Most people believe this marketing thing refers to skyrocketing sales. Advertising. Something done by the marketing department anyway. Right? Well, maybe it’s time for you to know it’s actually a mix of many things: PR and advertising, product strategy, design, sales, content. All of them in a perfect balance.

It’s a bit more than you think, basically.

No worries though, I’ll simplify everything now, just to make sure you have a pretty good grasp of how to build a strong marketing strategy for a long, long, long term success. While there are thousands of related articles in the big world out there, I wanted this one to be a simple, clear and step by step guide that will solve the mystery around these great marketing strategies once and for all. It is based on good research and some useful insights I found while taking an awesome Smarters course (Romanian content).

I bet you have some questions about that. Let’s get through the most important ones you should ask before anything else and see how to use the answers in creating a marketing strategy tailored to your business needs. Worth a try!

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First things first: what IS a marketing strategy, after all?

Simply put, a marketing strategy is an action plan that helps you organize your priorities, resources and efforts needed to grow your business as a more relevant, profitable and competitive one. A marketing strategy implies various marketing campaigns with certain tactics for certain channels – to meet certain goals.

A strategy IS NOT a tactic. For example, deciding to post on social media at a certain time is rather a specific tactic than a strategy. On the other hand, inbound marketing would be a strategy that could have specific tactics, like creating several SEO articles on your blog or launching two Facebook ads for three months.    

What’s definitely important to remember is that a marketing strategy follows your business strategy, not the other way around. Also, best marketing strategies are the ones that are being developed months after implementing, testing and adapting different approaches first.

Question no. 1: How you doin’? (meaning your business)

That’s right. You have to really know the current situation of your business. Whether you’re the entrepreneur, the founder or the manager in charge, you need to assess the current situation. Where do sales go well? Where do sales go wrong? Is there a certain niche you want to explore more? What market segments do you aim for the next year? What strengths or weaknesses do you have at the present moment?

I know, it’s a lot to ask, but these answers will help you set a strong marketing strategy based on real facts, clear goals and specific numbers – smart and simple.  

Question no. 2: What are your business goals for the next year?

Needless to say that having SMART goals set on your mental planning board are of big help in keeping your brand alive and kickin’. Also, you want to make sure you get to measure its success as well, right? Answering this question will keep your team motivated and so excited to see them accomplished at the end of the year!   

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Question no. 3: What strategies have worked so far? Which ones haven’t?

The key here is to check what marketing efforts and strategies you’ve tried until now and how they ended up. Is there something that worked so greatly that really improved your online presence or increased your revenue? Also, is there any idea that clearly didn’t work until now? WHY?

Always ask WHY.

Maybe this WHY is the most important question to ask when building a strong marketing strategy, after all. Or better said, when you do anything (this “Always ask WHY” is Simon Sinek’s Big Idea)

For example, a company that wants to grow their sales revenue might find out that their past efforts or investments shouldn’t have been in the sales department. But in the Human Resources. So a new strategy would be to position the company as a great employer with a cool organizational culture. In such similar cases, it worked! Their sales would grow as well. So try to ask why something doesn’t work and follow that. Remember: marketing goals should always follow business goals, not the other way around”.  

That being said, your next marketing strategies might appear after you put your past strategies on paper. Trial and error is a proven way of succeeding in everything.

Question no. 4: What are your marketing goals?

Have you ever heard that: if you don’t know what you want, you can’t get it? As cliché it may sound, it’s true. Try to set goals as specific and well-timed as possible. Think about future milestones or annual objectives like: hitting certain revenue monthly after one year, or increasing your website traffic in the next six months.

Ideally, try to stick to sales targets, because having specific goals will help you or your team to pursue them easily through proper marketing strategies. With these specific goals in mind, you can trigger a brainstorm of good marketing ideas in your team, that might prove to be much more efficient, business-wise.        

Question no. 5: Do you know your audience?

Or more specifically:

  1. Who is your customer?
  2. What are your customer’s needs?
  3. What are your customers interested about?

You’ve got to know your audience. But how much do you know about your people? They’re the ones who use your services and buy your products, the ones choosing whether or not you have a good or bad brand reputation, and the ones who will stick by your side on the long term or bury you virtually. People know what they want. A strong marketing strategy simply helps them have / do it.

