In the first series of our podcast, Two Babies and a Business, we (Christina and Peter Pilarski, founders and leaders of Alberta-based digital marketing agency CIPR Communications) introduced ourselves and our business, and talked about what we have put into building and maintaining our company. In the second series, we dive into the concepts and processes involved with creating and implementing a great marketing strategy.
In Episode 1, we start with the foundations of marketing strategy. Whether you are just starting your business and want to develop an effective way to promote it, or if you have an established company and want to grow it to the next level, your starting point is the same. You need to get clear about your goals, do your research and start to develop an overarching strategy that will help you reach your goals within your industry’s parameters and, starting from the knowledge of where you stand relative to your audience and your competitors. Many clients rush to implement specific marketing tactics at this stage, but this is jumping the gun. At this point, we are talking only about higher level, “big picture” goals and strategies. The tactics will come later.
Before you start thinking about your marketing strategy, you need to know what your marketing goals are – and before you think about your marketing goals, you need to understand your business goals. Business strategy and marketing strategy are two very different things. Your business strategy is the foundation of your work – it’s the plan for what you do every day and what you are hoping to achieve. Your marketing strategy is the plan you create to help you promote your business, so as to help you reach your business goals. Your marketing strategy will only work if you connect it to your business strategy. If our clients are unsure about their business goals, we always advise them to spend time clarifying them and turning them into specific metrics. The success of marketing strategies can then be measured against these goals.
Remember the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)? There’s a reason it comes up in almost every business coaching or development program: it works. Going through a good, old-fashioned SWOT analysis as you work on your business strategy will help you gain clarity about your company, your products and your position within your market. It will also help you identify and define your unique value proposition (UVP), which should form the core of your marketing strategy.
Most marketing agencies will tell you that you need to define your target market before you start developing your marketing strategy. That’s true, but it isn’t precise enough. To create a really effective marketing strategy, you need to develop your ideal target personas. You need to distill your target market into specific individuals – either real or imaginary – at which you can direct your messaging. This is a crucial step in the process, and it can also be a lot of fun. Most importantly, it will enable you to reach the right people with the right messages at the right time.
Once you’ve got your business goals nailed down, you’ve done your SWOT analysis, and you’ve drawn a clear picture of your target personas, then you can get to work on setting your marketing goals. These goals must correspond to your business goals and must be specifically targeted at helping you achieve them. We explain how to do this, and also look at the two types of marketing goals: those that are intended to grow your brand’s reputation and those that are meant to generate leads.
At the beginning stages of your strategizing, you need to be able to clearly articulate your UVP, if you haven’t already done so. Your value proposition is the foundation of all your marketing messages. No matter what tactics you choose later on, each one of them will be working to promote your UVP. If you struggle to define it, it is best to ask someone outside your company, like your marketing agency.
Most businesses these days focus on digital marketing, but traditional marketing tactics like TV and radio spots or billboards, still have a place in successful campaigns. The important thing is to develop a marketing strategy in line with your business goals, and then work out what tactics you will use – whether traditional or digital. The two work hand-in-hand, enabling a two-pronged attack that will impact your audience from several different angles.
Your marketing strategy should be divided up into a set of specific campaigns, each targeted at achieving a particular goal and/or intended to run for a specific period. Campaigns must be unique to the brands they serve; if they are standard, “cookie-cutter” tactics, they won’t perform optimally. They should also be developed and implemented with an open and flexible approach, allowing for redirection or correction wherever necessary.
Creativity is vital when it comes to creating a marketing strategy and developing the content to go with it, but even the most brilliantly conceived strategy or campaign is unlikely to be as successful as it can be if there isn’t a thorough, practical plan in place for its implementation. Our tactical spreadsheets are as much a trademark of CIPR Communications as our creative work. We have become very adept at synergizing creativity and practicality, which makes all the difference in our campaigns.
This episode is not exactly an alphabetical list of the many tactical tools in the digital marketer’s toolbox. Instead, we look at some of the essential points to remember about marketing tactics, starting with the fact that you shouldn’t even think about them until this late stage, when your strategy is fully developed. Tactics are not about ideas, but about specific actions that you take to implement your ideas.
Once your marketing campaigns are being rolled out, you need to allow your audience to help you create brand awareness and reach your marketing goals. There are three ways to do this: by including a review platform in your tactics, empowering customers to spread the word through referrals via social media and other methods, and recruiting brand champions, such as influencers, to add some additional authority, trust and a perhaps a little air of celebrity to your brand’s image. A great marketing strategy will develop a life of its own after you let it loose on your audience!
At this stage, you have spent a lot of time and creative energy thinking about your brand, your business and your marketing goals. Now that you have generated a detailed and innovative marketing strategy, there is only one thing to do: just go ahead and implement it! If you have followed all the steps up to this point, you should be able to move forward in confidence. Many clients get apprehensive when planning and discussion finally have to be turned into action, but there is no need to hesitate. You can put the plan into action slowly at first, testing your ideas and gauging audience reaction, gradually escalating in response to the positive feedback you receive, and adjusting as you go.
One of the most critical tactics in any marketing strategy is social media. The ways in which we use social media platforms and create messaging for them changes over time. During the course of 2020, a number of trends started to emerge, which we expect to have a significant impact on social media marketing this year. In this bonus episode, we are joined by a special guest – our content manager, Cailin Murphy – who talks us through these trends and how they might change our campaigns in 2021.
If there is one core message of this podcast series, it is that any successful marketing effort should not start with a focus on tactics. Instead, you need to take several steps back and build a thorough marketing strategy that serves your business goals.