly on a marketing level. For example, what marketing channels that are growing and will present great opportunities for your business to utilise? 5 years ago, Instagram Influencer Marketing was a great opportunity for many businesses including Gym Shark which built a big part of it’s marketing strategy on it. Leveraging opportunities is about spotting trends ahead of most of your competitors. It’s about ‘first mover advantage’.
Here are some questions that will help you understand your opportunities.
- How is technology driving our market and our target audience behaviour?
- Are there any growing trends within our sector that the competition is not leveraging?
- How are people going to be communicating in 5 years time?
- Do we have strengths that can help us utilise new markets and audiences?
- What other markets, specific demographics we can reach and would be interested in what we do?
When identifying opportunities, it’s imperative to ascertain their true potential, complexity, cost of pursuing and ROI. This will give you a great view of how to prioritise them.
Every marketing strategy needs to incorporate the outcomes of the ‘Threats exercise. Threats are everything that can deter your business. These could be strategic moves by your competitors, shift in consumer demand or perception, or even a rise of technology that makes your product or service redundant or available at a cheaper price.
Threats tend to be more of external factors but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any control. Understanding what they are is the first step in dealing with them. Next, you can start building strategic plans to deal with them both in the short-term and long-term.
Being prepared is one of the best ways of dealing with threats as often they are anticipated events that may or may not happen, and the last thing you want is to not be prepared should they occur.
Here are some questions that will help you understand your threats.
- DO we anticipate changes in the laws or regulations that guide our industry?
- Are there any societal or political trends that can impact how people perceive our brand or product?
- Are our competitors making strategic plans that can impact us?
- Are there any technological developments that harm our business model or product viability?
- Do we have enough resources to deal with any kind of threats that might come our way?
Analysing threats can be confronting and uncomfortable but very crucial to be open, transparent and objective when examining. The clearer your level of awareness of the threats your organisation has, the more equipped you will be in dealing with them.
A PESTEL analysis exercise is a general strategy exercise that’s not specific to marketing but is highly recommended to do get the most out of your marketing strategy. When planning your marketing strategy it’s important to take a number of external factors into consideration to ensure your organisation is prepared for potential threats and events that might influence how you conduct your business.
What Does PESTEL Stand For?
PESTEL is an acronym that stands for 6 external factors: Political, Economic, Social, and Technological, Environmental, and Legal – to assess how they relate to your business.
In the SWOT analysis, we talked about the Threats your business can face. PESTEL looks deeper at these threats and helps you analyse them in a more concrete manner. If your marketing strategy is factoring this type of analysis, it adds another layer of robustness to it and ensure that you are well prepared.
Let’s have a look at factor more closely.
This involves areas that can be influenced by local or international politics including tax, employment, tariff & trade, consumer laws, environmental regulations, intellectual property and copyright, advertising regulations, etc.
For example, when Uber was starting out, they had many constraints in a lot of countries on how they can operate and the legitimacy of their presence and how that played with the regulations that existed at the time.
Another example is when the Australian government along with the ACCC pushed back on YouTube and Google to regulate the imbalance of bargaining power between Google and the local media companies outlets. In an effort to support it’s national interest, Australian regulatory bodies like ACCC intervened.
2020 has been a year of many faces, some of which were not very pleasant aka the pandemic which has had a significant economic impact on every nation. Economic factors such as recession or even mild factors like inflation rate, interest rates, exchange rates, fiscal policies, unemployment trends, can all have impacts on how you conduct your business.
Understanding the current and forecasted economic trends is vital for marketers as that impacts consumer behaviour, purchase trends and purchase power.
This category includes cultural aspects, demographics, religious beliefs, social fragments, traditions, etc.
For example, let’s say you are targeting Latino demographics. Florida and California are very different in their construct of their Latino demographics. The former is more skewed towards Cuban and latter is more Mexican dominated.
In Australia, our coffee culture was one of the reasons Starbucks didn’t succeed. We love our mom and pop café culture and an American coffee franchise wasn’t going to change that.
The social factors include the beliefs, customs, practices of a culture which tend to vary from state to state and city to city. There hasn’t been a better time to accurately target your audience using today’s online marketing channels. It just comes down to how much you understand about your audience and are you able to communicate effectively to them.
