Drive Growth by Developing a Marketing Strategy
Over the last few weeks, I have attended several lecturers and classes where marketing leaders (my peers) spoke to start-up or small businesses. Most, but not all, are not marketing novices. However, in every single class the conversation rarely talked marketing strategy. Rather most ended up talking tactics: which social media channel is better, what graphic tools to use, or where to buy images. As marketing veteran, I was more than discouraged that the conversation didn’t move to a discussion about first developing a thoughtful marketing strategy; an approach that would help address most of these tactical questions, while help growth the business.
Now, I understand that most start-up or small business owners are marketing experts, and that the natural inclination is to jump on the latest marketing/social tool bandwagon. It may even work for a time. However, over the long-run, you’ll find yourself chasing the tactic, which means wasted resources, time and money.
Sometimes, you need to slow down to speed up in order go farther. No doubt when you decided to start your own business, or lead someone else’s, you didn’t just wake up and “go.” You probably analyzed the market, spoke to potential customers, evaluated expense scenarios, and planned. I equate the process of taking a road trip. If you’re taking a road trip, do you just jump in the cars and drive? No. You figure out where you want to go, the best route to take and the things you need to get there – safely and economically.
The same holds true for your marketing efforts. Take a moment to strategize and determine how you want your marketing efforts to support your business before jumping in. I promise, you’ll save hours and thousands of dollars. Here are some questions to ask yourself when thinking about your marketing strategy and potential tactics.
What do you want your marketing to do for your business?
Are you a start up who needs to bring awareness of your business to customers? Or, are you fairly established and need to generate leads? Maybe you have a strong customer base, and you now need to keep them! The tactics and tools you’ll implement for each of these scenarios are quite different, and they’re not all solved by social media (a common myth and a conversation for another day). Ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish for the next number of months with your business, overall. Let’s say it’s to bring awareness to your product, generate X-dollars in sales, and on-board a certain number of partners. If that’s your business’s vision, then develop two-to-three marketing strategies for each of those categories. I call these strategies “big rocks.” For example, for the awareness your two strategies could be to 1) hit your local speaker/networking circuit and 2) develop an awareness campaign that includes emails, a newsletter/blog and social media. Define the two or three strategies for each of your business goal.
For example, an IT company I was working with was trying to increase awareness and use one of its white-glove services offering. The services was already on the market and vetted as a value to the customer base. The goal was to hit $100 million in sales by the end of the fiscal year (in ~10 months).
- Strategy 1: Awareness. Inform potential customers of this exclusive, invitation-only services program.
- Strategy 2: Recruitment. To drive sales, recruit potential new and key current customers to participate in the program.
- Strategy 3: Enablement. Help educate and train these customers on the value of these services, and how they could turn around and sell them to their customers.
- Strategy 4: Retention: Develop an ongoing communication and retention program to keep customers engaged and informed about the high-touch program, services, how their customers would continue to benefit. Having a positive customer experience was crucial.
By identifying these “big rocks,” we were able to stay focused, find the best and most effective tactics to support each of these strategies and only invest our valuable dollars within this scope.
When it comes to strategy, I have made some assumptions that you are up-to-date on what’s happening in your market, and that your product or service is serving a need in that market. If not, I highly recommend that you step back and ensure that your product/services is targeting the right audience and serving a valuable need. This will ensure that you’re mapped to your business’s larger goal, and also help identity the tactics you’ll deploy.
What tools are needed to execute against these 2-4 strategies?Using the awareness strategy example above, now that increased awareness is the goal, you can now define the tactics, tools and resources needed. With regard to speaking, do you need to network with local association chair, is there an event coming to your city where you can speak? Do you need to create a package of content to provide as a part of the selection process? Do you have resources to create that content? For the awareness campaign, who are you targeting, what’s the message, what’s the offer or call to action? Do you have a email and newsletter/blogging platform? Where do your customers consume content so you post information about yourself to the best social media channel – likely you don’t need to post to them all. Now do this same tactical “inventory” list for all the strategies you’ve defined as a part of your business goals. If marketing is not your area of expertise, you may not know all the tools, and that’s ok. In that instance, ask for help.
As you take your “road trip,” this effort will help you understand how many times you may have to stop to fuel-up, how many hotel nights to book along the way or the amount of snacks and water you’ll need in the car. Identify strategically supported tools and resources for your marketing journey so you don’t over pack, run out of resources (gas) or over spend.
Are you measuring how many miles have you traveled?
Growing up in Denver, almost every weekend we would pack up the car and head to Vail. My mom told me that it was exactly 100 miles from our door to our condo in Vail. Along the way I’d look for the mile markers and signs that told me how far we had left. It helped knowing where I was going, and how many miles it would take to get there.
I didn’t know it then, but that was essentially my “metric” of time and space. When creating your marketing plan and identifying your tactical tools/resources, you also need to define and determine the metric results you’re looking to achieve. How else will you know if you’ve succeeded or reached Vail! Each defined metric, result or key performance indicators (KPI) will be different based on the tactic you’re using. For example, if you’re doing an awareness campaign, your metrics may be impressions, conversion and number of leads (if you can track all the way through to pipeline, great!). If you’re doing an ad campaign your KPIs will likely be tied to revenue brought in by that ad(s). Events are a traditional, but often effective, tool but don’t just measure attendees. Take it a few steps further and identify how much pipeline or revenue you expect from the event and/or each attendee. Defining and clearly stating your metrics will ensure that you’re getting your desired results. If not, maybe you change a few things up and try again, or just stop doing that activity. If you “hit it out of the ball park” with a certain campaign or tactic, then you know to keep doing that until it stops performing. There are many metrics to be measured, and it can be overwhelming. Check out this Hubspot post on key metrics to be tracked. The article may seem a bit dated, but still holds true. Just like when I was a kid, knowing that I needed to get to 100 miles before was rewarded with a fun weekend of skiing, your marketing metrics will help you know if you are using your resources wisely, converting customers, filling pipeline, driving revenue and so on.
Did you reach your destination? Do it again
You planed strategically, selected the tools, resources and tactics that would support your plan, defined your metrics and executed against the plan. Now what? Take a look at your results. Did you hit your KPIs or metrics? If not, what do you need to change? If so, can you maximize that initiative and make it better? Once you’ve reviewed your results, now it’s time to start the process over again. You may not need to start from the beginning, for example maybe some of the business’s goals are the same. If that’s the case, go back and review your strategy and tactics. Will they still get you to your destination? If not, try something new or tweak an element of what your doing. It could be as simple as swapping out a piece of content or changing a subject line…but it may require a more significant change. Of course, don’t forget to state your desired results.
Marketing moves fast, can be overwhelming, and it can be tempting to grab on to the latest, coolest trend and hope that it works. Taking that approach can be dangerous for a business. Taking just a bit more time upfront to strategically plan your marketing “road trip,” you will save yourself valuable time, money and resources while also increasing the likelihood that you’ll get the results you envision.
Tell me about your experiences with marketing planning – or not – and how it worked – or didn’t – for you. I’d love to hear from you.