How to Build a Marketing Strategy
You know how important targeted marketing is: without it, you might be shouting from the top of a mountain to an empty valley below. No need to waste valuable oxygen.
So what is the best way to reach your ideal customers? How do you convince them to engage with your product or service? And how do you guide those people from first time buyer to customer for life?
These questions can be answered by creating an effective marketing strategy. It will help project what your customer’s journey will look like and what you can do to make that journey as smooth as possible. Let’s get started with discovering who needs your product or service. It’s time to create your buyer personas.
Who’s There? The Importance of Buyer Personas
Nothing can be more effective for your business than knowing who you should be selling to. It saves time and money and, ultimately, makes for a happier customer because you will be speaking to them genuinely, not forcing them to make a purchase.
By developing fictitious sketches of potential customers, you can start to map your marketing strategy and find out where you should be targeting your efforts. Personality traits, habits, interests and values can all paint a vivid picture of your ideal customers.
This information can be captured in many different ways. Website analytics can be an invaluable tool, as can social media channels—but often the best way to get your information is to have actual conversations with prospective customers to find out the kinds of things they value on a large scale, and what it most important to them when it comes to certain products or services.
The purpose of this exercise is to understand who your ideal customer is so you can speak to them as real human beings throughout the marketing cycle.
Here is the kind of information that will be valuable:
- What is their job title? Do they have any specific skills?
- What industry do they work in?
- What are their interests?
- Where do they live?
- What is their household income?
- What other brands do they connect with?
- Personal information: age; marital status; children?
- What is their educational background?
- What is the last large purchase they made?
- How do they choose to interact with vendors? Shop in person; via Internet; phone?
- Do they use social media? If so, what channels?
We suggest creating 3-5 different personas to get a thorough understanding of your target market. Each persona will be slightly different, but there will be similarities throughout. Imagine going to a party: everyone is an individual, but they have certain things in common that brought them to the party. Even give your personas names—it will make them even more relatable.
Now you know who your customers are—but do you know who you are?
Do a SWOT Analysis
Take the time to properly outline you and your business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats—read more about doing a SWOT analysis.
During your SWOT analysis you will end up researching your competition. This is imperative when developing a marketing strategy. By intimately understanding your competition and how they threaten your business you will come to understand the opportunities that are also present. Don’t let a threat make you hide for cover—it could actually uncover an opportunity.
Say you operate a retail store and a competitor moves in nearby. Surely this could be considered a threat: but if you know that your customer service is far superior to theirs then think of it as an opportunity to take advantage of that situation. Your marketing strategy could focus specifically on the customer service side of your business—it won’t take customers long to figure out that the in-store experience of your business is more inline with their desires.
The Flow of the Marketing Funnel
It is important to ask the question: what does the awareness-to-purchase journey look like for your customer? Visualizing the marketing funnel is the ultimate planning stage of your marketing strategy. Is the sales process quick or drawn out? Will they need to be reminded of what you offer? Will you be ready to sell to them when they are prepared to buy?
Let’s go through a quick marketing funnel example to illustrate. Pretend you were looking to buy a new car. Your old car broke down and you had a bad experience trying to get it repaired at the dealership—your one-time allegiance to the old brand had been shaken and you went looking for a new vehicle.
You needed something affordable but sizeable to fit your growing family—and something that would withstand your annual roadtrips. You noticed an ad on TV during the hockey game you watch on Saturday nights. An ad for a new minivan. You made a mental note as you took a step into the marketing funnel. This is the Awareness stage. It wasn’t a fluke that the ad aired during a Saturday night hockey game on TV—the advertiser’s may not know exactly who you are, but they do know you fit in a group of people who are more likely to be watching a sports event on TV on a Saturday.
You decide to go on the internet to do some research on minivans. This is known as the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). This Google-coined term is a relatively new addition to the marketing funnel and has changed purchasing habits greatly in the past decade. In the case of automobiles, shoppers typically spend up to 3 months researching their options before going for a test drive. As a customer, you are in the driver’s seat, cruising between websites, reading reviews, and comparing different models. For the car dealer, their marketing strategy better understand that their sales process starts long before a customer sets foot in the dealership.
The next day, you see a banner ad for one of the vehicles you researched on your favourite news website. It’s no mystery that when you visited one of the car websites they took note of that and served you a retargeted ad—one of many types of digital advertising your business may want to consider when developing your marketing strategy. Learn more about retargeting.
After 2 months of research, a sequence of interactions, test drives, negotiations, and signatures later and you are the proud new owner of a minivan—and it all started during a hockey game. But this is just the start of the road when it comes to the marketing funnel strategy. Assuming the car company has an effective strategy in place, don’t be surprised when they take measures to ensure you continue to be their customer. You know that email you receive to let you know you are ready for your 6 month tune-up at the dealership? You got it—the marketing funnel never ends.
All Hail the KPI
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essential for understanding how your marketing efforts are performing. Some of these indicators may depend on the kind of industry you are in. Others are relatable no matter what field of business you are in. It can be easy to bury yourself in the minutiae of data so be sure that you find the 8-10 KPIs that matter most to you and your business.
Here are some of the main financial KPIs that matter across the board.
At the end of the day, sales will give you a good indicator as to how you are doing—but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Cost Per Lead
Getting people interested in your product costs money. But how much?
Cost Per Acquisition
Directly related to the Cost Per Lead indicator, this data point starts painting a picture of how effective your marketing strategy is
Sure, you may get a lot of people in the door, but are they purchasing?
Gross Profit Margin
This indicator helps you understand if you are pricing your products or services correctly. You are in the business of making money—so be sure that’s happening!
Net Profit Margin
After all costs are considered, what did your business actually make?
Channels & Media
There are many ways to reach customers through marketing and it is usually a combination of ways that eventually leads to a sale. Your marketing strategy should clearly indicate what channels are most effective for your business and how you are going to utilize them.
Digital marketing is increasingly popular today—however, don’t underestimate how traditional marketing can perform for you. It all depends on the relationship your customers have with your business. You may also discover that certain channels work better than others for particular campaigns. Be sure you understand how to analyze the data you get back.
Here are marketing channels worth exploring:
- Print (newspaper, magazine, billboard)
- Digital advertising (including retargeting)
- Social media
Organic and Emerging
- Word of mouth
- Brand advocates
When you set out to start developing your marketing strategy, don’t feel as though you are alone. There are plenty of companies and marketing agencies out there who can either guide you from start to finish (and continue to track your customer data); or who can help for a portion of the development, such as building your buyer personas, or help you take the plunge into digital advertising. Do your research and find someone you relates to your goals and ideals—if someone pitches to you that they are going to increase your business by 200% by implementing one digital ad campaign, don’t be afraid to continue looking. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What is most important is to start with a plan, analyze the information you receive, and adapt your plan so your marketing efforts are more effective. Just like your business plan, your marketing strategy is a constantly evolving document.