To successfully market any business no matter what its size, industry, or the market in which it operates there needs be a marketing strategy and plan to work to. Without this a business will invest considerable time and money in marketing campaigns that don’t work.
Marketing activity without a clear direction and strategy not only results in a poor or no return on investment but crucially can waste considerable time and resources dealing with the wrong type of leads.
Marketing plans come in a wide range of shapes and sizes from simple two page headline documents to full blown multi-channel epics, but to ensure their success there are four cornerstones that need to be considered across them all.
- Understanding your Target Audience
In order to develop and deliver an effective marketing strategy you must first really understand your target market. Only by knowing and truly understanding the needs of potential customers can you select the right marketing activities, channels and messaging that will engage them and deliver results.
A good starting point in this process is the analysis of your existing customer base. Reviewing existing customers and looking for similar characteristics will enable you to segment the different customer groups you currently sell to. If your customers are consumers these similar characteristics are likely to include age, gender, income, products purchased, average order values, whereas if they’re businesses it could be industry sector, size or geographical location.
Once profitable customer segments have been identified it becomes significantly easier to understand their needs and/or issues they face and the various triggers they respond to, which of your products or services they are likely to need and the price points they are comfortable with. Armed with this knowledge you can select relevant channels and develop marketing messages that resonate with them.
In addition to analysis of your existing customers, market research is an invaluable tool to help you identify new groups of potential customers for your products or services. Obtaining information about their needs, tastes and spending habits will help you identity new customer segments that are likely to purchase from you and the kind of marketing and sales activity they will respond to.
- Knowing what your Competition is up to
The competition within your chosen market place is likely to be intense and so before developing your marketing strategy it is critical that you know what they are doing.
Investing time in researching how they are engaging with, or marketing to, your target markets, their product and service offering as well as the marketing messages they are using will enable you to benchmark your own products and services and help shape the direction of your marketing campaigns.
There are a number of ways you can obtain this information, from simple online research via their website, through mystery shopping to more detailed analysis using specialist research tools such as SEMrush.
Once this detailed information is to hand, creating a SWOT analysis enables you to assess your businesses strengths and weaknesses against your competitors as well as highlight any opportunities and threats within your marketplace. It is also a great tool to identify any internal issues that might need to be addressed, such as pricing, customer delivery or internal sales processes, prior to launching specific marketing activity to your relevant target audience.
This clear understanding of where the business stands in terms of its offering, internal processes and competitor benchmarking, combined with a clearly defined target audience will help to shape the direction of your marketing activities for each customer segment and create marketing messages that will instigate persuasive conversations with potential customers.
- Invest in a robust Digital Marketing Strategy
It is a fact that the internet has transformed the way that customers locate and purchase products and services and, in order to respond, your business needs to include online marketing within the mix. The extent to which this needs to feature depends very much on your target market and industry.
The rapid increase in ecommerce and online-only businesses demonstrates the shift online of their potential customers, with an increasing number of traditional bricks and mortar businesses realising that they need a strong online presence. Why? Because more and more of their customers are using the web to research and locate products and services they want to purchase, as well as to engage with and ultimately buy from businesses that supply them.
None more so than Millennials, a generation more likely to use online channels to locate and purchase products and services than any generation before, and only set to increase.
Millennials make up a large percentage of the purchasing population and are spending more and more online. According to some statistics as much as 82% of their shopping time is spent online, from healthcare to clothes, tickets to holidays. The internet is so engrained in their personal shopping habits that even when looking to find a product or service at work it is the first place they go.
In addition to being big online spenders they are more receptive as a generation to online marketing campaigns. Social Media Platforms are becoming more and more where they locate and interact with friends, build relationships, make and share recommendations and ultimately locate and engage with brands.
As this generation move into middle and senior management positions these buying behaviours will continue to transform the way that businesses shop for products and services, meaning that even traditional B2B companies need to ensure they have a marketing strategy that gives them a strong online presence.
- Track and Measure the Results
One of the key elements to any Marketing Strategy and yet the one that is never given enough time and consideration is campaign tracking and measurement. Without a clear set of objectives for the campaign, relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and the processes in place to track and measure the results, there is no way of knowing how successful a campaign is and whether the business is getting a return on its investment.
There are a multitude of ways to track and measure the success of marketing campaigns. The following are a few that would easily allow every business to make a start:
Website Analytics – whilst this is one of the more obvious measurement tools available it is still surprising how many businesses don’t have Google Analytics, or a similar tool, installed on their website. Or if they do, they don’t regularly review the results or proactively use them to help shape their marketing activity.
Understanding which marketing channels and campaigns are driving traffic to your website is a simple way to measure their performance. The use of custom reports, goals and conversion tracking further enables you to understand how each campaign / segment is responding to each campaign and make changes where necessary.
Monitoring Phone Calls – again something obvious but often forgotten about. For many businesses, especially those not selling directly via their website, their potential customers make contact via phone. If these calls are not being recorded and linked back to the marketing activity that generated them, you will never get a true indication of the success of that activity. Simple processes such as asking every enquiry how they heard about your business or using different phone numbers for specific campaign materials all help to monitor the success of marketing activity.
CRM Sales Tracking – whether you use an Excel spreadsheet or a custom CRM tool such as Salesforce or Infusionsoft, a Customer Relationship Management system of some sort will enable you to hold and analyse marketing success.
This is particularly important for businesses not selling directly online where sales are not being recorded on a website, or those who operate multi channel campaigns. Having every enquiry recorded and tracked back to a specific campaign and then linked to actual sales will enable you to make informed decisions, not only about the performance of specific activity but to help shape future campaigns. Over time this information will build into a valuable resource to help identify trends and feed into the wider business strategy.
KPI Tracking – the above are all ways in which you can start to track and measure the effectiveness of your marketing activity. The next stage in the process is to create a series of KPIs that enable the business owners and senior management teams to more easily review progress at a high level. KPI or key performance indicators are a way of giving an overview of the activity in an easy to read and understand way.
Covering these four main areas when developing a marketing strategy and plan for your business will ensure it will deliver a return on your investment.