Sorry to break it to you, but if you’re looking for the perfect marketing strategy, you’re not going to find it – because it doesn’t exist. If any marketing strategist tries to convince you otherwise, they probably don’t know as much about marketing as they think they do.
The one-size-fits-all approach to marketing never works, because there’re so many factors that affect what will work for your unique situation:
- Communication style
- The list goes on…
Marketing strategies are intangible; you can make educated guesses but ultimately, you have to see what works and then course-correct.
We live in a world where a staggering 90% of startups fail – if you don’t want to be a statistic, the trick is finding the perfect marketing strategy for you and your business.
The process of creating a marketing strategy
Our Nashville-based digital marketing agency takes a holistic approach to building comprehensive marketing strategies for our clients. We consider clients’ businesses from all angles so we can better understand where they currently are, and where they hope to go. The process will look about the same whether you’re doing this on your own or working with a strategy specialist, but building an effective market strategy is invariably easier to achieve with someone who’s done it before.
Understand your brand positioning
Before you create a marketing strategy, you need to understand how you position your brand, which is the foundation of your marketing strategy. Two important aspects of your brand positioning rely on:
- Understand what your business’ why (or purpose) is, and how your business is uniquely positioned to deliver the goods better than your competitors.
- Understand your customers so you know your target markets. For example, are most of the people who buy from you Nashville locals, or are they from all over the country?
Figuring out your brand positioning isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s well worth the effort if you want an effective marketing strategy. Take the Stairs offers several brand positioning workshops if you need help.
Set goals and initiatives to try to reach them
Once you’re clear on your current position, it’s time to get clear about where you’re trying to go so you can formulate a plan as to how to get there.
A marketing plan is essentially a hypothesis or educated guess about what will lead to success. Because it’s a hypothesis, it might be right, or it may be completely wrong.
If your hypothesis turns out to be wrong, that’s fine – it happens all the time. What’s important is that you’re willing to pivot if the data is clearly showing you that your strategy isn’t working. The more you pivot and refine, the more successful your marketing strategy will be.
Putting together a comprehensive marketing strategy is all fine and good, but you won’t have any idea whether it’s working unless you constantly evaluate it.
First, understand the metrics
Marketing metrics are tangible measurements that you can use to track consumer’s engagement in relation to your marketing efforts. Keeping an eye on your metrics is crucial to overseeing the impact of your marketing strategy, but only if you understand what they mean and what they don’t.
For example, your brand may have a fair amount of social media likes and shares, but if those followers aren’t then converting into leads, those numbers are just fluff – they might look impressive on your reports, but they’re not actively contributing to your bottom line. You probably need to adjust your approach to encourage them to take that next step. Spend some time thinking about what key performance indicators will give you the clearest picture of customer action that leads to increased revenue.
Remember to consider unknown factors
Keep in mind that unknown factors have a way of creeping in and affecting your strategy or the metrics you use to evaluate it, so take the time to get a clear understanding of the big picture before changing something that doesn’t seem to be working.
For example, take your bounce rate (the percentage of website visitors who leave without taking an action like filling out a contact form or making a purchase) – this metric is incredibly important for monitoring UI and landing page optimization.
So imagine the alarm bells that would go off if you discovered that your bounce rate has been steadily increasing over the past six months. But then imagine that you dive deeper into the metrics and find that leads from your landing pages have also been steadily increasing month after month. That might cause you to realize that some visitors could be seeing your phone number and calling you for services without taking an action on the website, so the pages are actually doing their job after all.
Don’t pivot too quickly
As we mentioned previously, there are countless factors to consider when making and adjusting your marketing strategy. It’s important to understand which factors need to be considered right away, and which ones need to play out for you to fully understand what they mean. Don’t be afraid to let things ride out a little while before changing course if you need to.
Adaptation is one of humankind’s best qualities – we adapt well to our environments and constantly find innovations to improve our lives. Now take this fact and apply it to your marketing plan.
For example, just because you got 200 leads per month from the Yellow Pages in 1985, it doesn’t mean that’s your best bet today. Understand your current landscape and come up with a new educated guess (hypothesis) about how to right the ship. Making small adjustments as needed is the best way to ensure you’re heading where you want to.
