The life of a business owner is a busy one. You may be running around filling orders, hiring and training employees, providing customer service, and meeting with investors, buyers or partners all in one day.
When there are thousands of items on your to-do list, it can seem like marketing is a low priority task. You may tell yourself that you’ll get around to it “someday”. In reality, if you think of it as a “someday” task, you will never address it. Without a solid marketing strategy, your business won’t survive.
Why You Need A Documented Marketing Strategy
Every successful, well-known brand, from Nike to Coca-Cola, makes marketing strategy a top priority. If you want to grow your customer base, gain brand awareness, increase sales and achieve other business goals, you need a documented strategy.
More businesses than ever are involved in some form of marketing, whether it is through social media, blogging, email or snail mail. Yet, according to the Content Marketing Institute, only 40% of B2C and 37% of B2B marketers had a documented strategy in 2016. Although it is a slight increase from the previous year─37% (B2C) and 32% (B2B)─there is still a significant percent of businesses that haven’t taken the time to flesh out their strategy.
What does it mean for those businesses? Would you build a house without blueprints and a thorough plan? No, you wouldn’t know what materials you need, what types of contractors to hire, or how big your budget needs to be to cover the costs. Hundreds of other variables would be unknown, and every decision would be made based on risky guesses with little reassurance that it would turn out like you wanted.
It is the same for building a business. Why would you start writing content, designing flyers, or posting social media without a marketing plan? If you start creating content and spitting it out, how do you know that is effective?
Without a marketing strategy, you are at worst, putting your business at risk. At best, you are wasting resources and money on efforts when you have no idea if they will work.
Benefits of Marketing Strategy
The overall goal of marketing is to reach out to your target audiences or customers at moments when they are most likely to take action as a result of that interaction. Those moments are touch points, at which consumers are the most open to influence. You won’t hit all of those touch points with random marketing efforts. You need a plan. Without one, you are missing out on:
Brand Awareness and Recognition
The “rule of seven” is a long-standing principle in advertising and marketing. In order for someone to remember your brand and your message, they need to be exposed to it a minimum of seven times. On average, it takes seven contacts before someone will consider buying your products or services. Since it is unlikely that you will have seven contacts with the same person in a short span of time by pure chance, you need to plan ahead.
When you lay out the framework, you can reach the rule of seven. With repeated exposure, people will begin to recognize your brand, and it could positively impact your sales. For instance, a Nielsen study found that when considering new products, 60% of global consumers will make a purchase based on if the brand is familiar.
Consistency is key. It can impact your business success more than anything else. Without a documented plan, your marketing efforts will likely unfold in spurts of activity and drop back down. This inconsistency will cost you in more ways than one.
For one, you’ll lose customers. According to a global Zendesk survey, 87% of consumers believe that brands need to provide a more consistent experience. A study by Aberdeen Group showed that when businesses are consistent, they retain 89% of their customers, while those that do not only retain 33%. Your SEO will also take a hit when your marketing is inconsistent.
Improved Customer Experience
According to Social Media Examiner, how well a business aligns all of its touch points, directly affects the level of customer engagement. Marketing and customer experience overlap all the time. A marketing strategy helps align all of those touch points together and creates a more consistent and seamless customer experience. Over 90% of customers expect to have seamless interactions with businesses across multiple channels.
A consistent and correctly deployed marketing plan can get your business major traction, but it is also crucial to build long-lasting customer relationships. On average, it can cost you 5 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
Customer retention is another area that may be addressed in your marketing strategy. For example, sending a personalized email with a discount or perk to customers that have been inactive for a while can get them back.
What to Include in Your Marketing Strategy
A marketing strategy can produce numerous benefits for your company. It allows you to plan ahead, anticipate potential setbacks and eliminate ineffective tactics before you pour resources and time into them. Create a solid strategy and include these essentials:
● Company Values and Mission. Describe the problem that you are solving and its importance. Outline the values that matter to you and your company. Both should guide the rest of your strategic decisions.
● Long and Short-Term Objectives. Identify what you hope to accomplish or expect from your marketing efforts in short and long increments (i.e. 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year).
● Customer Personas. Gather as much information about your target audiences as possible. This can include demographics, location, interests, economic status, education, and interests.
● Market Research. Collect or conduct data about the market. This may be in the form of statistics on market growth and outlook or insights from your own focus groups, surveys and other research. You may include buyer information here as well.
●Competitor Analysis. What differentiates you from your competitors? Your marketing messages need to clearly distinguish your business from the competition. Start by identifying what you do better than anyone else in your industry and what makes you unique.
● Budget. You may have hundreds of marketing ideas, but what will give you the biggest bang for your buck? What can you afford? Can you save money by outsourcing it to an agency or should you hire someone in-house?
● Specific Tactics. Here you outline the channels and methods that you will implement. (e.g. social media Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter; email marketing - Mailchimp; PPC advertising; direct mail; video, etc.)
● Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) - How will you know that your campaigns are working? Define specifically how you will measure results and determine campaign success. It could be: X percent increase in sales, X numbers of conversions or X more followers or subscribers, but make sure to set clear amounts and time periods.
As new technologies and trends emerge and your business evolves, your marketing strategy should too. You should review and update it every few months to adjust tactics that aren’t working as well as they could be and to account for other changes.
When you are a business owner, it can feel like you hardly have time for anything. However, when it comes to marketing strategy, making time is critical. A strong plan can grow your business, attract new and retain existing customers, boost sales and generate leads. Without one, you put your company at risk and hurt your bottom line.