What you should know before planning your marketing strategy
When businesses look to put together a marketing strategy, it’s tempting for them to jump straight to the execution. Identifying the channels they will use, what their posts will look like and what advertising they will do. The drawback with this, is that the focus on tactical elements of marketing cuts out most (if not all) of the important elements that make a marketing strategy successful.
So what is a marketing strategy? The Queensland Government states “A marketing strategy sets the overall direction and goals for your marketing, and is therefore different from a marketing plan, which outlines the specific actions you will take to implement your marketing strategy”. In contrast, marketing tactics are the activities you use to execute your strategy.
A well-planned marketing strategy is comprehensive, yet succinct, in describing the business, product and services, and how they interact with the market. Profiling your customers and competitors, it is built using data to guide the strategy, whilst also setting KPIs to monitor success.
It is all too common for marketers or external agencies to shortcut straight to the tactics, and it’s understandable why this happens. Often, marketing is benchmarked on outputs and not outcomes, which inherently leads to teams and agencies celebrating what they implemented and not the business they have generated. This results in them unknowingly missing opportunities to better connect with their customers or, even worse, damaging the reputation of a brand.
Having worked in marketing for over 15 years, it is clear that marketing has come a long way from being seen as the ‘colouring in department’, or the team colleagues go to see ‘to make things look pretty’. With closer links than ever before to sales generation, customers, competitor intelligence, industry trends and market feedback, they are better positioned now than ever before, to help businesses achieve their commercial objectives and vision.
With the state government helping small businesses improve their efficiency and productivity through organisational development via a range of Grants, it’s even more important for businesses and marketers to invest their resources wisely, to avoid missing an opportunity.
To ensure Cairns’ businesses succeed with their marketing strategy, we’ve listed some of the most common pitfalls business owners and fellow marketers should avoid.
Bring the team with you
Everyone in your business is a marketer. From the receptionist who welcomes your visitors, to the technical support centre who handle calls from clients. A marketing strategy that doesn’t engage with each department within a business is likely to fail. Not just because of all the data and intelligence they each hold, but because when it comes to executing the plan, a successful marketing strategy needs to be delivered cohesively by the full team. This is the reason why all of our marketing strategy consultations begin with bringing a business together, so we can glean details about customers, market trends, competitors and the business itself. By doing this, we not only guarantee the strategy is built on strong foundations, but it is owned by the business.
Go beyond your ‘target audience’
Defining a ‘target audience’ is often seen as sufficient in being able to develop and build a marketing campaign. In reality, businesses really need to get under the skin of their potential and existing customers. This means going far beyond defining an audience using generic segmentation principles such as ‘professional, educated female, over 30 years old, who lives in the Northern Beaches’. This segmentation is pretty much ‘marketing 101’ and isn’t going to give you the detail needed to shape a successful strategy.
To really get under their skin, research into what they are currently buying, their awareness and perception of your brand, alongside their pains and gains sought, is really the information you need to create any messaging. Unfortunately, most quasi-marketing strategies that jump straight to the tactics; miss out on this important intelligence which is vital for identifying USPs and shaping brand positioning.
Sleep with the enemy
For brands wanting to shift the needle in customer behaviour or preferences, an important facet of a marketing strategy is to uncover a competitive advantage that holds value to your potential client. In order to convince potential customers to switch brands, you need to a pretty strong argument as to what added value or unmet need your product or service will provide. Without researching your competitors and understanding their 4Ps (product, price, placement and promotion), it is difficult to ascertain how you can position your messaging to carve out a USP (unique selling proposition).
To guarantee your marketing strategy will do what they need to, you perhaps need to consider ‘sleeping with the enemy’ to get a crystal-clear view on their strengths and weaknesses.
In a world where almost, anyone can set up and run a social media campaign or advertise on Google; the key ingredient to standing out, is shaping messages and campaigns that are built on a deep understanding of your customer, their needs and their ambition. To create cut-through, your messaging needs to resonate with your ideal customer at such a level that it aligns with their unmet needs, identifies your USPs and makes a proposition that is so compelling, they have to respond.
Checks and balances
A marketing strategy isn’t just about doing, it is about achieving an ambition or goal and defining how to get there. With that in mind, it is important to set KPIs to monitor success or at least, progress along the way. Often, vanity metrics such as followers, click throughs and visits are championed, but real change requires harder metrics that showcase a shift.
Depending on the brand’s challenge, this could be customer perception or satisfaction, new business leads, sales or market share. However, the reporting cycle of a brand may mean the timelapse between snapshots for these could be too wide. Metrics such as organic search performance, conversion rates, online reviews, reach and enquiries can be a useful steppingstone that can guide the execution.
Rally the troops
Marketing strategies that fail in execution are often exist solely in the marketing department. But as mentioned earlier everyone is a marketer. Being able to amplify your brand messaging and positioning, requires the full business to be on board. When it comes to working through the tactical elements, a successful strategy ensures implementation is business wide and doesn’t rely solely on the marketer, agency or social media campaign to deliver life-changing success.