Many discussions about marketing tend to focus on specifics like email marketing, search engine marketing, SEO, social media. The tactics. The important thing to realise is that none of these tactics matter – and money will be wasted – if you are not clear about some rather important things.
I’ve worked in marketing for over 20 years and I’ve had the opportunity to work with many organizations. I’ve implemented a lot of tactics. And I can assure you, the ones that worked BEST are the ones that always followed a clear strategy and plan. Knee jerk reactions, or clever ideas acted on impulse are rarely successful. Something always gets missed, impacting success levels. Tactical marketing is important. And I’m in full support of implementing tactics – but in a planned, managed fashion.
Even the best executed tactics will suffer, if you’ve not put some critical thinking before execution. Marketers are under heavy pressure to push campaigns out the door – to show activity, and to get leads filling up the CRM system – daily. We’ve all been there. But, it’s time to stop doing this. Especially in today’s marketing world with access to technology and data for improving your marketing results.
If the word strategy leaves you stuck, unsure of how to start… take a step back and ask yourself some simple questions:
1. What are our goals?
Look beyond the objectives of your campaign. Your business will have some well defined budgets and sales targets. If you don’t know what your revenue targets are, start asking. How is this broken down by product or service, or by customer segment? And most importantly, align these objectives with your marketing goals. If your marketing activity is not helping you get closer to achieving your business objectives, your time, resource and budget is being wasted. Think again.
2. Why are we in business?
Why does your business exist? If your not sure why, or if you are lacking passion for why you are in business, your team’s efforts will reflect this and be ineffective. If you don’t have a clear purpose, how can any of our teams set clear goals?
Once you define your mission, define your brand and what you stand for, you’ll be able to build a strong identity and build excitement within your organization. Don’t stick your nose up to defining a mission statement. It’s not a waste of time. It will bring clarity and a new passion for what you do, but only if you live by it. Help your people define the part they play in what you do. Give them ownership and watch results rise. Here bound to because decisions become easier and faster to make AFTER you have a clear purpose.
3. Why do our customers need us?
If your customers don’t need you, one thing is certain – they’ll stop using you. It’s that simple. If you are not sure why they need you, ask them. Take time to gain insight. Spend time with your customers, online surveys won’t give you the depth of information you need. Focus groups work, and so do site visits – as long as you know how to investigate. By spending time with your customers, you’ll uncover golden opportunities. You’ll also find ways to improve the stickiness of your products or services. Make it so they can’t live without you.
Invest time in this activity and develop clear buyer personas. If you not sure of what a buyer persona is, I’ll be writing about it in my next blog article. Nothing is more important than understanding why someone buys your products or services or why they buy someone else’s. It underpins all strategic marketing.
4. Who do we do it for?
Years ago, I had an employer whose vision was to “Paper the World” – to spread his marketing message everywhere, in the hope that it would stick – somewhere. This taught me a lot. Not because it was a good vision, but because it showed me why you need to target your marketing. I remember the day when he asked me what I’d do if I ran the business. I said I’d focus on developing one particular product. He wasn’t in support of that.
We had a product for every size of business – small, medium and large. Marketing budgets were diluted trying to sell solutions in all sectors, to all size of companies. And worst of all, we competed against a giant. In my opinion, it just was not sustainable. Today, this company is very successful and has seen tremendous growth – and they only market the one solution.
Start by determining who your services or products are helping. Look at your most profitable customers and create a clear, ideal customer profile. (At the same time, consider your competitors). If you need more help with a competitor analysis, you can read about it in a different blog article.
5) What makes us different?
Why should someone choose your product or service over another? Hopefully you have a clear answer to this question. If you don’t, then you need to assess what you’ve got. Do your research. Conduct a proper, thorough competitor analysis. And ask your customers. They’ll provide you with some amazing insight.
Once you know how you are different, your challenge will be to communicate this. And that’s not easy. Most clients that I work with were not aware of what their customers valued. Instead, they promoted what they thought was great and important. The two sometimes don’t match. Develop your value propositions. You can read more about that here.
So how do you get started?
Take some time out to answer these simple questions. You can even get your teams involved. You’ll be surprised what a motivator thinking time can be. A simple tool to kick start the development of a strategy is the SWOT analysis.
Before you start activity around your next great idea – maybe it’s LinkedIn ads or Adwords, or perhaps blogging to drive your content marketing – start with strategy. You’ll be glad you did.
Get in touch if you’d like some support with improving your marketing results.