With an unprecedented level of change, technology is one of the most important factors to look for. In a span of 3 months a new technology might come out that can disrupt your industry and business.
The technological factors include spending on research & development, basic infrastructure level, etc.
Technology can enable businesses but can also compete with and side-line them. When you developing a marketing strategy, be sure you are aware of the latest technological trends inside and outside your target markets.
Think of climate change, waste disposal, pollution, carbon footprint, CSR (Corporate Sustainability Responsibility), etc. Maybe carbon emission restrictions don’t directly impact your business but perhaps your suppliers raise their prices as they are forced to use more environmentally options. Or maybe your target audience (especially younger demographics) expect more from you when it comes topics like saving our planet.
Environmental factors have become more crucial over the last decade than they’ve ever been. Our access to information has led to a higher level of awareness and education on a variety of topics that impact all of us sooner or later. If certain tax laws in a state or a country don’t impact you, a safer and more sustained planet certainly affects all of us.
Understanding the topics and areas that your target audience cares about is critical to your product adoption, marketing in general as well as customer loyalty.
When it comes to the legal factors, there are areas like employment legislation, health and safety, trade regulations and restrictions, and discrimination laws. You also have privacy regulations that have become quite prominent over the last 5 years especially with the GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act. Privacy laws directly impact your marketing strategy. Make no mistake about that. And you ought to understand it and how it might guide or limits your marketing
It’s imperative to stay on top of what the law entails when you are putting your marketing strategy together. If there are certain laws or legislation that are proposed and might be passed and these laws will impact how you do business, you need to be ready with plan B.
The Marketing Mix – The 7Ps of Marketing
The term ‘marketing mix’ is a fundamental marketing philosophy that’;s been around for many years. Initially, the concept looked at what was called the 4Ps – product, price, place, and promotion. Later on, 3 more Ps were added; physical evidence, people, and processes.
The philosophy of ‘Marketing Mix’ acknowledges that for a marketing strategy to be effective, it requires all ingredients to be present and at their best.
It goes without saying that the first P is about the PRODUCT. After all it’s what you market. And your marketing is as good as your product is. No matter how good your marketing is, if your product is poor, you are dead in the water. Product innovation is critical. Your ability to bring new products to the market that have stronger value proposition can help you tap into higher sales, profits and ROI.
Product innovation is a critical KPI for a lot of the successful large enterprises. Small and Medium businesses need to also incorporate that concept into their business practices. Product innovation starts with marketing. Marketing leads the process by bringing to the business the case of what they believe the market needs and wants. Product development is a collaborative initiative that involves pretty much the entire business but the marketing department tends to take a major seat in directing and leading it.
The marketing function is essentially responsible for ensuring your business makes products that have a legitimate need in the market.
The 2nd P in the marketing mix is the PLACE. It includes the location of your products or place of servicing your customers, where your product is stocked and distributed. For a service based business, the location can be where your customers access your service, e.g. bank branch. With the rise of e-commerce of the last 10 years, this P is not as important as it once was. It is still significant however.
With so much diversity today in consumer demographics and behaviours, getting the right product in the right place is quite important. You need to evaluate things the location where you operate your business and what products fit the geographic areas you service.
Your pricing strategy is one of the most important elements of any marketing strategy and instrumental for the success of any business. People buy a product or a service not just because they want it or need it, but also because they believe that their perceived value of the product is equal to or higher than what they are paying for. The key concept here is the ‘perceived value’. Perception is influenced by a ton of factors and your marketing and sales efforts are certainly one of them. Another factor that impacts the perceived value of your product is how available or scarce it is. If you are one of the very few producers of a product that everyone wants, you can bet that you can name your price and people will still buy it. However, if you offer something that is available everywhere, your price will be quite relatively low.
The role of marketing when it comes to pricing is two-fold.
- Identify ‘ahead of time’ what products your target market will want to consume that allows you to sell and promote products of higher value.
- Establish and communicate the value of your product in the most effective way to maximise your sales potential.
