How to Outline Your Marketing Strategy: A Guide for Small Businesses
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It’s easy to overcomplicate digital marketing–while it can seem like you have an endless amount of choices, all of the most effective marketing strategies are built on answering the following questions.
What are our business goals?
The best way to think about a marketing goal is as an overall desire, and your strategy is how you get there. One of the worst mistakes you can make in strategy is mistaking goals for strategy. A goal without a strategy is a desire without a plan.
Here’s an example of a goal for a small business owner: “Become the largest spine surgeon in South Florida.”
What are specific, measurable objectives that contribute to reaching that goal?
Objectives should have measurable results. If they’re too lofty and not measurable, they’re probably just goals disguised as objectives.
Here’s an example of a measurable objective: “Increase monthly new patient office visits by 10%.”
Another common mistake is to have too many marketing objectives, which can lead to a lack of focus. Narrow down your marketing efforts to keep your business focused on a few key measurable objectives each quarter to nail down those specific goals.
What category do we compete in?
Most marketers aren’t honest about the category they compete in. When this happens, your marketing is less effective. A better way to think about your action plan is as a “frame of reference” for the customer – what other kinds of businesses would they choose if you didn’t exist?
For your marketing plan, it’s important to understand what your potential customers are seeing–what other kinds of messages and marketing are they exposed to?
How are we truly different from the competition?
Differentiation is not articulated in most marketing. Avoid using “better” to describe your differentiator, as it’s a trap. Better is subjective. True differentiation isn’t.
While it’s best to have a truly differentiated product or service, you may have very similar competitors in some cases. In those situations, differentiators such as your brand’s personality, a strong customer community, or a strong POV about your category can be an important factor in your strategy.
Who is our ideal demographic?
Focus on your best target audience, not the biggest net you can cast. The target market you select has an outsized impact on the rest of your marketing planning–the digital platforms you choose, your message are all guided by your target selection.
A common mistake many businesses make is not prioritizing and focusing on their ideal target customer. When you try to reach too many targets at once, you end up with marketing tactics that are too watered down to be relevant to all of them.
Don’t worry if you’ll lose mediocre customers. Remember that focusing on your ideal target will help you attract like-minded and new customers, building a much stronger community.
What problems do we solve for them?
Customers stop listening when you stop talking about their problems. Yet most brands think that marketing is talking about yourself.
Your small business marketing plan should be focused on talking about the problems your ideal customer has, and showing them how you solve those problems.
What are our key messages?
According to a recent Salesforce State of Marketing survey, 50% of brands use the same message across channels. The truth is, this approach wastes your marketing dollars and exhausts your marketing campaigns. You can’t build a brand, generate leads and drive sales with a single message.
The most important messages for your brand to convey at minimum are:
- What you do
- How you’re different
- Why they should believe it
Clarity is key–don’t try to make your key messages sound like “marketing speak.” Since you only get a handful of seconds to grab and keep someone’s attention in social media channels, if it takes too long for someone to clearly understand your message, you’ve already lost.
What content should we create for brand awareness?
Content should address multiple states of mind. Early on, your customers may be looking for inspiration and discovery, while later in their journey, they may be looking for education or help to solve a specific problem. Align the content you create with each of these mindsets. Don’t get stuck creating ONLY one type of content.
Experiment with formats and topics to see what works for you. And don’t create content just for search engine optimization, create content for people. Through natural language processing, search engines are getting much better at determining intent. Valuable content will get visibility.
What platforms and tactics are we prioritizing?
The best advice I have for marketers is to focus on doing one channel well before you diversify. It’s easy to take on too much and spread your time or budgets too thin. Some of the most successful high-growth companies in history got the majority of their customers from a single channel.
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How can local businesses measure success?
While you need KPIs to measure both marketing performance and business results, it’s important to not put too much weight into marketing metrics like clicks. If you have clear, measurable objectives, you should also be measuring those.
A rule of thumb that can help is to organize your KPIs around the customer journey.
Traffic, Leads, and Sales
Traffic: Measure not only the amount of traffic but understand the quality of traffic through proxies like time spent on site and bounce rate.
Leads: It’s extremely important to understand how many leads you’re getting and their type. Most brands have multiple types of leads – usually calls and form submissions. Measure your site traffic to lead conversion rate.
Sales: You want to understand what % of your leads become sales, and how much revenue you’re generating from those sales.
Wrapping it all Up
Most marketers jump right into executing campaigns before outlining a clear action plan. These 10 questions form a foundation that will guide more than just your marketing. Many will challenge you to make key decisions about your business.
Pay attention to where you struggle–these are places where making clear decisions can unlock growth. A clear strategy will make your marketing more effective and align with your team’s specific goals, vision, and priorities.