A marketing strategy is the roadmap of your marketing efforts. It’s the foundational piece that should align with the overall business plan, laddering up to fulfill the KPIs and business goals.
Most businesses know they should have one, but few put forth the actual effort and time needed to create a truly great (and comprehensive) document. Many are unsure what a great marketing strategy includes because, for a lot of small to medium-sized business owners, marketing is not their main area of expertise.
There are a few key things that can make your marketing strategy great and they involve asking yourself these four main questions.
- What do I want to gain/earn/accomplish with my marketing efforts?
- Who is the audience that wants my products/services?
- What actionable tactics do I need to do to reach that audience?
- Were my efforts successful?
Building Block #1 – Measurable Objectives
When setting out to create a strategic marketing plan, the first thing you need to ask yourself is “What do I want to gain/earn/accomplish with my marketing efforts?” It doesn’t make sense to put forth a plan if you don’t know what you want to accomplish. A great marketing plan has three to five objectives. If you haven’t done this before, we recommend sticking with three and building from there with each year if appropriate.
The objectives, though, need to be MEASURABLE. What’s the purpose of setting down a goal if there’s no way to know if you met it or not? Here’s the difference between an objective and a measurable objective.
Increase in the number of requests for more information from the website compared to last fiscal year.
10% increase in the number of requests for more information from the website compared to last fiscal year.
If you were to use the first objective in your strategy, does that mean your marketing efforts were successful if you had one more request than the previous fiscal? What about five more requests, or 100? Clearly stating the amount of increase shows what your efforts are working toward, but it also needs to ladder up to the overall business strategy KPIs. What does that strategy state as a measure of success and how much can your marketing efforts contribute to or influence it?
Building Block #2 – Defined Target Audiences
Let’s start out by stating your target audience is not “everybody.” If you work your marketing efforts to talk to “everybody”, you are talking to no one. Defining your target audience, the people who your services and products are intended for should seem pretty easy, but it actually takes a lot of work and insight to clearly know them.
To best reach your target audiences, you need to know as much about them as possible. We recommend creating personas, or audience characters, who closely relate to those you are trying to reach. Give them names and photos and provide as much information as you can about them. Some key things to consider are:
- Basic demographic information
- Education level
- Type of employment
- Professional interests
- Hobbies/Leisure activities
- Social media platforms, amount of activity, type of posts
- Media they consume
- Community involvement
And then, depending on your industry, you should research other points of interest that would be applicable in determining information about the need for your product/service. Some of these could include:
- Job title/company/industry
- Salary range
- Types of vacations
- Political leanings
- Socioeconomic views
- Religious beliefs
- Food consumption habits
These lists may look overwhelming, but quite frankly they’re the tip of the iceberg. It takes a lot of work to truly define your target audience, but it’s worth it in the end. Once you can determine (to the best of your ability) who your audiences are, where they hang out, what messages resonate with their needs, and when to deliver those messages, the more time, money, and effort you’ll save yourself.
Building Block #3 – Clear Strategic & Tactical Efforts
Once you know what you want to accomplish and who you need to target, then you determine what your strategy and tactical efforts will be. And remember, they need to relate to everything else and have a traceable path that influences the overall business strategy and goals.
Here’s an example for you.
- Authentically tout Shady Pines’ years of experience and expertise in senior care.
- Become the go-to, trusted source for senior healthcare information
- Create editorial calendar
- Write two blogs/month
- Bi-weekly resident/staff social posts
- Quarterly printed newsletter
- Media pitching for locally-related stories
- New gated content piece
This particular strategic initiative could have multiple goals to determine if the tactical efforts were a success. Some options could be x% increase in social media engagement, x number of earned media stories, x number of downloads of the gated content piece, etc. Again it’s all dependent on what is meaningful to your business and your business goals.
Building Block #4 – Evaluation Process
A great marketing strategy isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t include an evaluation process to see if your efforts were successful or missed the mark. Knowing what worked and didn’t is crucial to planning for the next year since you’ll most likely want to continue efforts that worked and drop those that didn’t or rework them into something different. And, since many efforts are digital these days, the evaluation process tends to be more fluid than something that happens at the end of a campaign. Digital marketing tactics can start to show results in as few as 30 days allowing you the flexibility to change direction or messaging if something isn’t working. And with the use of a customer relationship management system (CRM) like HubSpot, evaluation can happen on a weekly or even daily basis if that’s what is needed for your business.
Does It Really Need to be Like This?
Developing a comprehensive strategic marketing plan takes a lot of hard work, thoughtfulness, and research. This article outlines only four building blocks of a great marketing strategy but there are other important components to consider like key messaging, branding, budget, etc. All are important and all need to be cohesive, consistent, and collaborative with each other.
Entire companies are built on creating great strategies so if it seems overwhelming, that’s understandable. It’s always best to start small and go from there. And if you need some guidance, DVS is here to help. Drop us a line and we’ll help you figure it out!