Your marketing will be a pillar of your success… or failure, depending on the exact marketing strategy you’ll be using to fuel the growth of your business.
But when it comes to your specific business, what’s the best marketing strategy?
There are a number of different marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.
- Direct Mail Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Paid Media
In this guide, we’ll explore what you need to be discussing in terms of your marketing and we’ll help you decide where you should focus your energy.
What Is a Marketing Strategy?
I know you already know this, but we have to throw this in here for SEO purposes. A marketing strategy is going to dictate the different marketing activities you run and how each one of those marketing strategies contributes to the goals of the company.
Your marketing strategy should have clear goals that you want to achieve.
For example, if we’re going to spend $30K on content marketing, what kind of results can we expect once that’s implemented?
Now, the answer to that is going to vary from one business to the next, but you need to make sure your marketing strategies are a good investment.
What Do We Mean by Strategic Marketing?
Before we dive deep, let’s establish what we mean when we use the term “marketing strategy.” There are a number of different definitions that often get applied to this term, so we want to make sure we’re clearly defining the concept we feel is most important to you.
Marketing strategy describes the process of how businesses and organizations understand their markets and their methods for getting users to take action.
Straight forward for the most part, right? We want to keep it simple, so it’s all about:
- Knowing who buys your products and services.
- Knowing how you’ll motivate them to take action.
- Knowing your competitors who are trying to do the same thing.
- Knowing how to measure your marketing activities and optimizing/changing your approach based on the results.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Tactics: What’s the Difference?
When most people think about marketing, they think about being more visible to their market. That could include anything from social media ads to billboards to television commercials to blog posts. This is what people commonly think equals strategy: the “stuff” that marketers create, rather than the planning behind it.
That’s fine for folks whose careers don’t hinge on them actually understanding how marketing works. For anyone reading this, knowing the difference between strategy vs. tactics is essential for success. If you want to rely on more than just luck and brute force, you’ll need to understand that your tactics are the execution of your strategy and not the strategy itself.
You Better Know Your Target Audience
Before you can build a solid marketing strategy, it is critical to know exactly who you plan to target. Who your target audience is will impact many important decisions that you need to make, from branding and pricing, right through to the messaging you use, and the specific marketing channels you choose to promote your products or services on.
The more defined your target audience is, the better your marketing strategy will be as you’ll be able to create all of the brand marketing content, messaging, and ads with them in mind. As time goes on, and you gather more insight, you will continue to gain a deeper understanding of who exactly falls into your target audience. So don’t be afraid to learn as you go, and be adaptable to change, as you might find you need to go after a different group of customers to those you originally set out to reach.
And no, before you ask, your target audience simply cannot be everyone. Unless of course, you’re Amazon, who after 26 years of establishing themselves as e-commerce royalty, have earned the ability to target everyone and anyone they want.
Building A Marketing Strategy You Can Repeat
Very few marketing campaigns are one and done – we want to create a marketing strategy we can use over and over again.
While your marketing strategy will need regular adjustments or optimizations, it gives you a template of where to start and makes it easier to see similar or improved results from each campaign without having to completely reinvent the wheel. It also creates stability and a sense of predictability within the marketing department.
Linda Bishop has a great analogy as she compares a marketing strategy to a menu; a menu is a repeatable process and a framework. Think about it, each menu item has a specific recipe you must follow to get the desired end result you want. While this recipe may add an item or take away one, the core of the recipe will stay the same. This can be applied to your marketing strategy just as easily. Although it may see tweaks here and there, the core remains in place.
For a service business, brand awareness, lead generation, email marketing, SEO (search engine optimization), and social media are likely a part of that core that remains the same.
While our recipes are adaptable and can be altered, the menu is more or less the same, allowing us to have more free time to spend on improving our recipes, rather than changing the menu each week/month/quarter/year.
Your Strategy Must Be Able To Scale
Once you have a solid marketing strategy in place that is repeatable, you can now also use it for scale. So in other words, you could share it with another employee, team, or division of the company. That way, the entire company is able to adopt the same marketing strategy for all of the products and services you offer. This will help to keep everyone on the same page and allow for consistency across all of your marketing campaigns.
