Create a marketing strategy in under an hour

Unless you are working in a multi-office, multi-million pound company with dozens of stakeholders and a complex bureaucracy you don’t need to write a 10,000 word essay to form your marketing strategy.

In this post I will show you how to create an effective marketing strategy quickly and easily, removing all the theoretical fluff that is typically not needed for small businesses.

What is a “strategy”?

Before I get started I want to define how I am using the word “strategy”. It has different meanings for different people, some of which are wrong.  A strategy is

“…a high level plan to achieve one or more goals.” – Wikipedia.

Your strategy is what you want to achieve. Your tactics/goals are how you will achieve that. So, the first place to start with is “What”

What is your company’s strategic vision?

A marketing plan should also come directly from the company’s overall strategy. If you create a marketing plan in isolation it loses any meaning. Start by stating your company’s vision so that everything else flows from this.

A vision statement is a declaration of your company’s goals for the midterm or long-term future. Some examples of vision statements include:

  • Amazon: “To be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
  • Disney: “To make people happy.”
  • Oxfam: “A just world without poverty.”
  • Ikea: “To create a better every day life for the many people.”
  • Nike: Currently “To be the number one athletic company in the world.” In the 1960’s: “Crush Adidas”
  • Heinz: To be: “The World’s Premier Food Company, Offering Nutritious, Superior Tasting Foods To People Everywhere.” Being the premier food company does not mean being the biggest but it does mean being the best in terms of consumer value, customer service, employee talent, and consistent and predictable growth.

For example, if I were presented with Disney’s vision, my goal would be to find out what makes our target audience happy, and then how Disney can contribute to that emotion. With out knowing this vision my marketing plan would be done in ignorance of this, and my ideas may unknowingly conflict .

What challenges are you facing to achieve that vision?

This is often drawn up using a SWOT and/or PEST analysis, and although that is a good way to help structure your thoughts, it doesn’t have to be presented like that.

A quick overview using bullet points or a short summary is enough. You should ideally use external sources of information for this rather than your own anecdotal thoughts.

You can do this with information you probably already have e.g. categorising customer complaints/feedback, data from customer surveys, competitor research and benchmarking etc.

For example:

  • We have expensive products compared to our competitors (Competitor benchmark)
  • Our customer support has a poor reputation (High volumes of support calls, poor scores on review websites etc.)
  • Our products are perceived as a commodity (Customer survey)
  • Our NPS score is dropping each month (ongoing NPS survey) – read more about NPS here.
  • We have large competitors entering the market (Competitor benchmark)

What do you want to achieve with your strategy?

Based on your vision and current challenges, list the key two or three outcomes you want to achieve by creating/updating your strategy.

This may be to cement a position you already have, or take your brand in a completely new direction. For example, you may want to:

  • Create a position that a competitor cannot take from you (e.g. price cuts, they develop new technology…)
  • Justify how much you cost
  • Find a position that appeals to a new target audience

Who are your customers?

Once you know what you what to achieve with your strategy, you should start building up a picture of your target audience and where you fit in.

  • What is the make-up of your target audience? (Geo-demographics, behavioural, benefits, lifestyle…)
  • How do they consume your product/services?
  • Where do they consume your product/services?
  • What are they looking for from a provider? (Price, support, tools…)
  • What are the barriers to choosing you?
  • Where do they go to consume content about your type of product/service?

Again, I would recommend on using data rather than your own thoughts. It is very difficult to know how customers think of you from the inside. Existing account data (e.g. postcode) and customer surveys are the ideal sources of information here.

Positioning your brand

All that information should have helped you to create a picture of where you are, where you want to be, who your customers are, and where you can communicate with them. The next step is to define how you will communicate with them. and how can you start to go about adding value? 

Let’s start by defining your key messages. These should flow through everything you do. For example based on the previous steps I have identified the importance of support, security and speed as important to my customers.

With this in mind I might want to position my brand as having:

  • Great UK customer support
  • Security based upon my great reputation
  • Easy to use

You can now start breaking each of them down further, and listing how you will achieve them. For example:

Great UK customer support

  • Showcase support response times on website
  • Support using social proof using customer tweets
  • Customer case studies and quotes
  • Showcase our awards
  • Ask happy customers to review us on 3rd party websites

So we have now defined our strategy. The next step is to start working on the tactical side.

Where will you communicate this?

Where you advertise should now be an easy choice now you know who your target audience are and what they want. Now it is a case of matching your audience and messages with the correct media.

In terms of 3rd party advertising, if you are unsure whether a media outlet is right for your audience as for their media pack. This will contain information about who their audience is along with the rate card.

Putting it in to practice

Having a plan is one thing, using it is another. To make sure this doesn’t become a paper exercise create a list of actions, along with who is responsible and when they need to deliver it.

Channel Task Team member Deliverable date
Brand Create positioning statements for brand & each product and create visual guidelines for all collateral to follow. Initials xx/xx/xx
Print Audit current print schedule & develop new ads. Initials xx/xx/xx
Events Identify awards and events we can sponsor/ attend. Initials xx/xx/xx
On-site content Create resources for [audience] to download and share. Initials xx/xx/xx
Content marketing & blog Developing useful content for [audience]. Initials xx/xx/xx
Copy Create copy guidelines based on a [audience] audience. Initials xx/xx/xx
Display/banners Websites (forums, blogs, news…) and new banners. Initials xx/xx/xx
Campaigns Create campaign schedule to support positioning. Initials xx/xx/xx
Customer marketing Create content & email format tailored to audience for newsletters. Initials xx/xx/xx

In conclusion

I hope this helps to give you a practical and quick way of creating a marketing strategy. The most important thing is to never let this become a paper exercise. Your strategy should inform your actions. If it doesn’t, it isn’t worth having.

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