In this article I am going to show you how to do a marketing strategy. And I’m going to show you how to do it step by step.
I’ve worked with different people on marketing strategies from Oxford graduate Marketing Directors of big global organisations to sole traders who had never made one.
While creating marketing strategies I found that people:
- Over complicated them – they’re meant to help you market your business not be a blue print for a rocket ship
- Over simplified them – they’re a bit more than just a SWOT analysis
- Misunderstand their target market – you can’t produce a marketing strategy unless you fully understand your target market (don’t over complicate or over simplify this either)
- Get confused between strategy, a plan and tactics.
There are many ways to produce a marketing strategy and there is no right or wrong way if it’s fit for purpose. Personally, I prefer to create one that is simple yet has enough detail to make it actionably clear. By actionably clear, I mean you can then make a more detailed plan.
What is a strategy?
To begin with, we all need to be on the same page of what a strategy is. Many people get mixed up with tactics, strategy and plans. It simply means what you’re going to do to achieve your goal. You don’t need a degree, or any fancy experience to produce a strategy. This, in my opinion, is where people over complicate it, because they feel it needs to be complicated.
Everyone can produce a strategy. If you’ve been on holiday you’ll have made a strategy to get to your destination, from booking a taxi to the airport with enough time to check in. Then getting on the right plane to then getting a taxi to your place of accommodation.
Your goal was to get to your holiday destination and your strategy was how you would achieve it. And that’s strategy, so make it any more complicated than that.
Creating a Strategy
To demonstrate how to create a marketing strategy, I am going to use a fictional company (The Property People) with a fictional goal.
The Property People started off as a podcast between two friends, which is all about giving free advice and thoughts about the UK’s property market. The podcast has been a big success and listeners wanted a community, so they could communicate with other listeners.
The podcast expanded into an online community of people sharing property advice and experiences. The community is free to join. Once they are a member they can join in the discussions and have access to free resources.
This community of property investors then wanted services from this trusted community, so The Property People rolled out estate agent services, finance services, construction services and accountancy services for its members.
The Property People has experienced rapid growth, but the owners want to accelerate it through content marketing in addition to their podcast. They want to double the members of their online community from 24,000 to 48,000 over the next 12 months.
Let’s get started.
1. What’s your goal?
Every strategy needs to start off with a goal and it helps if this goal is tangible. For example:
“They want to double the members of their online community from 24,000 to 48,000 over the next 12 months.”
The first thing you do is apply logic. You have 12 months to increase the membership by a further 24,000.
Break it down:
24,000 over 12 months is 2,000 new members per month, which is 462 new members each week. Let’s stretch this to 500 new members each week so we have a round number and a stretch target. It also allows for any membership cancellations. Note: in this case it is unlikely membership will drop as it’s free.
Now you know what number you need to aim for each week and month. This allows you to structure your marketing activities with these targets in mind.
At this point it is worth noting that there is no fixed strategy to achieve this. There are countless ways to achieve this goal. Therefore, there is no “standard” way to make a strategy. They will all be different depending on the circumstances. It’s the logical thinking that’s important to learn.
In this case, they want to achieve an additional 24,000 members in 12 months using content marketing. Therefore, I’ve made this strategy to those requirements. I’ve done it in what I think is the most logical way. I repeat, the thinking of how I have done this is more important than what I’ve done.
2. Understand the process
Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve you’ve got to understand the process first. You cannot achieve your marketing goals if you don’t fully understand the whole process. In this case, it’s getting people to sign up as new members to the online community.
That means potential members have got to find you (stage one – marketing), then they must sign-up (stage two – conversion). Once they have done those two stages they will become a member.
Now you might be thinking “What has this got to do with a marketing strategy?”, everything. Those two stages are what you need to focus on to convert a person into a member.
Imagine doing lots of marketing work and spending lots of money on getting people to the website (stage one – marketing), only for the membership sign-up page to be hard to find, broken or off putting (stage two – conversion). You would be getting all the traffic and no conversions. Or what if your website was amazing, but your marketing wasn’t strong enough to attract the numbers?
Therefore, you need to understand the process of what needs to be done for your customer to achieve success. That way you can review each process step and analyse what’s good, what’s weak and what can be made better. Therefore, removing any barriers.
We identified that the first stage in getting new members is to attract them. To attract potential new members, we must do marketing.
Marketing is a massive field including social media, exhibition stands, TV adverts, content marketing, podcasts, online videos, paid advertising, PPC, online marketing, offline marketing – you get the point.
