Who’s afraid of marketing strategy?
Marketing is one of the most crucial elements of a company’s success and evolution, yet despite its importance, too many people put it off, saying “Now isn’t the time”, “After the launch,” “When we have a bigger budget.” Oftentimes, it’s really because marketing and sales, specifically marketing strategy and plan, just aren’t in the managers’ comfort zone, whether they’re a CEO or a first-time innovator. Big mistake.
The large brands have honed their marketing efforts into a well-oiled machine that can seem out of reach for smaller companies. That’s why a lot of people ask me if it’s even possible to build a marketing strategy and plan like the big players, but without their resources. The answer is a resounding—yes, definitely. The secret is that you don’t have to have everything they have, and certainly not all the time. What you really need is a marketing strategy, you need to think, even without investing a lot of resources. What’s really critical is developing an understanding of what you’re doing and building a marketing plan that keeps things moving.
Working with tens of companies has helped me break the keys to building a great marketing strategy and plan into a few short steps.
Start building your marketing strategy and plan
Stage 1: Define your business target
Don’t assume that your current business target is the right one. The question you should be asking yourself is—what will bring your company up to the next level? What will lead to significant growth?
Then, make sure that you know who your real audience is and that there is a good product-market fit. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies don’t have an accurate audience definition, even after years. It can really slow them down.
Take time to review your assumptions and make sure that you have a clear way to measure your achievement (see step 2).
Stage 2: Measure success: Achievements or KPIs
Once your business target is set, it’s important to think about how you’re going to measure success—otherwise known as your KPI. Is it a certain amount of income? A number of clients? Or maybe an investment round or IPO? Sometimes it helps to imagine a future presentation to your board or your investors where you show them that you’ve achieved your target. What are you going to tell them? What supporting data will they expect to see?
Speaking of data, don’t forget to set up a way to collect the data that you need, right from the beginning. Without the data to support them, KPIs are useless.
Stage 3: What resources do you have at your disposal?
You may think that because you’re just starting to create your marketing strategy and plan, you’re at square one. Not necessarily. Whatever stage your company is at there may be existing resources that you can channel into marketing.
For example, what data have you already collected? What tools and features are you already using? What existing human resources, like data scientists, advisors and even an office manager are part of your team? There is an amazing exercise we run in our Boostcamps and Sprints that’s called “work with what’s working”. You can access the playbook here.
Stage 4: What are you (really) missing?
Now you know where you are going – your business goal.
You have indicators to know you are on the right track – your KPIs
You mapped your assets and you know what can serve your marketing efforts. Alternatively, you found hacks to adjust your assets to serve your goals.
At this point, focus on what’s missing. The only things your marketing plan should cover are the elements that are truly missing to achieve your goal – the rest are just nice to have. The best CEOs out there will agree that this is what you should focus on.
Quick note: This is where you must promise yourself brutal honesty. Many of us (and yours truly included) will explain why they need to sell to more audiences and niches than to what will serve their northern star (the big goal). Or, why it’s important to serve all funnel stages “to keep the machine going” even if we really need to focus on turning opportunities to deals. We are our worst enemy when it comes to focus. FOMO is a trend that very few miss out on. That is why the stories we tell ourselves should always be questioned.
Stage 5: Align with your audience
This stage ensures that all of the previous stages were really done right, a bit like SWAT or other auditing tools. I like to use a tool that I developed called the “Alignment Map.” Basically, the point is to make sure that your company values and targets really align with the potential customer you want to land. Every company should have their values set. Make sure to map your customers values and find the connecting thread. Use it in your language. Make sure your language covers the 4 elements of alignment: Actions, words, Add it to the value proposition and to your marketing collateral.
People don’t buy your product—they buy what it does for them.
People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it (Simon Sinek).
In case there are several similar products in the market, our audience will probably buy from the company they connect with most. If you know what the connection point is with your customers, you’re already halfway there. If not – that’s what you should you focus on.
Aligning with your audience on all four elements will make sure that whoever you engage with will “feel at home”. No matter what their dominant decision making element is: words, feelings and belief, knowledge or actions.
Stage 6: Build your story and unique language.
If you haven’t done so yet, this stage is now critical. What is the extraordinary story that you’re trying to tell? What is your company’s language, what are its values? A story will help your customers understand their world better and realize that you’re giving them the solution they want to their challenges.
A good story intertwines in every title you have on your digital assets and decks. And moreover, it connects the denominators of your brand and your audiences language. Add in continuity to stay on top of mind and lots of examples to prove your story and you have yourself a brand.
Building your marketing strategy and plan: Get started!
As you’ve seen, creating an amazing marketing strategy and plan doesn’t always mean a huge investment of time and resources—it’s about attention, accuracy and planning. Only after you have all of your cards in place is it time to dive into the creative part. That’s a big mistake that companies and marketing agencies make, they sometimes start with the creative solution before they know where you, the customer is going.
So, get out a big sheet of paper and write it all down, everything you want to convey to your customers. Break down your funnel, map your customer journey. And, at every stage, think about how you’re going to do to convey the message in a way that is aligned with your audience.
It’s easier than it looks if you’re asking the right questions.