Marketing Strategy Options, Guide & Steps
Strategy, often like marketing, is one of those things we know we need, but we are not sure how to go about building it or executing against it. The strategy serves a key role in helping leaders huddle around a common game plan. It is often the foundation for a business’s purpose and vision to be communicated to the organization.
Your team craves purpose, strategy, and vision. People seek leadership and want to follow a well-communicated set of goals.
The strategy is missing from many small businesses. Many small businesses grow organically. The referral drives the sales engine. The customer’s needs drive service delivery. Service delivery is built on trial and error. Many technicians-turned-entrepreneurs find themselves working too many hours and wearing too many hats. Until eight employees, and eleven years later, you find yourself, as an owner or manager wondering, what’s next? How do I get out of working late nights and weekends? Where am I taking this business? How do we differentiate our services?
And when you wake up in the middle of the night wondering how you got to where you are today, it’s time for a conversation around purpose, strategy and vision. A strategy is simply a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. (dictionary.com)
As a marketing professional, you may wonder why so much emphasis on strategy. I realized early in my career that the only way to really move the needle was to connect marketing to the overall goals and strategy of the organization. To do this, the businesses I worked with had to have a strategy in place, and quickly I was confronted with the fact that many organizations lacked strategy and vision. As a result, marketing is often a one-off event and blamed quickly when sales flatline and leads sit stagnate in the CRM.
Why is a strategy so difficult to implement AND follow?
The truth is that what got most businesses to this point where they are today is likely not going to get them to the next level. If, as feel a leader you are feeling stuck, join the fray. Former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani once said, “change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy.” Many of our best-intended investments in new technologies and people are centered around the idea that this next move will help make things better. We use “hope” as a crutch for believing that something has got to be better than what we are doing today. Besides, (and I hear this one often) “it’s worked so far.”
Growth focused business leaders know that the only way to grow is to have a strategy that can be followed and communicated internally. Henry Mintzberg said, “Strategy is a pattern in a stream of decisions”. And it’s that stream of decisions that often prompt many business leaders to seek out marketing help to help their business grow both top line revenue and market share.
What role does Marketing plan in the overall strategy of the business?
“A marketing strategy is a business’ overall game plan for reaching people and turning them into customers of the product or service that the business provides.” (Investopedia.com) Unlike the overall strategy of the business, the value proposition and key marketing messages grow out of its marketing strategy, and this strategy has to be supported by a plan that will lay out timelines, tactics, resources, and budget.
Why do we fail to create a marketing strategy or skip it all together?
There is no one easy answer to this question because not every organization is the same. That’s the short answer. Here are some of the most common answers we have encountered over the years:
Many businesses don’t know where to begin.
- This is probably the most common reason. When you don’t know where to begin, you sometimes fail to ever get started. Formulating a marketing strategy can be daunting and most technology-focused leaders will quickly admit their own shortcomings in the way of marketing, which leads to the next point.
Many businesses are not sure what is the marketing strategy.
- Marketing strategy, unlike business strategy, looks at a very specific sub-set of outcomes. Understanding where to focus your marketing efforts requires a solid understanding of the role of marketing and what it needs to achieve. (Psst: Keep reading. We answer this one below.)
Many businesses lack time and resources.
- This is usually the default excuse for not having a solid marketing strategy in place. Anyone who has started a business understands what it means to lack time and/or resources to do their jobs better.
We got by this far without it.
- Status quo keeps many leaders paralyzed from moving forward. “If it’s worked this far, why won’t it continue to work?” Right? We’ll let time answer that question for you.
Tried it in the past and it did not work.
- Just because you tried it in the past does not ensure that the strategy was executed well or executed long enough to have an impact. The smallest tweaks and adjustments to a marketing strategy and can have an enormous impact. Many times marketing tactics go unmeasured, making it difficult to declare something unsuccessful when the definition of success was never determined in the first place.
“We don’t believe it works.”
- If you don’t believe it will work, it probably will not.
