A marketing strategy is part of any well thought out business plan. The goals and objectives you identify in your business plan correspond and support your marketing goals. A marketing strategy gives you the power to actually decide how you’re going to achieve your business goals.
The components of your strategy, which is what we’ll address in this report, lay the groundwork for your marketing plan. Your plan, just to be clear, is a detailed description of the marketing channels and tactics you’ll use to achieve your marketing and business goals. It all fits together to create a well thought out business.
Your marketing strategy gives you the ability to make the rules. You decide what you’re going to achieve and how you’re going to play the game – the game being “how do I create a successful business?”
You’ll return to your rulebook, your marketing strategy, quite often to check in, to make sure you’re on track, and to see if any changes need to be made to your playbook, your marketing plan.
There are eight core components of a successful marketing strategy. Let’s start at the beginning.
Core Component #1 Research
The only way that you can begin to craft a strategy is to know several key factors about your industry. Research is key and good research can mean the difference between success and struggle. So what do you research?
Who are you marketing to? Who will buy your product and why will they need or want it? What are their demographics? For example how old are they and where do they live? What are their psychographics? For example, what are their values? What are they interested in?
What other businesses are providing similar products and services? How are they positioned in the marketplace? What makes them successful? What are their weaknesses?
Explore seasonal sales, trends in the marketplace, current sales and benchmarks in the industry. This is less about your competition and more about positioning your product or services and exploring the past, present, and potential future for your industry.
Core Component #2 Your Business Vision and Mission
This is a two part section of your marketing strategy. Your vision is a statement about where you see your company in five or ten years. Clarity and focus are essential here. It’s easy to get a bit off track.
Think about sales, employees, your purpose in the marketplace and how you’re serving your audience. Your vision can be a paragraph or a page, there are no rules here. It’s simply a statement about where you want to take your business.
They should be memorable, inspirational, clear, and concise. They’re often just a few sentences long, written in the present tense, and ideally they’ll paint a vivid picture of what your company looks like in the future.
Here are a few examples of vision statements.
Creative Commons: Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
Microsoft – A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.
Your Mission Statement
Your mission statement is a bit different. It takes your company’s values into consideration. When you’re trying to define your vision, think about who you’re selling to, what you’re selling and why people buy from you. Here’s Mattel’s mission statement to give you an example.
“Mattel makes a difference in the global community by effectively serving children in need. Partnering with charitable organizations dedicated to directly serving children, Mattel creates joy through the Mattel Children’s Foundation, product donations, grant making and the work of employee volunteers. We also enrich the lives of Mattel employees by identifying diverse volunteer opportunities and supporting their personal contributions through the matching gifts program.” (Source: MissionStatements.com)
Core Component #3 Products or Services
Describe the products and/or services that your company offers. How does your product relate to your audience? How does it solve their problems? What products or services do they currently use and how/why will they choose you?
Note: Earlier in your business plan you may have outlined your business model. If that plays an important role in your products or services, for example you offer a membership site/service, then that information will be readdressed here in the marketing strategy section of your business plan. Keep in mind that it’s a description of your products or services here that is most important, not rehashing your business model.
Core Component #4 Price
This may be the most difficult aspect of your marketing strategy. It’s where you determine the pricing structure for your products or services. Be sure to include the reasoning behind the pricing structure for each product or service.
You’ll likely come back to your marketing strategy on a regular basis and it can be difficult to remember why you made certain decisions. Documenting your reason for your pricing decisions will help you achieve clarity.
This is also where the concept of a sales funnel may come into play. If you have a freebie or entry level product, you may want to map the upselling and cross selling process. What order will people most likely buy your products or services?
For example, will they buy the book first and then sign up for the coaching consultation? Will they attend your paid weekend event, then buy the book, and then sign up for coaching? Understanding the likely buying process will help you price the products accordingly.
Keep in mind the pricing structure of your competition here too. If you’re significantly higher priced than they are, what justifies the difference? Why will people pay more for your products or services?
