What do you think of when you hear the phrase "marketing strategy"?
If your mind jumps to search engine optimization (SEO) and lead generation, you are missing a few steps. Creating a marketing strategy that works is about more than picking the right keywords. SEO is a marketing tactic, not a strategy.
Marketing strategy is much more involved. It includes which markets your company is targeting (your target market), the specific demographics to whom you are trying to appeal (your target audience) and the message you want to project (messaging and personas). In other words, marketing strategy is all about the “why” and the “how.” It provides direction. Tactics, like SEO, can only come after those things are defined.
With that in mind, we have come up with a list of easy tips for creating a marketing strategy that works for your business. Let’s get started.
1. Define Your Unique Selling Proposition
Start by looking at where you currently stand as a company. Think about what makes you unique. Also called your unique selling proposition, or USP, this is what you offer as a business that your competitors do not. It has to be specific. Saying that your products or services are better than your rivals doesn’t count as a USP. Think about what makes them so much better instead.
For instance, if you have an ice cream shop, do you make your ice cream from scratch? Do you use a recipe that was passed down from your great-grandparents? Do you offer unique toppings like breakfast cereal? Do you offer amazing non-dairy or lactose-free options? Any of these could be your USP. Whatever unique selling proposition you offer, this is the message you want to convey to your customers.
2. Narrow Your Focus
Your USP should be no more than a single sentence. It should be your greatest strength as a company. Besides, you can’t be all things to all people – and, really, you shouldn’t even try. Using the ice cream example, if what makes you the best is a century-old ice cream recipe, focus on that.
Even if the fact that you offer non-dairy options happens to be a big selling point in your area, that shouldn’t be the focus of your marketing unless that is what you want to be known for. Instead, if you narrow your focus, you can attract customers who are looking for your specific value – in this case, old-fashioned ice cream. This is your target market.
3. Find Your Target Audience
As much as you might like to sell to everyone who wants old-fashioned ice cream, your actual customer base is going to be more homogenous. They may share a common location and they likely share common demographics, such as annual income, age, gender or family situation.
The majority of your customer base may also share other attributes. They may enjoy hiking or antiquing, homeschool or private school, traveling or entertaining at home. This is your target audience. As you develop marketing materials and content, you will want to gear your material to this segment of your target market.
4. Develop Personas
You should define your target audience as narrowly as possible. The more focused your marketing strategy, the easier it is to craft marketing messages that resonate. To this end, creating marketing personas really helps. A marketing or buyer persona is a set of specific demographic characteristics that define your target customer. It lists out details about the person, as well as some of the values he or she holds and the types of marketing messages he or she prefers.
For your ice cream shop, you may have Molly, a stay-at-home mother of two who takes the kids in for treats but also likes to stop in for an indulgent something when they are in school. She buys organic and likes to know she is eating food made with the best ingredients possible. You might also have Kate, a teenager at the local high school who likes to come in with her friends. She loves your shop because the ice cream is Instagram-worthy in its presentation, you have free Wi-Fi and you stay open late. Both are valid. Ideally, you will want to create three to five marketing personas.
5. Create Marketing Messaging
Messaging and personas go hand in hand. A big part of creating a marketing strategy that works is defining what message you want to share about your company to your target audience.
Who is your company in the grand scheme of everything? Are you trying to attract customers to drop by on a daily basis or do you want to be a place where people go to celebrate (e.g., ice cones or elaborate sundaes)? Do you want to keep your focus on a narrow segment, trying to appeal to their needs so specifically that they never go anywhere else (e.g., you have lots of cozy nooks for people to gather in groups)? Does your company offer something relatively common in a way no one else does (e.g., rolled ice cream)? The answers to these questions will inform the marketing messages you create.
Once you have identified your target audience and have created messaging and personas, it is time to put your marketing strategy to work. Set goals for the content you create and the tactics that you use to draw attention. Craft marketing messages that are written with buyer personas in mind and that will appeal to your target audience. Be as specific as possible in your goals and track everything so you can see what works. You can always revise.
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