Steps to Building a Marketing Strategy That Will Get You from Somewhere to Your Intended Goal
Most businesses do not start from zero. They have tried a handful of marketing tactics and campaigns in the past. For many of the reasons stated earlier in this blog, these businesses find themselves desiring or investing into marketing without a solid strategy in place.
Here are our recommended set of steps for bolting on marketing strategy to existing marketing work or for building a marketing strategy from ground zero.
- Decide what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to gain visibility? Are you trying to generate leads? Do you need a layered marketing approach to grow over a period of time? Simply put, decide what you want to accomplish and be as detailed as you possibly can. Avoid statements such as, “We want to grow top-line revenue by 20%.” You can only grow and build on what you have in place today. If your last five years of top-line revenue are less than 5%, marketing alone will not solve this problem. Try and choose goals that are both obtainable and align with the patterns you have experienced in the past.
- What’s worked in the past? As stated in the prior point, it is reasonable to believe you can build on prior successes. Too many times we see business leaders “throw out the baby with the bathwater” because they did not take time analyze what has worked it the past. Take the extra time to go around the table gathering input on what has worked. You are going to experience considerable more success by building on what has worked rather than starting from zero.
- Where are the holes? Similar to understanding point two, you also have to understand what does not work. Where are the holes in your systems, knowledge, internal resources, tools? Whatever the case, take a healthy inventory of what’s missing. You may not be able to fill all the holes at once, but clearly understanding what needs to be filled will allow your team to prioritize and plan for future investments.
- Instead of Interrupting, work on attracting? So many of our marketing tactics include email interruptions. We are constantly bombarding prospects and customers with messages about products and services that they may not care about. In addition, most of our prospects and customers begin their buying journey online with a Google search. When they type in that keyword topic, do they find you? Do they find purposeful, relevant information that would lead them to your services? Stop interrupting potential customers, and attract them to thought leadership that will lead them to trust you as a resource for solving their problem or pain point.
- Decide, how you will attract, convert, nurture, and keep client’s sticky to your services? So, we are giving away the keys to the kingdom on this one and tell you exactly what the role of marketing is, and where to place your efforts. The role of marketing is to do four distinct things:
- Attract visitors and potential buyers that have never heard of your services and do not know who you are, WHEN they are seeking help/answers.
- Convert visitor to leads when they are doing their due diligence. Traffic and awareness to your brand are pointless if the prospective buyer never engages with you. A solid strategy around converting prospective visitors and potential leads is a must.
- Nurture leads – simply put, the role of marketing is to nurture leads to a sales-ready conversation. Not all leads are at the same place in their buying journey. Marketing’s role is to nurture and educate leads until they are ready to engage with sales.
- Keep your brand sticky. The clients you worked so hard to win and the same clients you want to keep. Marketing plays an important role in helping current clients continue to realize the value of your services.
- Build a marketing plan that includes all 4 roles of marketing. While this seems obvious, many times our marketing plans begin with tactics rather than strategy around the roles marketing fulfill. Building small strategies/action plans around each role of marketing will keep you focused on reaching your intended goal.
- Measure and tweak. Marketing is a marathon, not a race. You will see better results when you continue to improve on what you can achieve today. Measuring and benchmarking performance month over month is one of the best and most efficient ways to measure success. Strategizing on how to tweak that success for better numbers or outcomes will get you farther ahead than any vendor-backed, one-off marketing campaign.
- Allow your value prop and key differentiators to flow out of your strategy. “Focus on the right message for the right people at the right time.” (Russell Glass) Your value proposition and key differentiators are a natural result of a well-thought marketing strategy.
Marketing strategy is the first step to achieving systematic and measurable results from your marketing investment.
Your marketing strategy is a reflection of your business growth goals closely aligned to your revenue targets. Marketing strategy allows the entire organize (including sales) to align to set of shared goals, targets under an established game plan that can be tweaked, measured and repeated.
If you are struggling to build a marketing strategy that is aligned with your business goals, then let’s start a conversation. The easiest way to start getting the results you are after is to start a conversation around what you are trying to achieve.