Promotion is all about the marketing tactics a business can adopt to increase awareness, attention and traffic to it’s products or services. ‘Promotion’ here includes everything from traditional media and word of mouth to online marketing, digital advertising and social media marketing. Understanding who you target audience (as discussed in other parts of this post) pays off tremendously especially when it comes to promoting your business through digital marketing channels. Being more ‘targeted’ means that your marketing investment on the promotion campaigns will be more effective and have higher returns.
Physical Evidence is a late comer to this mix and it’s about building credibility and trust around your product and business. Trust is a great indicator whether your business is successful or not. With endless options and an aggressive competition, consumers get to pick and choose who they want to buy from and trust becomes a key factor in their decision making process.
Trust is an invaluable brand asset and is often the product of what your business, employees, customers are saying about you. Trust builds certain expectations for prospective customers about buying your product and dealing with your business.
There are so many ways to build trust but the holy grail of them all is online customer reviews. What other people are saying about you is ultimately the biggest contributor to people’s trust and sentiment towards your business and brand.
Here are some of the main factors that contribute to brand trust
- Word-of-mouth & Customer reviews
- Good online / Website experience
- Consistent customer experience
- Brand Authenticity
Your business’ value is greatly determined by the quality of the people leading and working in it as well as their experience and output. The collective out of your people from the managing director to entry level employees are a representation and a reflection of your business and so, their experiences, attitudes, values, creative output, amongst other attributes, determine what your customers will experience.
If your people show up to work to do their job and leave, that’s an average customer experience. But if your people show up with a tremendous level of enthusiasm and passion to do what they do best, you bet your customers will feel uplifted and motivated to deal with your business.
Customer Experience = Employee Experience
Your goal is ensure your employees are empowered, encouraged, intrinsically motivated to come to work to give your business their best.
Equally important is the creative output of your employees and agency partners. Your goal is to cultivate an environment that promotes the highest level of creativity amongst the entire organisation which will contribute to better and smarter business and products.
Your business processes are a critical part of the efficiency of your organisation and the overall customer experience. The more effective your processes are, the more you are able to focus your financial and human resources on the more important and value adding tasks. Marketing automation and technology is a key component to establishing better processes because it allows you to streamline your processes and create efficiencies across your sales and marketing functions.
Improving your business processes requires great analysis of the entire process from advertising to building sales funnels, customer purchase, fulfilling orders and customer services. What you want to look for is areas where there are gaps, redundancies, time waste, that lead to higher costs and poor customer experience.
Understand your target audience
Before putting together a solid marketing strategy, it is important to understand who your target audience really is. Understanding that will shape your marketing strategy in every aspect so if there is one area you need to invest money and time in, it’s this.
What things it might impact? Well, pricing, product development, branding and tone of voice, online marketing channels, marketing automation strategy, and a lot more.
The more you zero-in on your target audience, the more effective your marketing strategy will be. Why? Because you’ll be able to create laser-sharp communication that speaks to them and help establish the right connection.
You don’t have to know every single thing, but as a rule of thumb, the more you know, the higher the ROI. Where you draw the line on how much data you should gather will come down how confident you believe you are that you have the information you need. In saying that, there is always more to learn so it will be a balance between time, speed of execution and ticking the boxes.
Difference between target audience & target market
Target market and target audience are two terms that often get used interchangeably and are certainly not the same thing. So, it’s important that we get this clear distinction out of the way.
A target market is group of people who are your potential customer or people who you believe need your product or service. They may have a lot of common traits, characteristics and demographic criteria. For example, if you are a luxury men’s gift online store, your target market can be men who are aged 18 – 40 in a who follow and are into fashion. That’s a very high level definition but for the sake of the example, let’s go with that. In this scenario, you have a good idea on who the target market is. That doesn’t mean that they will be your target audience.
Using the same example, your target audience can be some or all of the target market but also, another group of people that can potentially be buyers of the product. For example, you might conclude that one way to sell this product, is by targeting women who are interested in buying gifts for their boyfriends or husbands. Now you’ve just doubled your target audience.
In short, here is how I see it.
A target audience is who you are reaching out to and a target market is who will consume or use your product.
