If you're looking for the ultimate definition of effective marketing strategy, you need not look any further than the phrase's three words. Effective. Marketing. Strategy.
We'll look at each. And I'll fire a series of questions at you in an effort to help you uncover some gaps in the planning process that are so crucial to your success.
Your course to effective marketing strategy begins with a firm grasp of what effective actually means to your company.
Often, a new client tells me their company's website (or some staple of their marketing program) isn't working. My response tends to be something like: "What will it do when it is working?"
As fundamental as this may sound, the client usually struggles to answer-or at least to articulate an answer in clear, simple, and quantifiable terms. But answer you must. If we're to be effective, we need to agree what "effective is."
I've written for a sales coach/author/speaker who teaches his audience the best question you can ask a prospect is "Can you help me understand what you are trying to accomplish?"
I'm fond of a "fill in the blank" approach:
Our marketing will be successful when ________________ .
That should get you started in the right direction for the first key to effective marketing strategy.
For completely accountable objectives, it'll serve your company well to remember the oft-cited "SMART"checklist, which spells out as:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Relevant
T = Time-bound
Some of these questions might make for good starting points.
- Increase traffic to your website?
- Increase the demos or trials requested?
- Increase the size of your email database?
- Increase the volume of high quality leads?
- Close more deals?
- Sell out an event?
- Expand your influence?
- Land new partners or affiliates?
- Test a concept?
- Sell a specific product off the page?
Regardless of where you look, the definition of marketing is blurry. I've rolled a handful of them into one: communications activities to attract customers.
Who handles them? One person? A department? Everyone in the company? Agencies? Freelancers?
Another tough one. While the function might have been siloed in the past, it's likely bled across borders in recent years. If this is the case with your company, has the spreading of tasks and responsibilities made things more productive? Has it introduced tricky new challenges?
And what about the communications activities themselves? I suspect they're changing faster than ever before as ubiquitous connectivity makes all things digital the dominating forces.
For key #2 in our examination of effective marketing strategies, let's focus on answering questions regarding marketing activities.
Do you have:
- An experienced marketing copywriter?
- A content marketing team?
- An ad and/or PR agency or partner?
- A capable webmaster to update your website?
- Someone who knows how to execute SEO?
- A social media team?
- A process in place to create and approve communications?
- A media plan?
Your effective marketing strategy will have a clear answer to "what does effective mean?" The marketing team's assembled. Key players are in place. Now you need a strategy-the plan to achieve your marketing goals.
Think about the following. Have you:
- Interviewed customers and documented your target customers with personas?
- Carefully studied your competitors' positioning, marketing tactics, strengths and weaknesses?
- Agreed and documented your key selling propositions?
- Identified opportunities to meet short and long-term objectives?
- Developed a look and feel and voice for your brand?
- Taken inventory of your current programs and audited your content?
- Created a plan to maintain a blog and perpetually create magnetic and engaging content?
- Sharpened your website and optimized for search?
- Measured and tested conversion?
- Begun a content marketing program?
- Put a program in place to capture emails and nurture leads through email marketing?
- Identified the social media networks where you can build community?
- Developed a customer advocacy program?
- Evaluated investments in paid media such as print advertising and direct mail?
- Created a schedule of events and conferences you'll attend and/or host?
- Mapped out methods for integrating your offline and online marketing communications?
That's a lot of questions, I know. And I don't have the answers. But you need to.