Unless you’re a massive company with a huge budget and a big team you’re going to be limited in what you can do. If you’re reading this article, you more than likely have an idea of what you want to do, it’s just a case of putting it in a strategy.
With regards to The Property People, they have already stated they want to grow through content marketing. This is an understandable decision as their success has originated from their podcast, which is a form of content marketing. They want to scale it.
Content marketing is simply just the creation of content such as imagery, articles, videos, webinars, audio etc. Usually content marketing is about creating value added content. That can be content which is entertaining or educational. In this case, it’ll be content that is educational. The idea is to create this content and then distribute it using online marketing.
Both content marketing and online marketing would need a plan. That is a plan of what content needs to get produced, where and when. And a plan to distribute it using online marketing. A detailed plan is not part of the strategy. Strategy is higher level, so people know what’s happening, but if they need to they can review the plans.
4. Online Marketing
The first area we look at is online marketing as this is going to be the way we deliver content to members and potential members. The logical reason why I have chosen to explore online marketing first is because we’re working backwards from everything, from the end goal and reverse engineering what the customer wants and needs. How we deliver the content and thinking about how we deliver it, plays an important role in what we want to create.
The idea of this section of the strategy is to review where your online marketing is now, where you want it to be to achieve your goal and what competitors are doing.
4.1 Online Marketing: Social Media
In most cases, the social media channels you’ll have to review are the company’s, your competitors and companies that are doing it well.
In this example, The Property People originated from a podcast which was made by two friends. Therefore, their personal brand is largely due to the success of the business. For this reason, we must review both the company brand and their personal brands. Then use this review to identify where both the company brand and the personal brands currently stand and what they need to do to achieve their goal.
Now I go through all their existing social media channels and look at:
- what they’re doing
- what they’re not doing
- what competitors are doing
- what others are doing (the ones who do it well)
What this does is, it gives you an idea of what you need to add to make the channel better. You’ll understand what you’re doing, not doing and what you need to do to make it better. The importance of looking at company’s/brands outside of the industry is because they’ll have ideas that you can copy or adapt that your competitors are not doing.
I do this process for every channel, which will give me and others a rich picture.
I will also add additional slides with pictures for comparison to show what your channel looks like now and what the ideal future state is. Rather than waste time creating an ideal one, you can simply take a brand that is doing it very well and use this as an inspirational ideal future state.
You don’t need to do this for every channel, one channel would be enough so that those who you are presenting to can understand the end vision. However, you might need to do this for all your channels if your team isn’t able to visualise what you can see.
Once I have reviewed every channel used, I will then explore what channels we’re not using that we should. Now don’t get sucked in to the trap of wanting to use every social media channel.
Being good at a few is better than being bad at them all. Your target market won’t be on every channel. For example, if your customers are HR Directors, they’re probably not going to be massive consumers of Snapchat. Therefore, don’t waste your time on Snapchat. Time is limited, so focus on where your customers’ attention is. Even Neil Patel isn’t using every social media channel.
From this, you’ll either decide that you need to drop some social media channels, add new ones, or keep to your current channels.
Once I have reviewed all the social media channels I produce a high-level SWOT. This gives a big picture view of everything and puts everyone on the same page. I would then put it at the front of this section. Remember we’re working backwards. You can only do a high-level SWOT of social media after you’ve reviewed them all.
4.2 Online Marketing: SEO
Not all potential members will find The Property People through social media marketing. Many will also find the company by searching Google. Therefore, as with Social Media marketing I will do an SEO review by reviewing the website. It is also worth noting that any social media marketing that drives people to the website would be pointless if the website wasn’t good.
You would do this review through the customer’s eyes and through technical analysis. I would leave the technical analysis out of the strategy as it’ll be too detailed but be aware you will need this to help make the website technically better.
This is a new section of the strategy, so it’s worth revisiting the goal so you don’t go off track, which is to increase the online community by 24,000 in 12 months through content marketing. With this in mind, review the website and SEO creating a high-level summary. You could also do a SWOT analysis.
4.3 Online Marketing: Paid Advertising
Social media marketing, while still amazing, isn’t what it used to be. It’s very crowded and noisy. You’re not just competing against your direct competitors, you’re also competing against everyone for your customers’ attention. The platforms also constantly change the algorithms making your posts harder to be seen. SEO is the same. The internet is just one big noisy world.
Therefore, to achieve the goal of 500 new members a week I’ve concluded we’ll have to use paid advertising. How did I come to this conclusion? If we want 500 new members a week we would need a traffic number of 21,277 visitors per week (average conversion rate is: 2.35%).
