What is a marketing strategy and why does it matter?
In today's post we’re going to teach you how to create a marketing strategy. We’ll also explain the key differences between a marketing strategy and marketing campaign. Then we’ll walk you through the steps necessary to create your strategy.
By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll be fully equipped with the know-how to build an effective marketing strategy for your business.
Most businesses today have a digital presence and get large quantities of customers from online channels. But the online world can quickly become overwhelming. With so many options for marketing your business, how do you know which ones to choose?
Like so many things in life, the key is to have a plan. In marketing, that means assessing your major priorities and crafting a strategy around them. And not just any strategy. To leverage the digital landscape to the max, your marketing strategy needs to be efficient, lean and agile.
The marketing strategy has been a foundation of business for decades. In essence, a marketing strategy is a set of steps to help your business reach a specific goal in a focused and achievable way.
The strategy begins by evaluating where your business is already succeeding, while also considering any weak spots and potential challenges on the horizon. To be successful, you should conduct this evaluation with your objective already defined.
Marketing strategy vs marketing campaign
With so much terminology flying around, it's easy to get confused over the subtle differences. That’s why we’re here to make sure you're crystal clear on what they are.
Many people think that a marketing strategy is simply an extensive to-do list. But in fact, it's much more than that. It's easy to fall into the trap of working towards different and competing priorities, which usually leads to confusion and eventual failure.
The marketing strategy is a high-level plan that ties in directly with the objectives of your business. Think of it as a battle plan. In any kind of business, your job as a marketer is to show your potential customers how your product or service solves their specific problem.
There’s no one size fits all, perfect marketing strategy. But every strategy should include the following:
- Research on your industry and your main competitors, including an evaluation of how your business measures up to them. It's also useful to know the main threats and opportunities in the wider industry.
- Research on your target audience, including what your ideal customer looks like. Ideally, this should go beyond basic demographics. You should include details on their buying habits, preferences, goals and motivations.
- Key decisions on which marketing tools and techniques make the most sense for reaching your target audience. For example, identifying which social media platforms they spend most of their time using. If your target audience is mainly on Facebook, it doesn't make sense to plan a marketing campaign on LinkedIn.
In contrast to a marketing strategy, a marketing campaign refers to the numerous smaller actions that help you achieve the objectives of the strategy.
Think of the campaign as the deliverables that relate to specific aspects of the battle plan.
A marketing campaign normally focuses on promoting one product or service to one segment of your target audience for a specific period of time.
For example, a campaign could involve creating Facebook ads to promote a particular lead magnet over a certain period of time, with the goal of getting new signups on your email list.
How to create a marketing strategy
Conduct a situational analysis, or SWOT
The logical first step in creating a marketing strategy is to figure out where your firm stands in relation to the competition. At the same time, it's also important to understand the wider landscape within which your firm is situated, so you can identify opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead.
There are plenty of templates and guides online for creating a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Here’s a summary of our favourite key questions to get you started.
- What are your company's main strengths?
- What does it do especially well?
- What is your company known for?
- What resources does it have access to (including human resources)?
- What is your company doing wrong?
- Where is it experiencing failure?
- What do outsiders see as your company's main weakness?
- What negative factors might get in the way of growth?
- What market trends could the company tap into?
- What technological changes might benefit the company?
- What political changes might benefit the company (e.g. policy shifts)
- What are the main obstacles your company faces?
- Does the company have any financial issues?
- Which competitors are particularly potent?
- Are there any market trends or political shifts that might inhibit growth?
Define your marketing mix according to the 4Ps
The 4Ps is a classic marketing model, composed of product, place, promotion and price. Defining these four options in your marketing strategy helps to make sure that your offering is meeting specific customer demand.
Think of it this way. You create a product (or service) that a certain group of people want. Next, you make sure that it's available for sale in a place they visit regularly (in digital terms, this could be Facebook or Instagram). Then you make sure that they know about it at a time when they need or want it most. Finally, you price it at a level that they’re willing to pay.
Define your key digital marketing objectives
After you've gathered a 360° picture of your company's current situation, the next step is to define your key digital marketing objectives.
For best results, you should follow the SMART framework. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Getting these objectives right is critical, because all your marketing campaigns will be designed around them.
Here’s an example of how the SMART framework might look in practice:
- Specific: For example, new email signups.
- Measurable: Includes a sensible target number, such as 100 new email signups in a month.
- Attainable: Target numbers should be feasible, according to industry benchmarks and your company’s past performance (e.g. aiming for 10,000 email signups in a month probably won’t make sense for a new business).
- Relevant: Each digital marketing objective should relate back to wider company goals.
- Timely: Each objective should include a specific time frame for completion (e.g. 1 month).
Define your main target audience
One of the keys to marketing success is having clarity over who your target audience is. This means going beyond just the basic demographics to consider their needs, desires, habits and expectations. You can use this information to create buyer personas.
After defining your audience, you can then position your product or service in a way that resonates with them. Aim to answer the question: “why should they choose you (and not the competition)?”
Select the best marketing channels to reach your audience
Before you start planning out your various marketing campaigns, it’s essential to decide which digital marketing channels are the best fit for your audience. Here's a quick rundown of our favourites.
The main PPC ad providers these days are Google search and Facebook. Other platforms offer ads too, but this pair dominates the market. These ads are extremely powerful. They allow you to get your product or service in front of people who never knew it existed. But getting them right can be tricky, so it's a good idea to hire a professional to launch your first PPC campaign.
Organic social media
Reaching your customers organically on social media is another excellent channel. In particular, the 2020 pandemic has meant more people using social media than ever before. It's a perfect opportunity to build community around your brand. The key to success is to focus on relationships first rather than sales. For example, that might mean creating a free Facebook group to interact with your audience and offer them useful advice related to your product or service.
This is an excellent marketing channel, because the people on your list have already decided they want to hear from you. Key tips include personalising your emails as much as possible, writing snappy subject lines, and providing lots of free value before selling.
Content marketing & SEO
Creating evergreen articles that solve the problems for your audience is an excellent way to keep them coming back to your website. Content marketing showcases your expertise and builds trust with your audience. Getting your SEO right is important to ensure your content gets found, but don't sacrifice readability in the process.
The Buzzbar ‘Hot Take’
Your success on TikTok is likely closely tied to your overall commitment to digital activity. Unless you're a using a very particular strategy or a niche industry, the safer option would be investing time on a website or Instagram page before TikTok growth right now. It’s never been easier to grow fast now thanks to ads and established routes to action but TikTok’s future is by no means certain at this stage. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.