You know the saying, “Nobody plans to fail. They fail to plan.”
A comprehensive marketing strategy is important to every business, large or small. The fundamentals are the same. The levels of investment are different. But done accurately and appropriately, either can expect returns.
Craft a situation analysis for both your market and your business. What is the climate? What is the need? Identify how your product and service fills a void, and answers a demand. Highlight the conditions of the market that make this the right time. Craft a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to illustrate you have an informed understanding of what the marketplace presents. Understand the market in which you’ll be building your enterprise. What is real and what is perceived within the market?
Use demographic (e.g. age, gender, socio-economics, etc.) and psychographic (e.g. interests, behaviors, consumer trends) to identify who you are marketing to. In addition, consider leveraging your database through behavioral and predictive analytics tools. Understand your entire audience, primary, secondary and beyond. Know who will be making the decisions, and who will be influencing the decisions.
Unique means unique. Push through to something unexpected and meaningful. You are trying to distinguish yourself from your competitors. If great service is what sets you apart, you’ll have to work harder to identify what aspects of your service are different and relevant. A good USP is appropriate for any audience. Develop one that you can own, and that is a critical component of your value proposition.
Are you a premier brand? Are you a low-cost provider? Are you an alternative product or service? Your positioning strategy must be supported by your pricing strategy. How will your market position align with your sales efforts? What does it look like? What does it sound like? What are you promising? What are you delivering? The alignment of marketing and sales sounds like an easy thing to do. The reality is that with so many emerging markets and channels through which to reach consumers, a clear, consistent position is imperative and requires consensus.
Where will customers transact with you? A store? An office? Online? Through a distribution channel? Is your supply strategy sound and sustainable? Is it innovative?
How will customers transact with you? How easy can you make it for your product or service to be bought once? And, more importantly, since current customers are easier to retain then new customers, how will they continue to engage your brand?
Understand the difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy is the critical research, planning and targeting you’re doing by putting this together. There are lots of go-to-market strategies to consider from Cause Marketing to Relationship Marketing to Event Marketing to PR. There are hundreds, and researching and identifying the right blend of channels can make all the difference. The marketing mix you choose to leverage should be one that finds your target audience(s) where they are. If your position isn’t a runaway advantage, you’ll need to consider a consistent, frequent campaign to get their attention.
There are seemingly endless tools and tactics across traditional, online and environmental channels through which to tell your story. One thing is consistent. Content is king. C.O.P.E. Create once. Publish everywhere. More than 70% of consumers will research online before ever engaging you in a commercial conversation. Make sure your site, your social outlets and your inbound tools are updated regularly with relevant content. The marketing tactics you choose to get them there should be appropriate to the audience your targeting. Choosing marketing tactics should be driven by data. Understand how to leverage analytics and consumer data to help you identify your audience.
Good marketers and good marketing planners are leveraging technology in ways now that used to only be accessible at the enterprise level. Information about your audience is out there. Collect it, interpret it, leverage it and convert it into sales. More than a well designed site, the basic tenets of online include SEO, SEM, Site mobility, social, inbound, email, domain, links, rep management, lead gen, CRM integration, dynamic content, forms, automation, compliance, analytics, and the list goes on. Accessibility and visibility are key. Create a content strategy that puts your clear advantages up front, and calls to action that support a sound conversion plan.
How will you convert leads into sales? Is there an offer, discount or incentive strategy? How can social proving (testimonials) support your sales efforts? Will you have a reputation management strategy? Keep your conversion strategy in line with your position. If you’re a premium brand, deep discounting can undermine your position. Find other ways to add value and incentivize a lead to convert. There are always brand opportunities with value-add programs. Great warranty or guarantee offers can keep you engaged with the customer.
Customer referral programs are the corner stone of social proving. A well-written testimonial can outperform a full-page ad in many ways. You can’t, and should not, buy a referral or recommendation, but rewarding great customers is always fair. Have a formal referral strategy, and make it part of your marketing program. A good referral is your best ad. Encourage referrals by developing a value-add program to reward customers for helping you build your business. Discounts and incentives in context of referrals do no harm to your position, and can help build great brand advocates.
Aligning your products and services with established brands can lend credibility to your offering, and can show that you are an engaged, involved member of that market’s community. Investors and prospective customers alike will understand that an established brand would normally have done due diligence before entering into a partnership with your group, and that supports your credibility.
Anyone in business knows that it is statistically far easier to retain a customer than to attract a new one. That being said, few new businesses outline an aggressive retention strategy to build brand loyalty. This is one area where your marketing strategy can stand out. Take care of your customers. Take care of your investors. A loyalty program with real, measurable benefits, can build more than customers or clients, it builds brand advocates. It shows you value long-term relationships.
Financial projections should be the final component of your marketing strategy. Create projections based on realistic goals you expect to reach. Use realistic best case and worst case scenarios, and understand investors, board members and your employees will hold you to these. Use multiple benchmarks if necessary – new leads, conversions, referrals, site traffic, PR impressions, etc. The bottom line is everything. But, when you create a plan that allows you to identify it and impact it, you can also flip it on it’s side, push it out in front of you, and set new goals to continue to grow your business and your brand.
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