Done properly, marketing will harness your collective energies into a meaningful, measurable activity that will bring your business goals to fruition. The problem is, a huge number of businesses do not market themselves properly at all. They spend money either communicating the wrong messages or communicating the right messages to the wrong people…or through the wrong media…or at the wrong time…or all three.
The issue is with the marketing strategy and usually boils down two one of two things:
A marketing strategy need not be complex or convoluted but it does need to be structured and focused. Here is a simple, adaptable four-step plan to create or refocus your marketing strategy; these stages should be seen as links in a cyclical chain rather than a linear hierarchy.
Stage 1: Setting Objectives
Setting objectives is one of the most important parts of a sound marketing strategy but it is the area most often glossed over in the rush to get to the meat of a marketing plan. This leads to the generation of poorly defined objectives with no measurable criteria and too wide a focus.
The problem with such fuzzy objectives is that the actions taken by the marketing department can then be at odds with wider business goals leading to money being wasted, employees working at cross-purposes and general confusion and frustration.
On the other hand, powerful marketing objectives deal with real world targets that can be measured or at least estimated using industry standard tools.
For example, common objectives are:
The objectives in your marketing strategy look at where you or your business wants to be after the marketing plan has been executed. But before you can write that plan you need to know where your business is at the moment and what conditions are affecting it – both now and in the foreseeable future.
This is where market research comes into play.
Stage 2: Researching your Market
Specialists in brand market research have the experience and tools to map out your business landscape much like a competent navigator will have the sea miles behind them and the charts in front of them to help safely guide a ship to its destination port. The goals of your market research team should be closely bound to the objectives you have set to ensure costs are kept to a minimum. Some common tasks for a market research firm are:
Your chosen market research firm should be adaptable and customize their services to your needs. By the end of your initial market research you should be in a position to create a workable marketing plan focused sharply on achieving your marketing objectives.
Stage 3: The Marketing Plan
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of setting out your actual marketing plan. This is a chance to go wide and to go deep. By broadening your definition of what marketing is, it soon becomes clear that every interaction anyone in your business has with a potential customer (or a third party with links to a potential customer) has the potential to be a form of marketing. That’s not to say you should become one of those annoying businesses that aggressively sells itself at every opportunity – you shouldn’t! What it does mean is that you and your employees and associates should always know how to talk about your brand when the circumstances do arise. After all, this is free marketing so why waste it?
This is the rationale behind the ‘elevator speech,’ a simple, concise yet compelling summary of what your business is and does.
Then there are the myriad forms of paid for and free media through which you can promote your business to consider. Using the demographic data from your market research you should now be able to precisely determine which forms of media your target market tend to be interested in and, of major importance, when they are likely to be actively engaged. Broadcast media tends to be expensive but may be worth considering if your customers are avid, high-converting TV watchers or radio listeners. Newspapers and magazines can still be effective for certain groups but circulations tend to be declining as the public’s attention shifts to online media. Online advertising, via search and social media marketing is booming and competition has driven prices down. But it is still deceptively easy to lose a lot of money if you have skimped on your research.
While looking at paid advertising, don’t forget ‘free’ sources of publicity, including your blog. Marketing intelligence group Smart Insights conducted a survey early this year, which revealed ]business owners believed content marketing would provide the biggest impact in 2016 (22 percent of more than 1,500 respondents). The central place of your company’s blog in the scheme of things needs to be set out in your marketing plan to avoid it just becoming a ‘dumping ground’ of your ideas or – even worse – a wasteland of poor quality outsourced content. This was discussed at length in ‘The (often misunderstood) Blog’s Place in Your marketing strategy.’
Needless to say, your marketing plan needs to be carefully budgeted and include accurate figures, or at least realistic estimates, for your media spend and expected results. However, you need to make sure you are measuring those results using the appropriate tools.
Stage 4: Evaluation
Evaluating your business’ performance against its objectives is the final link that completes the marketing strategy chain. For meaningful information, the data you collect and the analytics tools that you use to measure it has to be in sync with your objectives. That seems obvious but many companies make the mistake of running a brand awareness campaign and measuring progress with short-term sales figures. For brand awareness objectives you need to be using tools such as brand recognition surveys and social media engagement statistics. This should reduce conflict and frustration in your business because everyone knows what they are aiming for and the business as a whole can accurately assess its progress before going full circle and setting its next objectives.
Joshua Beam is a professional writer based in Northern Oregon. Currently, he blogs for http://www.brandiq.biz. BrandIQ is Los Angeles’ market research specialist, offering consumer insight, through qualitative and quantitative research; brand strategy advice and innovation and design services. They are the complete marketing firm LA businesses – from across multiple industries – are relying on to succeed in a competitive digital marketplace. He’s a business owner and a freelance copywriter too. He lives with his partner of 10 years, Jen, and their son Cody. Connect via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.