Every business needs a marketing strategy, but no two businesses are alike. There are no one-size-fits-all strategies for marketing your business, but there are some key principles and best practices that apply to most companies. In this article I’ll show you how to use these core ideas to plan your marketing strategy.
If you want to clean up your garage, do you start by taking the thirty pieces of broken furniture to the dump, or by organizing the buttons in your old sewing box by size and color? Well, if the goal is to get more space in the garage, then obviously getting rid of the furniture is going to bring you a faster payoff than fiddling with a thousand buttons.
Your optimum marketing plan is something that you’re going to have to work on and tinker with, and you aren’t likely to find the best solutions until you’ve tried at least a few different things. And since your resources are finite, you should try to identify strategies you can put into action as quickly as possible, maintain as consistently as possible, and measure as easily as possible. This way you will have results, data, and information to work with to help you hone in on what works best for your business.
Everything you do in life takes some combination of time, money, and effort; marketing is no exception. Start by taking an inventory of your resources: do you have plenty of free time, or none? Do you have money in the bank begging to be used on something worthwhile, or are you saving pennies to ride the bus home every night?
Is writing a blog post every day something you can dash off in five minutes, or is it something that you’ll sweat blood over for a week? Knowing what resources you can deploy in your marketing efforts will help you make the decisions about what efforts will work best for you. For example, if you have some time to spend and are good at doing social media activities but have no money, then marketing based on blogging and social media interactions is probably going to have a good payoff for you.
If you’ve got expertise in the advertising world and have a big budget, then direct advertising campaigns should be on your to-do list. If you’re great with people face-to-face and have the time and money to invest in an event-heavy calendar, then that’s an approach you could try.
If your business is well-established, then you can spend more of your resources on building up your brand identity and setting your company apart from the competition. If you’re just getting started, then you need to focus more on getting your product or service in front of customers so that they know it’s an option. Knowing where you’re starting from is key to knowing how to make progress.
Who are you marketing to? If your target customer is a middle-aged wealthy woman living in the city, your strategy has got to be different than if you are pitching to young aspirational rural men. How do your customers behave, both offline and online? Do they spend four hours a day on Facebook, or is the Internet something that gets turned on by hand once a week at their house? Where do they shop, Amazon, Wal-Mart, or the local flea market? Do they sign up for marketing emails and eagerly read them, or do they delete everything unread? Understanding your target market is necessary if you are to have any hope of successfully marketing to them.
You can’t know what the best marketing channel is for your business without data. This is why it’s important to be able to measure the success of the channel. Some channels are a lot easier to measure than others; consider the difference between putting a billboard in Times Square with your corporate logo and a catchy slogan, and doing a targeted, personalized email campaign that specifically requests the reader visit your landing page. One of those is going to be really hard to quantify, and the other one is going to be trivially easy. Especially when you are starting out, you’re better off starting with a channel that is easy to measure so that you can spend most of your time optimizing and improving, not figuring out whether it’s working or not.
Related eBook: Know if Your Marketing is Working (free download)
Marketing is not just a set of individual channels. Everything you do works together. Think about what groups of channels would complement each other and work well for your business. For example, you might have a group of channels focused on search engines, where you do SEO, write blog entries, and create landing pages for keywords. You might have a social media focus, where you do Facebook and Instagram posts, direct outreach to influencers, and public events.
Bringing it Together
Your overall marketing strategy is going to be a collection of different ideas and initiatives. You need to bring those activities together into a cohesive plan that supports your marketing goals. Be consistent in what you do, and measure both the inputs and the outcomes so that you have some idea of what is working and why. By keeping these key principles in mind, you’ll be able to get on track to identify and practice the best marketing strategy for your own individual business.