If you don’t know exactly where to start from, try something simple, efficient and amazingly good: create your customer personas. Strangely, this technique is a less common practice. But it IS one of the most effective ways to understand your customers and actually discover their needs, personal motivations and social behavior and so on. It’s all about quantitative and qualitative research that will ensure amazing ways in which you can create much more relevant experiences with your brand. You have plenty of free templates online to build these customer personas. Moreover, social media and your keywords research help you find out more about them.

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What is a customer persona?

A customer persona is a detailed description of your audience types – any business has various customer segments, by the way. This description consists of basic demographic details (which may vary a lot), but more importantly, details about what social platforms they use, passions and motivations, favorite brands and so on. The main recommendation is to use all this information to market your services or products as the ones fulfilling their needs. When you know their needs, you can address them accordingly.

Customer personas can be created in simple ways. If you’re an already established company, you can talk directly to your past clients (through interviews or surveys, pop-up questions on the website) about their experience and decisions. Or you can simply do your research online for free – you can literally see how people interact with your brand online, on social media. Basically, you can „scan” their profile and see what they have in common. Research is the big keyword here. For anything you do, it’s important to not f*** up this critical stage of any process.

Question no. 6: Do you really know your competition?

We’re sure you already know who your competitors are, by now. Take research to a deeper level. Find out how they position themselves. What they invest in. What their strengths and weaknesses are. And take advantage to invest more in those precisely overlooked aspects. After all, there’s plenty of room for everyone, so answering these questions above will help you find surprising niches and specific targets to aim for – which is one ridiculously simple way to build a strong marketing strategy further on.

Question no. 7: What channels to choose for your marketing strategies?

Well, well, well, if it isn’t the most exciting part of any marketer job! Leaving jokes aside, it’s the most interesting part of your action plan because you get to apply all the boring interesting theory above. For a simplified workflow, you can create or choose a template for your marketing plan that includes:

  • Your annual business objective
  • The marketing strategies to follow in a specific time-frame
  • The marketing tactics for each strategy
  • The risks/challenges for each one.

One example of a strategy could be getting more people to subscribe to your newsletter, while some of its tactics may refer to choosing a better email tool or launching a social media contest for more subscriptions. The challenge would be having an additional budget or too much time spent on implementing the ideas. Whatever the case, you now have the right tools to set these important stages of the marketing project as you should – awesomely fast and smart!

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Question no. 8: What marketing methods fit your business best?

Here you should pay attention to how your customers buy & use your products & services. Generally speaking, there are three main directions:

  • Paid marketing (we’re talking about ads you pay for; they’re fast and successful, easy to measure and scalable)
  • Organic marketing (we’re talking about SEO and online content mainly, but also about offline ways in which you can make your products more visible to people – in stores, for example)
  • Viral marketing (you’d need influencers and personalities to showcase your brand; works best on social media platforms).

The choice is yours.

Question no. 9: How much should you invest in your business advertising?

No matter how much we’d love to stay away from this stage, we really have to make some estimates regarding the budget needed for all these marketing efforts, on the long run. To help you with that, here are some smart approaches to take into account when setting a budget:

  • Sales percentage / turnover: a small part of your sales should be reinvested and depends on the company type. For example, a growing company can invest up to 20% of their turnover in advertising, while a steady one (or a renown one) can invest less, up to 12%.
  • A fixed monthly sum: this is a common approach at least when you’re fresh on the market. Invest as much as you can, without setting for bankruptcy or personal despair.
  • Depending on ROI (return on investment): as the business owner or manager, you definitely know your financial resources. You get a sense of how much to invest in order to reach your target. And this is the ideal way to calculate the marketing budget.

Question no. 10: What are you waiting for?

That’s it. Go build a super strong marketing strategy based on these answers and findings above and let me know more about this love it – hate it – love it again adventure. Just a quick note to remember: it’s never done. Everyday you keep learning new stuff and find awesome ideas that can be implemented for a brighter future and a promising business, so keep failing and succeeding. There will be many attempts, the idea is to remain determined and open to new ideas.

The biggest companies in the world conquered this trial and error challenge, so will you. Meanwhile, I am here if anything.