It’s not only big companies that need a marketing strategy; your startup cannot be without one. Just like a business plan, a marketing strategy will help you focus on where and how to spend your resources. While it cannot guarantee success, it does provide a clear layout of how, when and why you will implement certain actions to gain customers and increase your revenue.
Here are 10 steps to get you started.
1. Get Alignment
Before you begin working on your marketing strategy, review your business plan to ensure they are aligned. Revisit the goals you established in the business plan related to customers, revenue, and products to ensure these are prioritized and support in the marketing strategy. If these are not aligned, then the success of either is questionable.
2. Set Objectives
Take the information gleaned from the alignment exercise and begin to build your list of outcomes and objectives. Your marketing objectives should support the achievement of the business objectives.
Your objectives should be SMART:
- Specific – Describe objectives clearly and define exactly what you want to achieve,
- Measurable – You need to know if your objectives are successful, so you need to quantify each one,
- Achievable – You need to make sure you have the resources and the ability to act on your objectives,
- Realistic – Find a balance between obtainable and challenging,
- Time and Deadline-driven – set deadlines for each objective.
3. Conduct a SWOT Analysis
Conduct a marketing SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to understand your ability to meet the business plan objectives. SWOT analysis is a widely used tool to access current and future environments. (http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4245-swot-analysis.html) .
- List your business’s advantages
- What do you do better than your competitors?
- Do you have resources that give your company an advantage?
- Do you currently have a loyal customer base?
- What could you improve?
- Is your customer retention low?
- Do you lack the staff or financial resources?
- Are there any trends to capitalize on?
- Could you tap into a new market?
- What are your competitor’s weaknesses?
- Could new technology threaten your business position?
- Do your customers have interests that keep changing?
4. Identifying the Target Market, Ideal Customer, and Construct Core Messages
It is essential to identify your target market, ideal customer, and core message before devising marketing tactics. Your offerings may appeal to a large audience, but if you try to appeal to everyone you will waste your time, effort, and dollars.
Identifying the ideal customer and the message that will connect with them will allow you to build an effective marketing plan.
5. Plan Your Customer Experience
Planning the experience your prospect and customer have with your business includes every touch point; from the time the prospect becomes aware of your business and continuing until the customer is continually engaging with your business and referring you to others. Use a framework like the Marketing Hourglass to design your customer experience. (https://valenspoint.wpengine.com/customerexperiencein7steps/)
6. Build Your Content Strategy
Your content should be relevant, interesting, educational, and trust building. Building a customer experience map and ideal customer profile will allow you to map the content that will fuel the customer journey. Your content strategy should take into account the types of content your ideal customer wants to engage with your business. That may include articles, how-to’s, FAQs, long form content like Whitepapers and ebooks, graphics and images, and video. You’ll also need to plan on how and when you will use your content. The key to a successful content strategy is knowing what your customer needs when they need it and making it obvious on how to find and use the content.
7. Define Your Lead generation and Lead Conversation Systems.
For most business owners, the term marketing is synonymous with “lead generation”. Getting leads (potential customers) is the singular use of marketing. As you can see from this list, lead generation is part of an overall strategy but not the only element. Successful lead generation happens in three areas: public relations, advertisement, and referrals. Understanding your ideal customer and how they become aware of your business, will tell you how you will use these three lead generation activities.
Lead conversation, the act of turning leads into customers, is one of the most critical phases of the marketing system, but it is also one of the most poorly planned. Your businesses customer experience plan should include a step-by-step process for how you guide the prospect in the buying decision. It may begin with trial offers or samples or a presentation of material relevant to the decision the customer is making. Your lead conversion system should not stop at the purchase of your product or service. It should continue until the customer has satisfied their need or receive the value they intended with the purchase. Customer onboarding, delivery, training, support, and follow-up need to be tightly coupled to the purchase process.
8. Plan Tactics and Actions
The work you’ve done this far will allow you to define the tactics and actions you’ll use to build and execute your marketing system. Key questions that drive this effort include:
- What assets exist today that will be used in the marketing system?
- What needs to be built? When does it need to be available?
- How will I use the assets?
- What will I do for lead generation activities? When will I do them?
Your tactics and actions will explain how you are going to achieve your objectives.
9. Create a Marketing Calendar and Budget
This step involves identifying the costs of the various activities you set out in your tactics and identifying when they will be done. As a new company, this section may be dictated focus by the availability of human resources, time, and money. A calendar and budget will help you stay on track and reduce the risk of getting sidetracked by unplanned or unbudgeted marketing efforts.
By putting this information into a calendar and budget place, you can revisit it and reconcile just how much time and funding you had planned to spend against actual costs and time spent.
10. Evaluate and Refine
You will need to monitor and amend your plan as times goes on. Your business and marketing objectives will help you identify the things that need to be measured. Establishing a set of metrics to monitor will allow you to determine if your marketing efforts are delivering the results you planned and what may need to be adjusted.
Most startups fail due to lack of planning. They don’t plan their marketing system and never understand how they will use their marketing budgets. Having a defined marketing strategy, which includes the elements listed in this article, will greatly increase the odds of your start-up being successful.
Want to know more ways you can supercharge your startups’ marketing efforts? Begin here with our marketing checkup. We’ll help you identify where you are now and what actions will have a positive impact on achieving your goals.