We can go back to Linda’s menu example.
Christmas dinner is always a super busy time, let’s say you’re slammed and you hadn’t found the time to properly plan out your holiday dinner. Instead of making one on your own, you call your close friend and you decide to use their list. That’s going to save a lot of extra stress and time. Instead of having to focus on the why and what, you can now simply focus on the how. And if this menu was a success, then you might want to share it with others you know. Now this menu is helping many homes prepare great Christmas dinners. Imagine that!
Taking this back to your marketing strategy…
With an effective plan in place, that is both repeatable and scalable, you are free to focus your efforts on improving the strategy and making it work, rather than wasting a lot of time that you don’t have, worrying about what the strategy is going to be.
Competitor analysis is a strategic method of determining current and future threats posed by other companies to the prosperity of your business. When done right, this analysis will evaluate many different factors with the goal being to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a potential competitor and how they compare to your own businesses.
When defining your company’s competitors, you must consider a number of key dimensions; however, you should always start with:
- The products the company offers
- The customers they target
After this step, companies who have been identified as similar to your business in one or both of these areas would be split into two main categories:
For direct competitors, this is going to refer to competitors that have the same core of customer needs as those you are targeting.
The customer segments that your direct competitors serve are the exact same as yours, their products are manufactured just like yours, serving the same functions, and they aim to market their products using the exact same channels as you.
For example, if you were the owner of ZEEL, then one of your direct competitors would be Soothe. Both of these companies focus on mobile massage and wellness services.
Just when you thought you had enough on your plate, in walk your indirect competitors. These are companies whose products or services are not the same as yours, but they are targeting the same segments of the population and satisfy the same need as yours.
For example, if you were the owner of Pizza Hut, then one of your indirect competitors would be Subway.
Now, your indirect competitor’s products or services can even be contradictory to your own. The pizza industry is indirectly in competition with the sandwich industry. So, if you are the owner of Pizza Hut, you will also need to monitor Subway’s business model to ensure they do not steal away your customers.
When you begin creating your strategy for marketing, you should list both direct and indirect competitors.
What Marketing Strategy Should We Be Focusing On?
When it comes to choosing the right strategy for marketing campaigns, we always make recommendations based on your competition. Building a strategy without analyzing the competition would be foolish.
It starts by asking the right questions;
- Do our competitors use SEO or Google AdWords?
- What social media channels do our competitors use the most?
- What channels do our competitors use to find customers?
- How is our competition positioning their products or services?
- What type of marketing budget do our competitors have?
Truth be told, most business owners and marketing departments are not asking these questions. We’ve analyzed many companies over the years and we’ve found that most companies are just throwing anything out and hoping it sticks. This is not a winning marketing strategy – this is a strategy and decision that will not produce the best results possible for growth.
This is exactly why your marketing strategy should always be built based on what your competition is doing.
Most of you reading this are not in a brand new market, few are ever “early birds” to a market.
Before you hire an SEO agency, a content marketing strategist, or a media buyer, we highly recommend doing a competitor analysis.
Do I Need a Competitor Analysis?
There’s a wide range of reasons why every business should be doing competitor analysis, but the top reason is to make sure the marketing strategy you’re using is strong enough and differentiated enough to beat the competition. There’s one way to know for sure – you need to think like your competitors, see what’s working for them, learn what categories and areas are fueling their growth. You’ll want to review and analyze their marketing campaigns so you know what to focus on yourself.
Yes, it’s a lot of work but competitive analysis is key to correctly positioning your company and developing a marketing strategy that will be effective. Your competitor analysis will help you understand the marketplace where you do business, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.
Economically speaking, you can benefit from a clearer pricing structure and an ability to predict market trends, product development possibilities, and develop an understanding of what your customers will be faced with when making their purchasing decisions. If you can get this dialed in, it can be very beneficial to your company.
To be the best you can be, you need to stay one step ahead of your competition at all times. A competitive analysis will not only help you to understand your current competitors but will also give you the foresight to spot any future competition and adjust your strategy before they become a problem.
If you’re ready to start with a deep dive competitor analysis, be sure to reach out – here’s the link.