Benefits of a marketing strategy
There are plenty of advantages to using a marketing strategy. A successful marketing strategy:
Allows you to build off something
If you’re just trying different tactics at random, it’s hard to tell what’s working. A clear-cut marketing strategy gives you something to measure, so you can tell for certain whether your plan is working, and what its strong (and weak) points are. This not only allows you to adjust problem areas as needed, it lets you build on the successful elements and lean into what’s already working.
Look at Amazon – what started as an online bookstore based in Jeff Bezos’ garage is now the largest online retailer of just about every item you can think of, from books and electronics to toiletries and groceries. The company’s success comes in part from waiting until they cemented their operations processes and marketing strategies, then using what they learned and building from there.
Provides you with more information on what’s working and what’s not
As we mentioned in the ‘evaluate’ section, it’s hard to know what marketing tactics are successful if you don’t use an organized approach that allows you to oversee the whole process. A well-ordered strategy allows you to look at each aspect of your marketing plan up close, or zoom out for a complete picture – giving you clear insight into what you should lean into and what’s not quite having the effect you’d hoped for.
A well-designed strategy will also make it easier to report to colleagues and investors about what’s working and what isn’t, so everyone is seeing the same information and able to make decisions accordingly.
Gives you an opportunity to be more successful in the long-term
We all want success right now, this instant, but the smart companies know that if you want your business to be around for a while, you have to keep the future in mind. Your marketing strategy is connected to every aspect of your business, so learning how your target audience is responding to your marketing efforts can tell you more than just when your marketing needs to adapt – it can help you know when it’s time to change your product or service offerings, too.
Netflix, for instance, started renting DVDs by mail in 1997 with a goal to “entertain the world” by providing the flexibility and convenience that brick-and-mortar rental stores couldn’t. By 2007, it became clear that the market was changing, and they began offering streaming services as well, eventually becoming the premier streaming giant in the world. Had the company not paid attention to the facts and figures that let them know where people’s interests lay, they might have stuck with DVDs and faded out along with Blockbuster a long time ago.
Lets you learn from your “mistakes”
As we said earlier, making “mistakes” and having to adjust is a normal part of creating an effective marketing strategy. But as long as you’re willing to make changes when and where needed, all these mis-steps are nothing but learning opportunities that ultimately point you in the right direction.
Even a top brand like Lego has to go through a few sub-par marketing strategies before nailing a successful one. Where the company was once failing due to spreading itself too thin and trying to appeal to too many, it eventually learned to keep things simple and focus on creating products that inspire play and creativity. Now Lego is the largest toy company in the world, all thanks to learning from its mistakes and being willing to pivot when needed.
Challenges of a marketing strategy
As beneficial as marketing strategies are, coming up with a successful one has its share of challenges. Remember that a marketing strategy is not just your digital marketing agency or CMO’s burden; the strategy needs to be focused on the customers that the business can easily convert and retain for the long term.
If your message isn’t cohesive or targeted, it’s less likely to convert
We’ve talked about the importance of targeted brand marketing in the past, and why it’s the only way for small businesses to stand out from the crowd in today’s noisy age of digital marketing. Your marketing attempts need to be targeted, speaking directly to the groups of people most likely to appreciate what your brand does.
If you change your message too much, people get confused
People like to know what to expect before they buy, so your brand messaging needs to leave no doubt what it is that you do and why consumers should choose you over the competition. Maintaining a consistent brand message will win you brand awareness, brand loyalty, and eventually, more revenue for your business.
While it’s important to modify your strategy as needed, you want to make sure you keep your brand message fairly consistent – you can do this by getting clear about your brand’s personality and purpose.
If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you likely won’t appeal to anyone
As Tropicana learned the hard way with its disastrous rebranding effort in 2008, generic marketing that doesn’t differentiate your product from the others will lead consumers to assume that your products are also generic.
These days, we’re exposed to thousands of ads every single day, so consumers aren’t going to notice your brand in the mix unless your marketing is targeted and seems like it was created specifically for them. Utilizing persona-based advertising is one way to accomplish this.
Get help from an experienced digital marketing strategist
Don’t leave the success of your small business up to fate – take the time to sit down and create a clear marketing strategy and you have a much better chance of reaching your goals, whether you’re looking to reach a larger customer base, retain existing clients, or increase sales.
You can absolutely devise a strategy on your own, but many small business owners benefit from the help of a marketing strategist who can lend an outside eye and give recommendations based on previous marketing experience.
If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, contact Take the Stairs digital marketing agency in Nashville to set up a discovery call.