Like a map, a carefully developed marketing strategy is an essential tool to help you navigate towards your marketing goals. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the most essential tool, because similar to a map (or GPS), you need to know how to get to your destination before you decide on the mode of transportation you’ll take to get there.

Many business owners claim they have a marketing strategy, but when pushed, most of them simply say, “well I don’t have it written down, but I know what the plan is.” I can’t stress enough the importance of writing your strategy down. This is your lifeline, your business’ lifeblood, and when done correctly, it will serve as a powerful tool for creating your marketing plan.

So, what’s the difference between a strategy and a plan?

Strategies are conceptual, not tactical. While a plan is quantifiable with set targets, strategies are not measurable. For example, say that you want to have more customers engage with your website. The “who, what, when, where, and how” you do this is employed by your carefully considered strategy, whereas your plan will employ a specific tactic (or tactics) to attain your goal (e.g. using SEO to drive more traffic to your website).

How do you start?

If you believe a marketing strategy has the power to get your marketing and brand positioning in line with your business goals and objectives, it’s worth investing in a professional marketer to create your strategy. Unless you are a professional marketer yourself, you will need to rely on the skills and experience of a marketing agency to create your strategy.

In preparing your materials for the marketing strategy, you’ll need to take a look at your UVP (unique value proposition). In other words – know what sets you apart from your competitors. Think about why your audience should care about your message. We’re exposed to so many branding messages on a daily basis that most people are going to tune out the ones that are the least relevant. How are you going to be any different from the other messages out there?

Your strategy is the key element to uncovering your target audience’s needs. For this, you need to make sure that your brand messaging is aligned with those needs while setting your business apart from the competitors (i.e. discovering and promoting your unique value proposition).

Let’s look at the “who, what, when, why, and how” a little more deeply. Take these questions into account before contacting an agency, as these are the areas you will need to know in order to build the foundation of your strategy.

Who?
Who is your customer? Clearly define your ideal target audience. Give specifics, not just demographics, including buying behaviours, appetite for media, etc.

What?
What need or issue do your customers come to you to solve? What is your brand message and promise?

When?
When should you communicate your message to your target audience? Are there peak seasons or months, or even days that your service/product is more relevant?

Why?
Why should your customers choose you? Why is your product or service valuable? The “why” will help you better define the tactics that you will employ to connect with your target audience.

Where?
Do you know exactly where your audience is? (e.g. are they shopping online, are they at tradeshows, are they at seminars, etc.)

How?
How are you going to engage? This requires a more in-depth look at your marketing toolbox and the approach you’ll need to take to make sure that your customers are paying attention to what you have to say. (e.g. digital media, newsletters, etc.)

You may want to perform a SWOT analysis to help guide you through some of these questions, particularly if you are going into new markets or introducing a new product.

As you can see from this broad outline of a marketing strategy, there is a lot more to a strategy than you could possible keep in your head. By writing it down, you have taken the first step towards creating a strategy that will support your business and plans for growth.

If you need guidance from an expert marketer with extensive experience in this area (not to mention international awards for strategy), contact me today.