By definition, a marketing strategy is a “process or model that enables a company or organization to focus limited resources on the best opportunities to increase sales and thereby achieve a sustainable, competitive advantage.”
Surprisingly, many companies struggle with this concept, and lack the vision to create a big picture plan as they’re “stuck in the weeds” of the day-to-day operations/survival. I’ve found this to be especially true with publicly held companies as they tend to make decisions to please investors vs. making the harder decisions that are best for the strategic growth of the company. At the heart of the issue is a commitment to vision, collaboration with sales, infrastructure and processes to drive results.
Back in the day, when I first started working in marketing, the world wide web had just been made publicly available, Yahoo, Google and AOL were just beginning, and there was no such thing as social media or SEO (search engine optimization). We developed strategic plans and had to do things the slow way – direct marketing, events, print advertising and PR only with a hope of a response months later due to media timelines.
In today’s digital age, marketing is more dynamic, exciting and accessible than ever. Articles may post directly to the web within seconds, and awareness is created with the help of social media, immediately. We may engage prospects at the click of a button and assess results within hours. Yet, many organizations do not take advantage of integrated marketing programs and are left trailing behind their competition quickly.
Here are few tips to develop a marketing strategy within your organization and get your entire company moving towards the common goal of growth:
- Step 1: Identify the “Situation” – Take a cold, hard look at the state of the company (internal and external), its products or services, rate of growth and competitive advantages. Essentially a SWOT Analysis highlighting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Step 2: Identify your Target Audience – Define the characteristics of your ideal customer. This will vary depending on your business approach (business to business, or business to consumer), but essentially, you’re trying to define a criterion – size of company (revenue or number of employees), geographic location, decision maker and influencer profile – title, age, sex, as well as lifestyle. Ask yourself about their characteristics, where the live, what the read, where they hang out. Think of yourself as a Guerrilla. This is where the term “guerrilla marketing” comes from.
- Step 3: Identify your Goals – What are you trying to achieve? Increased awareness? Drive sales by 50%? Overtake a competitor and capture a market? How do you define success? It’s very important to list the various matrices here and track them monthly.
- Step 4: Establish a budget to support those goals – Most organizations are notoriously cheap when it comes to spending on marketing. They simply want to conduct business without investment to drive awareness because they do not have confidence in the results. They forget that if the money is spent in the right areas, focused on the targets identified and issues relevant to those targets with an effective call to action and/or incentive, they will drive results. If this is not the case, then there is a failure with the sales process which needs to be corrected (see below). The general rule of thumb is 25% of target revenue for the year. So, if you want total revenue to be $100 million for the year, your marketing spend should be approximately 25% of that goal. You have to spend money to make money, but in the right places and with the right processes to drive results.
- Step 5: Set up Core Infrastructure and Sales Process – It is pointless to initiate a marketing strategy and surrounding activities without the right tools and clearly identified process. For example, how do you collect your leads? Where will the leads go? Be sure to have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database setup with a sales process to assign leads to the sales team, as well as regular meetings to ensure follow up in a timely manner to close the sale. It is the marketers job to deliver qualified leads, and the sales person’s job to close the sale. If there is not a collaborative approach and clear processes, your organization will fail.
- Step 6: Develop a marketing communications and PR plan. This is the heart of the marketing plan to support the strategy and requires thoughtful consideration for implementation and spend. By now you should know where the “low hanging fruit” is, and have a strategy to go after it through the appropriate social media channels, direct marketing, online and print advertising, PR, SEO, events – all areas of marketing that fit into your budget. It is essential to map out an annual plan with monthly campaigns and supporting monthly budget. We use a tactical/functional plan within Excel to provide full transparency for tracking and project management. This ensures everyone is on the same page, moving towards the same goal. The key is reporting on results to keep the teams motivated.
- Step 7: Develop a reporting plan to measure results/determine success – The beauty of digital marketing is you can assess success, or failure, very quickly and easily with monthly statistics for open rates, number of click-throughs, number of article placements, number of leads delivered to the sales team, number of visits on your website, etc. The key is to determine Key Performance Indicators and establish a boilerplate reporting system that can be used monthly and annually to review ROI (return on investment) of your marketing plan. This requires commitment from management to establish processes and implement reporting and communication to the team on a monthly/quarterly basis to keep them motivated. Adjust as necessary, and if revenues goals are met at the end of the year, increase the spend!
Regardless of budget, type or size of business, the above approach is a foundation for success. We work with organizations of all sizes to get them on the right track and especially enjoy seeing the results. Contact us today if you need assistance developing your plan.