The Importance of a Defined Target Audience
Imagine having a friend who doesn’t like Basketball or is into Netflix and every time you see them, you bring that up. They will eventually get tired of you and will not want to listen to you anymore. But imagine that you talk to them and ask them questions about things they are very passionate about? They’ll love you for that. We almost always do that. Yet, when it comes to talking to a target audience, some businesses tend to be ‘business centric’ rather than ‘customer centric’.
Having a defined target audience is instrumental to the success of your marketing strategy because it allows you to be customer centric. How? It gives you clarity and direction that enables you to:
- Have a more targeted and tailored digital advertising and online marketing campaigns.
- Develop a much more superior customer experience that’s focused on the customer and not the business.
- Understand the subtle nuances of your target audience at a more profound level.
- Position your communication strategy to be based your audience’s problems and motivations.
After you’ve nailed who your target market is, the next step is zoom-in on who your audience is and what you’ll often find, is that you’ll have different groups of audiences and that they can’t all be grouped into one category. This why audience segmentation is very important. It allows you to group and view people in a different lens according to who they are and what they expect from your business and product.
In most cases, you’ll find that you’ll have various types of customers and audience categories. If you believe you only have one, it might be worth challenging that concept and really having a deeper look at whether you should break that group down or maybe there are other target audience groups you should be considering.
To understand and segment your target audiences, there a four main areas to look at.
Demographic segmentation is a preliminary way of segmenting your audience but not necessarily applicable all the time. When you look at demographic segmentation, you want to ascertain things age, gender, level of education, household income, occupation, etc. Depending on the source of your market research, this type of data can be readily available in many cases. And if not, a lot of market research companies will be able to do customised market research for your business to you just that. Also, most if not all advertising platforms have a high degree of demographic data which you’ll be able to get access to when you advertise as well as use to target ads by.
Geographic segmentation is about looking at your target market from a geographic perspective based on things like the town, county, city, state, country and continent they are in. This allows you to understand other important information like culture, climate, language and urbanisation of the areas they live in.
Behavioural segmentation is one of my favourite components of segmenting audiences. It’s also where the power of marketing technology comes in place. Behavioural segmentation is about understanding your audience based on how they interact with your communication and touch points including ads, social media content, website pages, emails, and a whole lot more.
For example, let’s say you sell a human resources / recruitment software and someone lands on a specific blog post that talks about how to optimise the process of hiring. On that page, there is a subscribe form that says ‘The 5 untold secrets of hiring the best talent. Download your copy’. You can fairly assume that people who subscribe are interested in ‘hiring’ and ‘attracting top talent’.
Another way of segmenting audiences in the behaviour aspect is by looking at how engaged they are. You can assess that by looking at things like email opens, email clicks, time spent on the website page, enquiries, cart abandons, etc.
Psychographic segmentation can be the trickiest component as it attempts to understand the personality traits, values, interests, lifestyle choices, opinions of people. The challenge with collecting and understanding this information lies in being able to ask certain questions and receive unbiased, transparent answers. Typically, psychographic information is collected via focus groups, surveys and interviews. However, data can potentially be skewed for a variety of reasons. Using sufficient sample sizes and controlling variables are a good way to ensure you collect accurate data.
Once you’ve done your research, psychographic information can be used to help build customer personas which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Build your buyer personas
A buyer persona is when you convert your understanding of who your target audience to a full picture / story of who they are. It’s a good idea to have a buyer persona represented visually to give more context and help your other non-marketing functions understand who your audience is.
One of my favourite customer persona examples is the MBA Student Customer Persona research conducted by GMAC.
They essentially categorised prospective MBA students to 7 main buyer personas.
Buyer personas are a representations of who your customer is and are usually portrayed using a research data, visuals, and accompanying text that explain their traits, likes, interests, and the BIG ONE, ‘MOTOVATIONS‘.
It goes without saying that developing buyer personas should be based on statistical evidence and sound research that validates your hypothesis and that it’s not just based on some assumptions. This will ensure that you are headed in the right direction.
A good rule of thumb when formulating buyer personas is to assess three data types
- Existing customers
- Prospects (people you spoke to but have not bought your product)
- People outside your current database (completely neutral candidates)
In a B2B context, your decision makers might be more than one individuals and so, you might need to come up with multiple buyer personas. Or in the B2C space, you might have several buyer personas who interested in your product range for a variety of reasons.