Core Component #5 Promotion
Now it’s time to take a look at the marketing channels and tactics you think you’ll use to promote your products and services. Again, because you’ll be referring to your marketing strategy often, it’s a good idea to write down your reasons behind each marketing channel decision and even some thoughts on how you’ll use it. Common marketing tactics include, but aren’t limited to:
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Direct marketing – postcards, brochures, flyers
- Advertising – online advertising and print advertising
- Live events – webinars, seminars, workshops
- Referral program
Core Component #6 Creating and Defining Your Brand
What do you want people to feel when they think of your business? Your brand is the core message that people receive. It’s part of every single marketing piece you will ever create, or it should be. A strong and consistent brand helps your prospects know what to expect. So what do you want them to expect from you?
Your brand is more than your logo, which symbolizes your brand. Your brand is the voice you use in your content. It’s the message that you send to your audience and the feelings that you evoke in them. Your brand encompasses all areas of your business including:
- Customer Service
- Your Promise
- Tag line
- Product Line
Think about strong and memorable brands like McDonald’s, Nike, or Amazon. What three or four words do you think of when you think about those businesses?
Now, what three or four words do you want people to think of when they encounter your business? Work on creating a tagline that evokes the feelings you want people to have. Work on your logo, and decide what voice and message you want your brand to communicate.
Core Component #7 Budget
This component is pretty straight forward. How much money do you have to spend on marketing right now? What percentage of your profits will you allocate toward marketing? Also look at the marketing channels you can afford right now. For example, can you manage a small PPC campaign, email marketing, and blogging?
Think about what tasks you can manage yourself and what marketing channels and efforts you’ll need to outsource. Price out the cost for the outsourced tasks. For example, a professionally written sales page can cost a thousand dollars or more. It’s important to have this information before you begin creating your marketing budget.
You may also begin planning for the future and document how you’ll expand your marketing budget as your sales and profits increase. What are your priorities? What marketing channel will you add first? For example, will you begin hosting live events or send direct mail pieces? How will your budget be allocated as your business grows?
Core Component #8 Your Marketing Goals
This may be the most important element of your marketing strategy. Your marketing goals need to be aligned with your business goals. Initially, your marketing goal may be idealistic and unmeasurable. For example, a top level goal may be to “Create the most visible and active brand in your industry.”
That top level goal can then be fine-tuned by using the SMART approach.
- Specific – What exactly do you want to achieve?
- Measurable – How will you know you’re successful? What will you measure?
- Attainable – make sure it’s actually possible to achieve your goal. Unrealistic goals are frustrating at the very least and defeating.
- Relevant – The goal supports your business goals and your target audience.
- Time bound – When will you have achieved your goal? What’s the deadline?
Now measuring brand activity can be difficult. You might measure website traffic, social media interactions, and email subscribers along with brand mentions.
A SMART version of your top level goal may be:
To increase brand mentions on social media by 10% in the first quarter. Your marketing goals are the foundation of your marketing plan. Without clear goals you won’t have a direction for your marketing tactics. You’ll be operating in a void without an objective or a reason for marketing.
Your Marketing Plan
There’s often some confusion between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Your strategy is part of your business plan. It’s an explanation of what you need to achieve. Your marketing plan is a road map of how you’re going to achieve your marketing goals.
Your marketing plan embraces all of your marketing channels. You’ll create measurable goals with clear deadlines. For example, the goal to increase brand mentions on social media by 10% in the first quarter will be detailed in the marketing plan. It answers the question, “How will you increase brand mentions on social media?”
This is one of the reasons a marking strategy is so important. It’s easy for marketing tactics to get out of control. It’s easy to lose direction. Your strategy reminds you what you want to accomplish and why. It’s also something that needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. Consider revisiting your marketing strategy at least every six months. It may make more sense to review it quarterly.
Assess your marketing goals. Is your marketing plan achieving your goals? Has your target audience, budget, or competition changed? Your marketing strategy isn’t set in stone. It’s a document that can and will change as your business changes. Use your marketing strategy as the foundation for a strong marketing plan and a growing business. It just may be the most useful document you ever create.