To get that much traffic a week in under 12 months we would simply need to pay for it.
Note: you might not need paid advertising in your strategy but remember it’s the thinking that got me here. That’s the point that’s important. Everything is broken down and reverse engineered based on the goal and the circumstances.
5. Offline Marketing
Rather than repeat the same content for offline marketing, the process is the same. Review where you are now, where you want to be, what competitors are doing and what other companies are doing that are doing it well.
6. Content Marketing
As before review where you are now and where you want to be. In the order I’ve done this strategy, by reviewing online marketing first and breaking down social media and SEO, I have already got a good idea of what content needs to be produced.
I’ll use this section of the proposal to give a more detail.
I have worked out that two types of content philosophies need to work together to achieve such an ambitious goal. They are:
- Educate: reverse engineer what the target market wants/needs such as information, education, tools & services. Then produce content that caters for this.
- Document: the Property People journey. Show the world what the company brand is like from the inside through imagery and videos.
The best thing to do is to understand your customer and then reverse engineer what they want.
In this case The Property People will have multiple customers profiles, so I break down the target market into segments, then work out what type of content needs to be produced for each target market.
The content marketing flows between the website, other platforms and social media. All this needs to be tied into together in a seamless ecosystem.
In the case of The Property People, content is going to be produced organically (documented content) and planned content to add value to potential members and members. This is a big task and will need a strategy of its own.
As I mentioned earlier, there is little point in doing amazing marketing work to drive people to the task you want them to perform. When that task is fundamentally flawed, difficult or frustrating to your customer. In this case it’s getting them to sign up as a member. In your case it might be to get your customer to make a purchase or getting them to make an enquiry.
Now in this section, I simply review the process the customer must go through and make recommendations for improvements. That could be better landing pages, more clear contact details, better check out facilties etc. Remember, keep it high level.
8. Marketing Calendar
All marketing activities need a structure over the year, months and weeks. In your marketing strategy you’re not going to put a detailed breakdown of the year, months and weeks (that’s a marketing plan). You’re simply going to put a high-level overview of what you’re going to do, or might do over the year, month and a week.
This is to provide the reader who is possibly your board or senior management, how it all looks. This doesn’t need to be perfect, that’s done at the planning stage. The marketing strategy is to get everyone on the same page before you start making the plans.
Remember when you present your marketing strategy, don’t be attached to it. It is likely the people you present it to will want to add their knowledge, experience and ideas. This is a good thing as it gets everyone on board and a sense of ownership. Your job here is to adopt what’s good and discard ideas that won’t work.
Only once everyone is on board with the strategy and it’s signed off will you go on to produce the marketing plans. Don’t do this before the strategy is all agreed up on.
9. Marketing Team
You might have a marketing team, you might be building a team, or you might have a team that are dual marketing along with other roles. You’ll need to put in your marketing strategy what your marketing team will look like and what responsibilities they’ll have.
The other side of marketing is numbers and rightly so, because you need to see what’s working and isn’t working. For a large part, numbers will help you establish if what you’re doing is the right thing or not.
It’s best to have a few key performance indicators (KPIs), in this case:
- Number of new members each week (target 500 per week)
- Number of traffic each week (target 21,277 per week)
While they are the KPI’s I would also monitor some key analytics such as:
- Time spent on website
- Page conversion rates
- Organic traffic | social traffic | paid traffic
- Click through rate
- Engagement levels
- Bounce rate
We can measure everything, and some of the above will have lower level measures such as social media engagement levels. Unless you have a fulltime data analyst, keep things simple and drill down when you need to rather than keep track of every tiny detail.
11. One Page Overview
At this stage you will have everything down in your strategy. The next thing to do is summarise it to one page. This is for several reasons:
- This will go near the front of your strategy, so you can set the scene for the entire strategy.
- It will also serve as a reminder that you can pullout or have displayed on the company walls. Marketing is one of those subjects that can be easily side tracked. Having a one page that summarises everything keeps everyone on track. That way several months down the line if someone starts suggesting something you can refer to the strategy. While the idea is not to be ridged you don’t want to be unnecessarily going off track.
Because the theme of The Property People is property I’ve made the effort of making this one-page summary into the shape of a house. Don’t get precious about this, but it can help the team feel like the strategy is unique to the organisation.
When you put all this together you’ll have a strategy of how you will achieve your goals and a document that you can refer to and present to your board/senior team.
The strategy might change and should change to adapt to your environment.
If you have any questions, just drop me a message or coment below.