Here are some types of information you want to ascertain when formulating a buyer persona exercise.
- Household size
- Job functions
- Time spent on media types
- Highest level of educations
- Goals & Aspirations
- Hobbies/ Interests
- Socio & Political views
There are more data data points to collect which may or may not be important depending on your business and product. Putting this all together will ensure you have a solid idea on who your customers.
Competitor analysis is important but is not the highest on the list. My argument is that focusing on competition is good to a certain extent but can be risky and tricky sometimes. Why? A lot of the times competitive analysis get people and organisations to be influenced by what others are doing and get carried away from the real focus which is ‘your customer’. Understanding what your competitors are up to is one thing and being obsessed, intimidated or heavily influenced by what they do is another thing. If you follow what your competitors do, you’ll be at 2nd place at best. To be ahead of the game, you need to look at more critical components of the puzzle.
In saying that, doing a competitor analysis will allow you to be more strategic.
What is competitor analysis?
A competitor analysis exercise is a research method focused on understanding how competitors are positioning their businesses and products to your target market.
One of the key aspects to a successful competitor analysis is to determine who they are. If you look at all your direct and indirect competitors, you’ll go down the rabbit hole and won’t be done this time next year. SO, it’s imperative to pick the top market players that have the biggest impact and a couple of uprising competitors whom you think will be quite relevant in a year’s time.
To pick the right competitors, you want to focus on those that
- Have very similar products or services
- Have somewhat similar products but are especially focused on your target market
You’ll find that competition will fall into two main categories.
These are businesses and organisations that stand toe to toe on most if not all products and target markets. Think of Pepsi and CocaCola for example. That’s a direct competition right there. These two behemoths are constantly head-butting trying to come up with next best product, ad campaign, and 0.1% market share improvement on the expense of their rival will be celebrated for days and probably involve a bunch of employee promotions and bonuses. Who knows! But most likely that’s the case. You get the idea.
Indirect competitors are businesses that focus on the same or partially the same target market with products that can be somewhat similar but not the same. Using the same example of Pepsi and CocaCola, think of Red Bull – energy drinks. They don’t make the same product yet it can be a good replacement. Some people might switch from having a coke to an energy drink. They are essentially in the same category.
Why do you need a competitor analysis?
There a few reasons to do competitive analysis. A main reason is to evaluate how strong your value proposition is compared to others. This can provide insights on various elements of your marketing strategy like the pricing model, advertising strategy, etc. but most importantly, understand how your target market responds to different strategies and perhaps pick up some of your competitors mistakes to not fall into them.
Implementing a competitor analysis
To execute a solid competitor analysis, you need to get insightful data which may not all be available or expensive to get. Marketing research companies can provide a lot of studies and data but will come at a cost. Some data can be found online for free or negligible cost.
However, you can also do a comprehensive analysis by looking at their online media, website, communication strategy, content, ads, etc. You can also look at new product releases, rate of product introduction and pricing. There’s a lot of free information you can gather.
You can start with a spreadsheet or a template and start plotting information gathered across the top 3 – 5 competitors you want to study. Here are a few of the things you can look at.
- Price range
- Product offerings
- Social media engagement
- Content marketing strategy
- Marketing funnel
- Estimated media budgets
Tips for Competitor Analysis Success
1. Stay consistent and organised
Create a spreadsheet template or use an existing template that’s available online and customise it to suit your business model. Make sure you update it regularly and use version control and naming convention that reflect version progress. A good way of keeping it organised is to centralise the updates through one or two people.
2. Utilise powerful online research tools
There’s an abundance of marketing tools today that can give you a lot of insights. In the PPC and SEO world, there are tools like SEMRush, Buzzsumo and MOZ that can help provide a lot of data and insights on how your competitors are progressing and how they stand in the online marketing area.
3. Do a quick content marketing audit
Doing a deep dive on your competitors’ content strategy will give you good insights on how they position themselves, articulate their value proposition. Here are 4 key areas to audit.
