A strategy is like a compass for your brand’s marketing efforts.
It gives you clarity and focus. When the landscape gets hazy, or your path diverges in multiple directions, a strategy gives you a true north to move toward. It shows you which direction is right for you, not necessarily your neighbor.
Without a strategy, it’s easy to get lost in a noisy, confusing market. The digital world offers a vast array of marketing choices. Those many choices make it easier now than ever to build a business online. But having so many choices can lead to decision overwhelm — or burnout from trying to do it all.
The truth is that your business doesn’t need to do it all to find success. You can choose a few things, do them really well, and still achieve sustainable growth. The secret is in choosing the right things for your brand.
This blog series is designed to help you uncover those right things and start taking action on them. In this first part of the series, we’ll discuss laying the groundwork for a successful strategy and setting attainable goals for your marketing efforts.
Prepare the foundation
It’s important to lay the right groundwork prior to building a strategy. Let’s explore the initial steps you should take to make sure your marketing strategy has a solid foundation.
Identify your target audience
Trying to sell to everyone is ineffective and wasteful, so it’s better to narrow your focus. Identify a distinct target audience, determine segments within that group, and learn everything you can about those people so you can craft a marketing strategy designed with them in mind. Before you go any further with your marketing plans, make time to complete this step in full. We wrote a guide to help you through identifying your audience.
Create your brand message
With a clear audience in mind, you can now craft a focused brand message that speaks directly to your ideal clients. A clear message helps your audience remember what your business is and why they should care. We wrote a guide on creating a brand message, which you can use to complete your messaging before moving on to the next step.
Consider your business goals
The final step of preparing your marketing foundation is making sure you’re clear on your business goals. It’s important to name the specific objectives you want your business to achieve so you can create a marketing strategy that helps you get there. Are you solely wanting to increase your revenue? Or perhaps there’s a certain part or division of your business you want to focus on growing.
If growing revenue is your main goal, put some thought into which of your offerings is most profitable for you. Where are you making the most money? This is likely an area you’ll want to focus on most. Putting more emphasis on what’s already working is a promising way to increase your profits.
On the flip side, consider your least profitable offering. This is an indicator of where you may want to focus less attention since you haven’t seen as much success from it.
Once you’ve completed this step, you have the necessary foundation in place to start working on a marketing strategy for your business. Let’s dive into that now.
Plan your marketing goals
Before we get into any tactics, we need to identify the direction we’re moving in. That means we need to set goals for marketing initiatives.
Base your marketing goals on your business objectives
The reason we included business goals as part of the foundation for your marketing strategy is that you should base your marketing goals on them. To be more specific, you need to answer the following question:
What do I need to do marketing-wise to achieve my business objectives?
If one of your business goals is to increase revenue, what marketing outcomes do you need to reach to make that happen? Perhaps increase traffic on your website? Increase leads or conversions? Name a couple of the top things that need to happen as a result of your marketing efforts and put them into a goal format.
These goals should be specific and measurable. Increase website traffic by 30% this quarter. Increase conversions by 15% this year. These examples have a metric attached to them, meaning you can measure them. They also have a timeframe identified for assessing the success. When setting marketing objectives, it’s helpful to use SMART goals as a template to make sure you’re being specific and defining exactly what success looks like for each.
In the book Marketing Made Simple, Donald Miller outlines three numbers to decide upon for a brand’s marketing goals:
1. The actual goal
This number is what you’re really aiming for. It indicates that you did what you set out to do.
This number is a much lower number that represents failure. By failure, Miller means “if we only sell these few products, we need to analyze the product itself and then the sales campaign to see if the problem was with the product or if it was how we tried to sell it.” In other words, this number indicates something didn’t go right and it needs further investigation.
3. The stretch goal
This number is a much higher number that signifies “if we hit the stretch goal, we know we’re on to something.” It indicates something really went right.
Identifying these three numbers helps you understand how well your marketing initiatives are performing. That’s not to say these numbers are set in stone though. You may see the need to adjust your metrics over time to ensure they’re setting a realistic benchmark.
Make sure your goals are attainable
As you set marketing goals, keep in mind that good marketing means playing the long game.
In special circumstances, some brands may hit it big pretty fast. Their sudden growth is likely due to a variety of factors and we should view those situations as the exception, not the norm. We’re not covering the latest growth “hacks” in this guide because what we’re after is helping you achieve long-lasting results for your business. Quick wins can be fun at times, but they’re not guaranteed to impact your brand for the long run.
Good marketing shouldn’t be seen as a means to get a quick win. If that’s what you’re hoping to see from your marketing efforts, you may feel let down in the end. It’s much better to go into this with realistic expectations for what’s to come so you can try to avoid that potential disappointment.
In reality, success comes for most companies after months and (more likely) years of consistent hard work. Only then do they really start to hit their stride with marketing.
This means you should plan to play the long game with your marketing efforts. Don’t get discouraged if you try out new tactics and don’t see immediate results. In fact, you should probably expect to not see immediate results. Your first month of running a paid digital advertising campaign may not result in many (if any) conversions. You may post a handful of blog articles without getting a significant number of readers. You might not see much engagement on your social posts. That’s okay. It can seem disappointing, but it’s pretty normal. It can take time to refine your marketing strategy and tactics before you start to get some traction and build an engaged audience.
So keep going. Keep measuring. Keep learning. Keep refining. Don’t jump ship before you’ve seen things through. Give it enough time to gather data so you can tell whether something really is or isn’t working, then make an informed decision on how to move forward.
Consistency is always better than chasing after the latest trend.
Aim to be consistent with your marketing above all else. To gain consistency and clarity around your marketing, make sure your business goals stay top of mind. Those goals will keep you focused on what matters most for your business. They give you a long-term direction to move in, so you avoid wasting time on distracting trends. Winning the long game for your brand requires big-picture thinking, strategic planning, and consistent efforts.
Now that you’ve built the foundation for your marketing strategy and identified attainable marketing goals, you’re ready to start considering the specific tactics you’ll deploy to achieve those goals. In part two of this series, we cover selecting channels, content creation and distribution, and how to put it all together. It’ll help you take the final steps toward putting your marketing strategy into action.