We live in an on-demand world. We stream our TV series and movies whenever we want. We expect websites to load in under three seconds. So it’s natural that we’re just not that into a marketing strategy. It’s not fast enough. So we settle for marketing tactics.
You’ve probably heard a friend or colleague say something like “Facebook is where it’s at, I have to be on Facebook” or “I love Instagram, all my friends are on it, that’s where my business should be.”
But Facebook and Instagram are tactical tools. You might be awesome at them, but they’re often not linked to your short- or long-term business objectives. So how can you possibly expect to succeed with them?
This leads us to an obvious question: What is a marketing strategy?
Let me refer to Wikipedia for a short, simple definition:
“Marketing strategy is a long-term, forward-looking approach to planning with the fundamental goal of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.”
Tactics are the individual tasks we use to accomplish that.
Which brings us to the next logical question: How do you write a marketing strategy?
How to create a marketing strategy
Spend a little time answering these questions — it’ll pay off.
- What are your business goals?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What makes your business different?
- How will you position your product/service?
- How will you reach your ideal customers?
- How will you turn them into actual customers?
- How will you continue your growth?.
Document your answers to the following seven questions and you'll have your marketing strategy!
1. What are your business goals?
Identify why you’re in business and what goals will help you to satisfy that ‘why.’
For example, do you need to reach 0k annual profit to support your family?
Whatever your goals may be, break them down further to understand what you need to achieve.
For example, you may need to reach $350k annual revenue to achieve your profit goal, which means you need to retain 20% of your existing customers and attract 15 new ones each month.
2. Who is your ideal customer?
This is so important and it relates to my statement about tactics.
Tactics can sound great — Facebook! Instagram! — but if they’re not the right ones for your target audience, then they’re wasting your time and money. So you need to nail your target audience (or ideal customer) first.
Identifying your ideal customer will ensure you’re laser-focused on the needs and wants of the people who will help you achieve your goals.
Your ideal customer may be those who:
- Spend more at a go
- Spend less but more regularly
- Require less customer support
- Are easier or cheaper to attract
But beyond identifying who they are, you need to understand why they would want or need your product or service. How will they benefit?
Then find out if there are any purchase obstacles for them (cost, proximity, time, etc). It’s also important to find out where they spend their time online and what they read. You want to know what social media platform, right? Well find out which one they spend time on, how often they’re there and what type of content they like best.
3. What makes your business different?
Your potential customer is going to compare your product to your competition and they’ll find a difference whether you define one or not. It’s a natural way for us to make a decision. They might decide:
- You’re more expensive than your competition
- You don’t have as many reviews
- Your competitor has a better website
So your job is to identify what your unique difference is going to be and to communicate it well. Make sure that it’s the defining difference in your target customer’s mind.
For example, perhaps your difference is that you:
- Provide customer support that goes beyond expectations
- Get your product delivered faster than anyone else or provide free shipping
- Deliver a superior website experience
- Just offer a better product in some tangible way
Whatever you do that no one else in your market does, sing it loud. It will help you sell more.
4. How will you position your product/service?
You’ve identified your ideal customer and defined your unique difference. Now you need to position your product/service to complement.
Price is one positioning lever.
Set your price too high and you’ll appeal to a narrow segment that needs to be satisfied by a unique point of difference that aligns with their values. Are they your ideal customer? They may purchase less frequently and require more customer support.
Price too low and your margins go down, meaning you may need to sell more units to reach your goal of $350k annual revenue. You’ll need to find more customers ... but at what cost?
5. How will you reach your ideal customers?
You want to reach your ideal customers, not clones of yourself or your friends. So look at everything you know about them, including where they spend their time.
Maybe they’re big on social media, maybe they’re avid readers of the SmartCompany website or they may be huge Married At First Sight fans. Understanding where they are and what their interests are gives you clues about where to focus your marketing efforts.
Are they searching Google for your product or service? Content marketing might be a good strategy. Email marketing is a good low-cost option for just about every business, as the vast majority of adults still read them.
What platforms do you need to reach them? Do you need a website or a mobile app? Or will a Facebook page suffice?
6. How will you turn them into actual customers?
You’ve identified a few places to reach them. Now you have to dig into what benefits they expect to get from your product/service and any obstacles that may be in their way.
Armed with this info, write a message that will convince them to buy from you.
If your ideal customers are likely to be researching online before making contact with you, then publishing blog posts is a great way to draw them in.
Answer their questions
First, try and identify the questions that they’re asking online — possibly by listening in on Facebook groups. Then share articles on your site to answer these very questions. Your aim should be to provide the most valuable resource available to them.
Don’t let website visitors get away
Next, you need to make sure you're converting your website's visitors into customers. You need to use everything you know about your audience to guide them through your site and remove any purchase hurdles. For example:
- If they’re likely to have concerns, make sure you address them up-front
- Confirm the benefits that they can expect
Be sure to include a call-to-action on every page of your website. Whether it’s “Call for a free quote” or “Sign up for our newsletter” you don’t want them to leave without taking the next step.
Ask for customer reviews
You should also understand that your potential customers will often be looking to make a decision based on your online reviews. So it’s important to identify the influential review sites for your industry and encourage customers to review your business.
7. How will you continue your growth?
Do you have a plan to keep your customers coming back? Retaining customers is significantly cheaper than acquiring new ones.
You also need to consider whether you have the potential to expand your product/service range or your market.
You might even have plans to invest in production to reduce costs and increase your profitability.
Congratulations! Now you have a strategy
It’s easy to opt for shiny tactics over thoughtful strategy, but ultimately the effort you put into your strategy will pay off in greater profits.
If ‘time’ is what you’ve been trying to preserve by ignoring a marketing strategy, then take my advice: stop wasting it on tactics that’ll never lead to achieving your true business objectives.