Before you go all out and buy an impressive billboard on the busiest part of town, you need to develop a comprehensive plan that’ll guarantee you that’s the absolute best way to go. Having a clear cohesive blueprint of what you will do, will keep you from making inefficient efforts, wasting your money using channels that will not reach your target, and will keep your team aligned as to what you should be achieving.
Taking the time to develop a strategy helps you have a clear set of goals whether it’s generating and captivating new leads or increasing your sales; encourages a constant revision of the most cost effective tools you can use to achieve your objectives; helps differentiate yourself from your competition in your target’s mind; and will guide all your campaigns backed by an actual study. Though It might feel a bit intimidating, there are a few key elements in which you could focus to make your planning process a lot more manageable:
- It all starts with research.
Know the market, forecasts and trends:
Thankfully, we don’t exist in a vacuum. Unless you inhabit a secret dimension the rest of the world can’t see, you’ll be selling your product in an existing market that behaves in a certain way.
Though intuition plays a big role in marketing, you need to accompany it with actual researched facts. Take the time to calmly observe what’s going on all around and stay up to date with all the information being gathered by experts in your field. You might have a feeling that you should focus on the desktop version of your website this year, so you go out and get a web designer and a week later you come across a Google study about mobile browsing overtaking desktop browsing and deeming acceptable having a mobile-only version of a website. It’s not exactly like you threw your money down the virtual drain, but you certainly could have put it to better use had you done your research properly.
The trick is in knowing how your field is moving, where it is expected to go and how you can seamlessly move along with it. Don’t let events you could have foreseen catch you off guard.
Keep an eye on any available tools
Maybe you’re the web designer hired to work on the website in the previous example. You’ve got all the information, got your quote approved, designed the website and now you’re outsourcing all your code needs to a programmer. Guess what? You just lost the opportunity to make more money and save time. You could have easily bypassed the programmer by using Adobe Muse, or Google Web Designer, or Macaw, just to name a few of the design focused software options that also work on the code for you. The point being that if you don’t do the research for your trade and stay updated with the best available tools you might be needlessly working more and spending a lot more money than you should.
Take the time to also take a look at yourself
Once you know your market, you have to be aware of your place in it. One of the best ways to do this is by doing a SWOT analysis -strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats- The strengths and weaknesses are all about the inner workings of your business, while the opportunities and threats are given by the market and how it affects your business. What you should be striving for is minimizing your weakness and threats while fortifying your strengths and opportunities.
- Keep your enemies close…
Do you know what your competition is doing right now? Go ahead and take the time to visit their website. Knowing how they’re communicating, what they’re offering and who’s listening should become a habit. The benefits are twofold:
- You get to avoid any mistakes you see them make.
- You know exactly what they’re selling and work towards making an even better offer.
Another question you need to ask is: who’s listening to what they have to say and how do they come across? Remember you’re fighting for the same target audience. You need to know if they’re gathering more attention than you and if they are, you have to know why so that can correct any mistakes you might be making.
- Get intimate with your target to develop your strategy.
The people buying your product, will be the compass guiding the direction of your marketing efforts. You need to know how to find them, and how to interpret all the insights you gather from them so that you have a clear understanding of what their needs are and how you can solve them.
Although you might think you’re selling to everyone and anyone who’ll buy your product, the truth is that if you want your marketing advertising efforts to be effective, you need to be a lot less broad than that. You need to segment your target into subgroups with common interests and needs. So how do you get started?
- Demographic segmentation
You’ll be segmenting according to age, gender, religion, family size, income, education, location, ethnicity and even occupation. The trick is to create a buyer persona.
- Psychographic segmentation
Here we get into a more complicated territory. You’ll be segmenting based on personality, traits, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles, so instead of asking if your consumer is married, you’ll be asking if he likes going to movie premieres or prefers waiting till they stream on Netflix. The best way to do this is by directly asking your best clients about their habits and keeping a close eye on your metrics and the research done by others.
Opportunities and strategy
Once you know your target’s habits and needs, you should look for opportunities. Let’s say your product is an energetic drink and through your segmentation you’ve discovered your target’s composed of 18-23 male and female college students, active Instagram users, concerned with making it to their earliest lectures while keeping an active social life (i.e. Partying till the wee hours of the morning on a Tuesday while having to attend to an 8am class). Further exploring their habits, will highlight final’s week as prime time to intensify your marketing efforts as they’ll be even more interested in what you have to offer. All the information you’ve gathered is telling you to deploy an Instagram campaign that reminds them you’ll be a great allied to help them stay awake while they go through the semester’s end.
Another thing that might help you is thinking of what characteristic does your product have that will make it stand out from the competition? Or that your target will value the most? Remember your target will tell you where to go and also the vehicle you should use to get there, are they more likely to spend their time on Facebook? Twitter? Would they be more likely to listen if the message is coming from a respected influencer?
Be creative and resourceful use all available mechanisms to reach your audience. This might mean using multiple platforms, favoring storytelling instead of traditional sales pitches or guerilla marketing tactics.
- Segmenting your target too much. Just as you don’t want to cast your net too wide, you don’t want to segment so much you end up advertising to 3 people in the whole world.
- Making assumptions about your target’s habits.
- Not interacting with your target. Customers favor brands that value feedback and user generated content. Don’t just throw information at them, make them a part of the conversation.