- Social Media content
4. Examine their customer journey
Understanding their customer journey from start to finish can be challenging and you might ‘get caught’ but can be instrumental. From seeing an Ad, to signing up to newsletter, making an online purchase, receiving emails post purchase, etc., are all important parts of the journey which can help you understand their strategy.
5. Don’t let it overwhelm you
As I mentioned earlier, a competitive analysis exercise should only provide context and not be your blueprint. A lot of businesses especially who are starting their journey can get discouraged when they see their competitors having very strong strategies. Make sure you adopt the areas that you think will work for you and take it all with a grain of salt. Believe in your product and strategy but know it’s a work in progress – as always.
The RACE Model
Smart insights has developed a model called the RACE model which helps marketers plan and manage their digital marketing activities in a more structured way. In many ways, the RACE model looks like and reflects the sales or marketing funnel. It’s about the main stages a buyer will go through with your business.
The RACE is about building a strategic approach to your marketing efforts and I personally think it’s a great place to start and or add to your marketing strategy.
Here are the 4 areas or stages of the model.
The first area is about figuring out how to reach your target audience. What channels you’ll use, what budget you need, what targeting methods you’ll use, how focused and or segmented your reach strategy will be. For example, are you going to focus more on SEO, PR or go aggressive and all-in on paid Ads? How will content marketing be used and what type of content will you focus on?
The second category is about transforming the interactions you have with your target audience in the reach stage to a level of interest that allows people to ‘act’ on or respond to these interactions. These could expressing interest via enquiring, subscribe to newsletter, subscribe to a YouTube channel, share a post, etc. It’s a large area of the funnel and not all ‘act’ions are equal however, they all add up and give you a better idea on where people are in the funnel and their current level of interest.
During the ACT stage, your goal is to inspire, motivate and urge people through your different communication points. This is another area where understanding your buyers personas is very helpful.
The third stage is about eliciting a purchase decision. At a certain point after you have build enough trust, engagement, and made a strong case as to why people need what you have to offer, it’s time to pull trigger.
To ensure the ‘convert’ process is successful, you need to ensure your value proposition is clear, powerful and validated. If your content is great and engaging but the value proposition is weak, your conversions will suffer.
Another important component to high conversions is ‘trust’. How much trust have you built through the process? How have you demonstrated that your business and product are worth of their trust? This is where online reviews, user generated content, focused on explaining how their key pain points will be resolved, provided enough evidence that what you promise is what they’ll get?
The final stage is about ‘Advocacy’. After people buy your product, a whole new journey begins – the journey of advocacy. You’ve done the hard work to get them to buy your product, but will their experience with the product and your business live up to the hype?
If the answer is NO or maybe and not a loud YES, don’t expect your business to do well in the future. People spends a lot more in this day and age researching online before they make a purchase. In fact, 80% to 90% of people look at online reviews before they buy. Not surprising, right? Well, imagine after all their research, and with your great marketing and sales, they finally bought the product only to be disappointed with the quality of the product or the experience? Imagine on the other hand, that you over delivered and they were highly impressed? That’s when advocacy starts. Customer advocacy is one of the most under-rated marketing strategies. Many businesses focus on the front-end of marketing which is getting talking to new people and selling. Selling all day all night. But they forget, that your best marketing lies within your customer.
Advocacy also builds over time on a larger scale through what your business does outside it’s commercial boundaries. People are more likely to advocate for you when they see that the value you bring is wholesome and encompassing of your community and the planet.
Initiatives and acts of kindness go a long way not just for people but for businesses also.
The Marketing Funnel
We just covered the RACE model which is another version of the marketing funnel. I have a whole blog post about how to build effective sales and marketing funnels and goes into a lot more depth.
However, let me share with you my thoughts on what a funnel is and how to build one.
The basic premise of a funnel is the whole idea that you can’t expect people to trust to buy something from you on the first time you interact. That’s the harsh reality. On average, only 1% to 3% of people will buy from you on the first go. The rest is all up for grabs depe3nding on how good your funnel is. So, if your whole strategy is focused on first-touch-point sales, you are missing out big time and your sales and ROI are likely very undermined.
So, from the 2nd touch point to a purchase decision, what do you do there? The short answer is ‘a lot’.
