For too many in business, marketing is a collection of singular activities with the hopes of a great return. Instead, the reward is usually frustration because instant success was not achieved. Well, there are ways to turn the odds to your favor and improve success with your marketing strategy.
This is accomplished by planning and setting up a strong marketing foundation. You can’t build a home without a foundation, right? Well you should not do the same with your marketing strategy.
Here are 7 steps to take prior to executing your marketing effort:
- Listen to your customers. This is the most important element of your plan. Many assume to know what customers feel and think, but do you really know? Your customers will always provide the best insight into how your solution can best fit their needs, if you allow them. With today’s communication options, this is easier than ever. You can conduct surveys (i.e. Survey Monkey, Google Forms, etc.), collect product/service reviews, call customers, and more. This information will provide you the blueprint for how to proceed with your marketing strategy and messages.
- Define your goals. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to obtain higher sales, a greater following, greater brand presence, etc.? Once you identify your goals and needs, select the marketing activities that are geared to achieve your goals. Don’t forget #1 (listen to your customers). By listening to your customers, you will develop greater clarity on which activities to pursue.
- Review your competition. By checking out your competition, do you detect a common theme for your industry that you can leverage, are there features you like, is there specific content used, etc.? While your competition will not have all the answers (heck, they might not even be correct), at least you will be given ideas that may resonant with you. Finally, with this knowledge you may have the opportunity to create a competitive advantage by engaging customer in ways you understand but not being incorporated by your competition.
- Know your options. Thanks to the internet, it is super easy to research and understand options available to you. Whether website designs, social media, content ideas, brand/image designs, etc., there are countless sites with information allowing you to research and understand benefits, how to use, correct application, etc. From there, you can generate your own direction for what would best represent your brand and marketing efforts.
- Follow the experts. Once you know which options will best fit your marketing plans, follow the leaders/blogs in that area to continue your education and keep up with the trends. Whether social media (Hootsuite), content (Content Marketing Institute), new trends (Entrepreneur), and more, there is a ton of free information to leverage. Engaging in this practice on a consistent basis will allow you to stay up-to-date on a gradual pace versus the “drink from a fire hose” feeling when you need to understand options in a small window of time.
- Set a budget. Setting a budget will allow you to align the time and funds you have with the options that provide the best return. The balancing act here is knowing the time sacrifices you are willing to make for marketing so that you do not neglect the time needed for your core competencies (i.e. your product or service). While there are perceived “free” options like social media, even populating these sites require an expense (i.e. your time or paying a team member). Account for your activity costs and effort costs to understand and plan total marketing expenses. Like in life, “you get what you pay for.” This applies to your time and money!!!
- Create a calendar. Once you’ve done all the steps above, you need to organize your efforts into a calendar. This will ensure you can work your marketing plans into your daily schedule and that you do not miss a beat. This calendar must be reviewed and managed with great attention. Missing opportunities because you’re “too busy” is not acceptable. This calendar will be the most important tool to stay on task. So, respect it!!!
Remember marketing is part science and art. So, what was shared should not be considered a one-time exercise. Instead, this is a consistent process you need to engage. So, plan, execute, measure, adjust and repeat. DO NOT skip the “plan” stage.
While nothing guarantees success, these 7 steps will position you towards a greater understanding of your marketing efforts and increase the opportunity for success. You would not start product production without a great plan of design, material list/costs, manufacturer vetting, packing and more. Well, you marketing shouldn’t be short-changed the same level of thought and attention. With planning, you are on your way to brand definition, competitive differentiation and customer interaction. All of this hopefully leads you to greater success.
Rich Sowa is a marketing strategist and a founder of Marketing of Things, a marketing agency specializing in strategy and services for brands and businesses.
LinkedIn: RichSowa & Marketing of Things