The devil in in the details – set your objectives, timeline and budget.
You can’t be efficient if you don’t have a clear goal. Ponder the reasons you have for making a strategy plan and what you want to achieve. Think of what area of your business could use some work. Let’s take a look at some of the most common goals.
- Brand positioning
Think of this as buying real estate within your consumer’s mind. You’re focusing on making sure your consumer immediately associates your brand with an specific word, feeling, experience, or product. This process will happen whether you work on it or not, but if you’re proactive about it you can make sure you’re positioned in a positive manner.
- Launching a new product
So you have a new product. Your goals should include making sure new and existing customers are aware of the new launching, and driving sales. You’ll need to create a buzz before the actual launch, and maybe enlist a few influencers to test drive it before it goes on sale.
- Lead conversion
If you have no problem generating leads, but have been unable to convert them into paying customers, your efforts should be focused on capturing those leads and making the sale.
- Retaining customers
It’s no secret that sustainability and profitability come from retaining your existing clients so a great goal to have is making sure you preserve your existing relationships and have happy, satisfied, and engaged customers.
How long will it take you to reach your goals?
While setting your objectives, it’s important that you also set a timeline setting when you should reach them. Though most marketing efforts set their timelines to a year, your strategy needs to be revised before then. You’d greatly benefit from taking a look at what’s going on either monthly or every couple of months.
How much are you planning on spending?
One more thing to keep in mind is your marketing budget. The first thing you have to keep in mind is that newer companies, need to spend money in order to acquire market share and increase brand awareness to ensure a steady gain in the long run. Of course this might feel like an impossible task when you’re barely funded and all your money is geared towards actually making your product. If this is your case, don’t feel like you’re wasting money, remember you’re actually investing on improving your business.
There’s no need to fret, you don’t need to cut your own paycheque just to shoot a tv spot. Since you already know your marketplace, your target audience (and their preferences) and the available tools, you can devise strategies that adjust to your budget. Remember, the ultimate goal of a marketing strategy is to increase your profit in a cost effective manner.
- Prepare your dream team.
Now that you have a clear idea of what you have to offer, it’s time to put that knowledge to good use and select your team. The easiest way to start is by defining whether you’ll be better off with traditional marketers, digital marketers or maybe a mix of both.
- Traditional marketing:
Think of life before the internet – if you can-, how did brands market their products? If you were around, you might be thinking of print advertising on newspapers and magazines, tv and radio spots, billboards, posters, flyers, and maybe some of them dared to dabble in email marketing. Though this kind of marketing is highly trusted by the audience, it can also be quite expensive and it requires a lot of creativity to make it interact with the audience rather than just inform them.
- Digital marketing:
Think of websites, YouTube videos, newsletters, or social media campaigns. This is marketing that takes advantage of every channel the digital world has to offer. While digital marketing is cost effective and organically interactive, its success might take longer than expected and it involves lots of trial and error.
While it might be tempting to dismiss traditional marketing entirely in favor of digital marketing due to the lower costs, you might also want to take a look into combining both of them to better serve your customer needs or just interact with them in a surprising way. Always remember the goal is not to jump on every fad and bandwagon that comes your way, but to integrate new technology that can help you better achieve your goals. Once you decide which channels you’ll use, you’ll need to find professionals who know how to handle them.
- Learn how to measure your success.
How do you know if your plans are yielding the best possible results or chronically costing you money? Devising a strategy and leaving it at that, is an exercise in futility. Let’s take a look at just a few of the tracking tools you can use:
Return On Investment. You’ll be measuring how much money was put into your marketing strategy and how much profit you gained from it.
- Website Analytics:
Track how much traffic you gather from certain campaigns that you’ve developed from your strategies. You could make different landing pages for different campaigns so you have a more accurate result.
- Sales Numbers:
This one’s a no brainer. Look at your previous numbers and look at your current numbers after you’ve implemented your strategy. If you’re selling more than before, and your business is expanding, you’ve got a successful strategy. On the other hand, if your numbers are down, you can avoid losing money by investing on a strategy that’s not working.
- Customer Response:
Track which efforts have driven your customers to reach you. Don’t forget this depends on what your overall objectives are. If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, you need to focus on how many leads you received rather than how many sales you made.
- Competition Response:
Is your competition tripping over backwards to respond to your latest strategy? If so, you’re onto a winner. Seeing them try to copy your efforts or make a better offer is an indicator that you’re doing something right. On the contrary, if all you get is radio silence, it might be time to reconsider what you’re doing.
Always keep in mind that what you measure has to be closely related to your objectives. Remember what you set out to achieve so that you know exactly what you have to measure.
- Be prepared to make adjustments.
Your marketing strategy is not a matter of till death do you part. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You need to keep in mind the marketplace, your consumers, and even your products, are constantly changing and evolving. As you study your target and measure your success, be ready to incorporate new technologies and findings.
- Keep an eye on the future.
Three or four decades ago, smartphones were only a thing in sci-fi movies. Yet, those savvy enough to think a few years into the future, knew a digital revolution was just around the corner, and while they couldn’t have possibly known enough to stay ahead of times, they could at least keep an open mind and prepare for the eventual change.
The same principle applies now. You can’t really know exactly what algorithm Google will roll out next, or what new platforms or apps will come our way, but you’ll already be ahead if you keep an eye out for any new developments.