The first step to building a funnel is to understand the main stages every or most buyers go through. Here they are.
Another classication many marketers might be familiar with is
- TOFU (Top of the funnel)
- MOFU (Middle of the funnel)
- BOFY (Bottom of the funnel)
These 3 categories refer to how early or late the buyer is, in their journey with your business.
Top-of-the-funnel refers to things like awareness, interest, learning about your business, why they need your product, etc.
Middle-of-the-funnel is about building a stronger connection, establishing grounds, further educating people about your product.
Bottom-of-the-funnel is about finally converting prospects to buyers.
The type of activities, language used, marketing channels will vary in each stage. For example, if a prospect has entered the TOFU stage, it won’t be a good idea to send them an email giving them a great offer that’s time based as a way to elicit a purchase decision. You might not even have their email at the TOFU stage. They will likely ignore you. Instead, you might want to get their attention with an engaging piece of content that is linked to what your product aims to do.
Advice: Don’t expect everyone to have the same conversion pace. Some people might be already further down the funnel when you first encounter them. Some people take time to make decisions. To be able to have a personalised communication that factors in a variety of consumer behaviour is what will make your marketing a lot more powerful and scalable.
This is where Marketing Automation, in my opinion, excels the most. It allows you to treat every person as a unique individual and be able to personalise your communication with them – AT SCALE.
Develop the Right Goals & Objectives
A strategy won’t be successful without setting goals and objectives. After all, that’s why you have a strategy – to achieve something. How do you set goals for your marketing strategy?
The best place to start is going high level and looking at the business goals.
- Are you looking to grow sales in certain regions?
- Is there focus on customer retention?
- Are you looking to increase profits in certain products?
- Is there a new product launch that you want to ensure is successful?
From there, you need to translate the main business goals to marketing goals.
- Achieve a total reach of 10 million people or view on our product ads
- Generate 10,000 new customers in the next 6 months
- Increase average sales value by 20%
- Increase sales from SEO by 50%
- Improve the Marketing ROI by 10%
- Improve the ROAS by 20%
You need to be able to have a clear path of how a business goal translate to a marketing goal. For example, your business needs to increase it’s sales in the 6 months by 50%. That’s the business goal. Okay. The simplest thing to think of is ‘well, let’s ramp up our marketing campaigns by 50%’. While that might work, more often than not, it doesn’t. Scaling and growth are often non-linear. In other words, to get the same results you are getting today on a bigger scale, is easier said than done and can cost more. This is where your marketing strategy is most important. In this example, you might want to add, test and validate new channels or new ways to reaching or converting leads. You might say, well, if we increase conversions on current campaigns by 5%, and add 2 channels we haven’t used before, and run a separate campaign to activate old leads, and another campaign to upsell existing customers, we can very well exceed the 50% sales increase goal.
The basic yet most powerful way to set a goal is the very well known method called ‘SMART’. What is a SMART goal?
1. Specific: What exactly are the goals? How are these goals going to help us achieve the ultimate business goals?
2. Measurable: How can you verify that the goal has been met? What methods will you use to measure success?
3. Achievable: How likely this goal is going to be achieved? There are two schools on this. The 1st is, set high goals that will only push you to get better results. The 2nd is, set lower goals you can achieve rather than higher goals you don’t think you can achieve. I lean more towards goals that are somewhat realistic but will certainly push you out of your comfort zone.
4. Relevant: How does the goal relate to the overarching strategy? How does it help you achieve the main business goals?
5. Time-bound: In what time frame will you need to achieve the goal?
Translate goals to objectives
The next step is to think about how your marketing goals can be met. A goal is achieved when certain things come in place. These ‘things’ are the objectives – which are conditions, milestones or actions that all build on top of each other to help achieve the goal.
For example, if your goal is to get 10,000 new customers in the next 6 months, the objectives can be (and these are just rough and hypothetical examples)
- Get 2,000,000 product ad views
- Get 5,000,000 product post organic views
- Uplift ads click-through rate by 20%
- Increase landing page conversions by 15%
- Increase customer up-selling by 30%
Convert objectives to marketing campaigns
The final step is about converting objectives to winning marketing campaigns. The diversity and abundance of marketing channels, campaign types, ad platforms, makes it challenging to pick the right campaigns. That’s just platform and campaign type selection. We haven’t even talked about messaging, ad types, bidding, and the list goes on. Now, add to the social media, and 50 other ways of reaching your target audience, it starts to get overwhelming. We haven’t even talked about funnel types and marketing automation. Fair to say I’ve made my case, right?
