As the saying goes, success is 90% preparation and 10% perspiration, and nowhere is that more real than in the world of business. Launching and growing your business can technically be done without a marketing strategy, but you won’t get the profitability and efficiency you need to make it sustainable. That’s because marketing is a vital part of how you’ll reach and convert customers — and if your strategy is flawed or nonexistent, you’ll likely be wasting time and money on ads that no one clicks and social media accounts that no one follows.
“All right, all right,” you say, “I know how important marketing is”. Many business owners have trouble creating a strategy that can help them reach their goals, especially if they’re marketing online as most businesses do. Today’s marketing is like the mythical Hydra: it’s continuously growing new heads. To market effectively, you must have a robust, agile strategy in place. Here’s how.
What is a Marketing Strategy?
In this article, we’re focusing on digital marketing, only because it encompasses so many contemporary forms of marketing. In fact, it’s what we’re doing right now! A digital marketing strategy, then, describes the core problem you need to overcome, a series of goals to support your business, and at least one tactic for each goal. (Note that each tactic may support multiple goals.) Each strategy helps a larger strategic plan.
For example, your goal might be to get 100 people to sign up for your webinar. Email marketing is a common strategy to drive signups for the webinar. Therefore, a marketing strategy encompasses a series of emails and how you want them to support that goal. These are the tactics you need to implement to get people to open the email, click the link, and register for the webinar.
Each strategy fits into your overall strategic plan. For example, you might be running a webinar registration campaign on your social media as well. And a webinar itself is a strategy that leads participants to book a call with you, purchase your product, etc. As you see, each strategy needs to complement the others, and each strategy depends on the successful execution of tactics. All this works together to support your goals.
The Foundation of a Good Marketing Strategy
Before you start crafting campaigns, you must understand whom you’re trying to reach. Even businesses that have been operating a while can struggle when it comes to defining their target audience. After all, you want as many customers as possible, right?
The problem is twofold: one, it’s simply impossible to please everyone, and marketing materials that attempt to do so often come across as muddled or insincere. Two, it’s much harder to be competitive when you’re competing with everyone. By finding your niche, you’re better able to target the people who will become your most loyal customers — and that means less spending and more profits for you.
It all starts with identifying your personas. These are hypothetical people with specific characteristics, needs, and desires. Ideally, you build your personas based on real data from market research, but you can also draft your own. The key is to figure out how you can uniquely reach each persona in a way that cuts through the noise. For example, “entrepreneurs” is not a persona. If you try to target all entrepreneurs, you will never stand out in the crowd. “Entrepreneurs aged 25-40 with food-based businesses in the United States” is a good persona. After you’ve narrowed down your personas’ attributes, think about how you’re offering addresses their key pain points.
Once you’ve identified personas, it’s time to figure out your channels. Perhaps you’ve already set up your website and social media accounts. That’s fine, but make sure that you align each channel with the relevant personas. For example, “entrepreneurs aged 25-40 with food-based businesses in the United States” probably spend more time on Twitter and Instagram than TikTok and Snapchat. Decide now what type of content you will push out on each channel and which individual strategies you will deploy. As we mentioned, your mailing list can send people to a webinar, but you may also want to tweet out the registration link. Map out how each channel will support each of your goals.
Finally, create a timeline. You don’t have to plan all your strategies until the end of time, but you should have a general idea of when you’ll be deploying each one. If your offerings are time-sensitive, e.g., a product launch or book release, work backward from that date. Set incremental goals, such as seeking a certain number of pre-orders before the release. Then, plan out your marketing content to support those goals.
For everything else, create a regular, predictable schedule. You may wish to publish a blog once per week, post on social every weekday, or release an e-book every quarter. There are no right or wrong answers as long as the schedule is sustainable and aligned with your goals. For example, it’s likely not feasible to get 1,000 blog visitors per month if you only publish once every few weeks.
Content is King
The bread and butter of digital marketing is content marketing. Technically, digital marketing encompasses online advertising, but your overall strategic plan should focus on content marketing. That’s because content marketing is considerably cheaper than strategies such as PPC advertising. Think about it: once an ad campaign ends, it’s over. You’ve either met your goal, or you haven’t. However, a blog or e-book stays online for years, continually drawing in traffic and, if done well, driving conversions. That’s a massive ROI on the time commitment needed to write and publish the blog.
The other brilliant benefit of content marketing is that it builds a community around your brand. Let’s face it: no one likes ads. Many people simply ignore them. That’s not to say paid advertising doesn’t work for some businesses. Still, the results are typically short-term — or they feed into a broader strategic plan that focuses on brand-building through content marketing.
Great content encourages trust among your audience and gets them excited about what you have to offer. People enjoy commenting on social media, sharing blogs, and watching videos. By joining the conversations that your potential customers are already a part of, you meet them where they are, rather than making them click on an ad to get to you. That kind of engagement builds an organic following — something that money can’t buy.
Defining Your Value
Unfortunately, building great content doesn’t mean the right people will come. Anything you put online is bound to get some views, but the difference between great content and great content that converts is its appeal to your personas. For example, if you’d like to appeal to your “Entrepreneurs aged 25-40 with food-based businesses in the United States,” you wouldn’t write a blog that describes the best professional lawn care tools. To provide value to your potential customers, you must think about problems you can solve, then craft your content accordingly.
Moreover, you need to roll your unique offerings into your content. If you want to help those food-based entrepreneurs solve their problems, you need to position your brand as one that understands them more than anyone else. Again, this is where content comes in. The copy on your website, the photos you post on Instagram, and your overall tone when communicating with your audience must resonate with your target audience. If you’re trying to reach older millennials and Gen X entrepreneurs, you should skip the teenage slang, but you can confidently use entrepreneurial terms such as “ROI” and “capital.”
Your overall strategic plan should describe your messaging strategies in detail. It’s easy to write from your perspective and assume it will get your audience inspired and ready to buy, but it’s rarely that simple. By defining your value and understanding your personas well enough to cut through the noise, you can position your brand as the unique solution they need, rather than just another business trying to get their money.
Putting It All Together
So, you’ve laid the foundations for your strategic plan. You’ve described your personas, identified your channels, and set your goals. Then, you developed individual strategies, each with its tactics, to support those goals on those channels. You’ve planned out how and when you will execute those strategies and crafted content to suit them. The final step is relatively simple: to stay agile.
The agile approach comes from the software development world, but it applies to most aspects of any business. It simply means that you are continually feeding new data into your plan and iterating new solutions. The sad fact is that the marketing strategy you spend so much time developing might get you significant results in one quarter and completely flop the next. Marketing, especially digital marketing, is an ever-changing game.
As the rules shift, so must your strategies. Agile marketers are more than twice as successful as non-agile ones, so be willing to shake up your campaigns if they’re not meeting your goals. Collect data like your life depends on it. And most of all, be ready to abandon a failed tactic and develop one that delivers results.