The point is, there is a lot to do and a 100 ways to reach your destination. With complexity, you need a seasoned marketing agency to help you set up the right campaigns to achieve your objectives and marketing goals.
If you’d like to get some help or have SAVV Digital run your campaigns, please feel free to get in touch and I’ll be happy to have a session to see if we can work together and whether we can help you or not.
Anyhow, when you decide on the campaigns, you need to consider a few factors and gather some data to make the right decisions. Here is what you need to look at
- Required reach size (impressions, views, clicks, visits)
- Cost per reach (CPM, CPC, CPV)
- Cost per lead
- Cost per sales
- Conversion rates
Start by looking at your current data as well as your sector benchmarks to get a sense of where you at. If you are close or behind industry average, good news, there is a lot of room to improve without spending more on ads. If you are above industry average, you can still improve but the focus should be more on expanding in other territories.
Develop a Marketing Budget
Why is a marketing budget important?
A marketing budget helps business owners, investors, and marketers understand the risk involved, investment needed, and potential upside. In my experience, over 80% of marketing budgets are over estimated on the sales side and underestimated on the cost side. Makes sense, right? Whoever is preparing the budgets is always trying to show their stakeholders that life will be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a good practice to have a realistic budgeting process.
From another angle, your marketing budget is a great reference to use now and in the future to make necessary adjustments and use to ascertain and measure whether your new initiatives and plans are performing better or worse than others and versus your expectations.
How to develop the right budget
So, how do you determine the right budget? The best way to determine how much you need to spend is by working it backwards. What I mean by that is start with your end goals. These essentially boil down to Sales and Profits.
How much sales you want to achieve and at margin? Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you sell an online coaching program. It costs $4,000 per seat (or person). Your business has a healthy profit margin of 25% but you want to increase sales from $100,000 to $200,000 per month.
At the moment, your campaign has the following metrics
- Ad spend = $10,000
- CPC = $2
- Landing Page Visits = 5,000
- Conversion rate = 5%
- Average Sale = $400
Sales = (Ad Spend / CPC) X Conversion Rate X Average Sale Value
Sales = ($10,000 / $2) x 5% X $400 = $100,000
To increase sales to $200,000, you may attempt a few things.
- Increase conversion rate by optimising several parts of your campaign (This will very likely not get you to double sales unless you improve conversions by a 100%)
- Increase ad spend using the same marketing channel mix
- Increase ad spend by trying new ad channels
To put together a full marketing budget, you need to consider several other components besides your ad spend. Here are the other cost items
- People (internal and marketing agencies)
- Tools (Any marketing tools you need)
- Production (print, creative and video production)
Measure Your Performance
Measuring performance helps you close back the loop and understand if your marketing budget is being met. Are you over-achieving, are you under-achieving and where are the gaps?
What is performance marketing?
Performance marketing has become an undeniable area of marketing over the last decade. With rise of digital marketing and access to important data, it’s become trivial that you should be measuring a ton of performance metrics to ascertain where the gaps are in your digital marketing strategy and how to improve.
Performance marketing is simply about measuring all of your marketing channels, marketing tactics, funnels, etc. along with attribution methods, and benchmarking them against your own standards, aspiration and industry standards.
What Metrics to Focus On
It’s a shift in paradigm where the business stops looking at marketing as a one big engine part and instead, inspect every part of the engine from the quality of petrol entering the car to the horse power, engine size, etc. In performance marketing, that translates to a set of metrics including the following
- Cost per click (CPC)
- Cost per 1000 impressions (CPM)
- Cost per lead (CPL)
- Cost per acquisition (CPA)
- Conversion Rates
That’s on a very high level. Then there is a suite of specific marketing metrics to track where some are even contextual to the ad / media platform you are using. This blog post goes through the various marketing metrics you need to understand.