Ideally, our marketing efforts should form a cohesive marketing strategy in which each task aligns to the overall marketing goals for the company. Organizing marketing efforts into a single vision can require a lot of hard decisions and careful negotiation with stakeholders.
Consider 2 marketing scenarios:
- You get to build a marketing strategy from the ground up. You’ve no structures in your way that prevent you from being to build the best marketing campaign available within your available resources.
- You have to organize the marketing efforts someone else started, and you need to come up with some sort of organization to move towards company goals.
As marketers, we love the first scenario. We have freedom and room for imagination. And sometimes we even get these opportunities.
Often, we wind up with the second scenario. Maybe you got promoted, and now you have more responsibility. Maybe you started several marketing efforts over the past few years, and now you’re seeing that these efforts are a little too scattered.
Strategy from Scratch
Let’s dig into the scenario of creating strategy from nothing. This will give us a frame of reference as we dig into corralling various marketing efforts into a real strategy.
Start from the Company Mission or Vision Statement
If you need to create a fully cohesive marketing strategy, that means that all of your marketing efforts need to tie into a single direction. This isn’t about the latest trend in marketing. It’s not about what marketing efforts you like most.
Every part of the company is meant to be an extension of the company’s mission or vision statement. I realize that a lot of companies don’t have great statements that really drive the company. Still, you need to look for a way to embody the intent of those statements if at all possible.
Here’s why it matters.
The first reason is that your mission or vision statement really is the best purpose for marketing. The more you can deliver them with the company is trying to accomplish, the better off everyone is.
The second reason is that it positions you much more effectively when you need to go in a direction that isn’t obvious to everyone. It is easier to defend an idea if it’s aligned with the company rather than just your opinion.
This doesn’t give you an excuse to never have to change your mind, but it does create a good foundation.
Nurture Your Current Customers
Even if you’re creating your marketing strategy for the first time, you may already have customers. In this case, your goal is to make sure that your marketing efforts include ways of taking care of those customers.
Customer care is not just another department’s problem. You want to engage these customers with your marketing messages because they are more likely to buy than someone who has never purchased anything from your company.
If your marketing efforts are very successful, you may even be able to encourage referrals from your current customers. This is by far one of the most affordable ways to get new business.
The specifics of how you will nurture your current customers will greatly depend on the type of business you are running. This made include email marketing, or it could include something like a loyalty program. Most every grocery store I go to now incentivizes me in some way with a loyalty program. I’m happy to get those discounts, and I really don’t mind.
Engage Your Future Customers
When people think of marketing, we generally think of the stage where we are reaching out to people that aren’t yet customers.
When done correctly, a lot of work goes into the stage of moving someone who is not yet aware of you to becoming a customer. It requires a strong understanding of who the customer is and what this person needs.
The Buyer’s Journey
Here’s an excellent example of what the buyer’s journey looks like.
What you’re seeing is someone moving from the awareness that they need a new solution to considering what solutions might meet that need and then making a decision. While the buyer’s attorney makes for a nice chart, it is not always this orderly.
In real life, people may jump back and forth between these stages in unpredictable ways. Overall, the framework is still useful in understanding what stages people need to eventually get through before making the decision.
You need to consider what you can do to engage your potential customers at relevant stages within the buyer’s journey.
Should you create YouTube videos to highlight what to do when a customer notices a problem that your product can solve? Should you create an ebook that explains the specifics of why your product is the most efficient at solving the problem?
One strong bit of advice that I’ve leaned on recently is to start with the money and work your way backwards. Meaning, start with the materials that are closest to the purchase point. Then, build new materials to lead into that stage.
Eventually, you will work your way out to the awareness stage.
Admittedly, this approach only works well if you have enough customers making purchases to guide your marketing efforts.
Consider Your Budget and Resources
With an infinite marketing budget, we could accomplish quite a bit. Right?
Sprawl pops up more quickly than we realize, and it’s easy for marketing to become spread too thin. For example, if your team is trying every new marketing idea that you hear about, you’ll have an attempt in several marketing areas while mastering none.
I’m definitely guilty of this, and I’ve worked with other companies that struggle with it, too.
A budget forces us to choose, and that’s a good thing. We must look for what’s going to create the highest impact. For an excellent bit of advice around marketing strategy and budgeting, see Seymour Tillis’ criteria for business strategy.
A company must always consider what it can effectively complete. These ideas must also line up with its business environment, which includes both the internal and external forces of change.
Review Your Marketing Efforts for Alignment
Once you have your marketing ideas, check to make sure that you’re accomplishing two main objectives. You need to
- Take care of your customer from the awareness stage of the buyer journey to the happy repeat-purchaser stage.
- Ensure that all your marketing efforts are aligned with the customer journey.
If you can demonstrate how your social media efforts or your podcast or whatever other marketing effort lines up with motivating your customers, you’re heading in the right direction.
Remember, we’re trying to establish a cohesive marketing strategy. All of our efforts must align. We want to align to the company vision and to the customer journey.
Shaping a Cohesive Marketing Strategy out of Individual Efforts
When you have to work with an existing set of marketing efforts, you’ve got a much different scenario.
Herding cats: what it feels like to take on someone else’s marketing plan…via GIPHY
What I would love to be able to say is that you should just figure out what you want to use and get rid of everything else. Please do not do this.
Before you start making changes, you need to understand what is and isn’t working and why.
You may think that mailing postcards to inactive customers is a complete waste of time, and maybe it is. Or, it could be the thing that incentivizes them to come back.
If your company has data on this, then you can make some good decisions about what to get rid of. The difficult aspect is when the company does not have any data. If you are reduced to anecdotal evidence for marketing efficiency, you’re in a bad spot.
Establish Tracking if at All Possible
Let’s say you don’t have data to confirm or deny the current level of marketing effectiveness. How do you start deciding what stays and what goes?
First of all, you have to look at what you can find ways to measure. Traditional forms of marketing make this more complicated, but it’s not impossible. Create unique phone numbers or dedicated URLs to help establish some form of tracking.
Even with digital marketing, a lot of companies still struggle to find ways to attribute leads to marketing efforts. Systems like Salesforce and HubSpot help bridge these gaps, but these services are not cheap. You may find that you can use a service like ActiveCampaign or even MailChimp to establish some level of tracking digitally.
One of the most important things you are achieving by starting down this path is establishing the fact that you expect data as a means of verification for your marketing. This is an important cultural component of the marketing environment you need to establish.
Some Good Reasons to Get Rid of Marketing Efforts
Outside of data, what can we used to justify making cuts? Look for whether a particular marketing effort is consuming resources that you really need for another effort that would allow you to track for results.
As we mentioned earlier, your marketing budget will be constrained. Your available hours to throw out a problem will also be constrained. When you have to make choices, this is a good time to bring up the potential of cutting these old marketing efforts.
If the you think that you can save the company money with a more efficient means of marketing, those kinds of ideas are very well received. Efficiency at a lower cost is generally a win.
If you see a marketing effort is no longer aligned to the updated branding of your company or the current business environment, this is another good time to question that efforts value.
Basically, look for any marketing that relies on “this is the way we’ve always done it.” These efforts are ripe for elimination.
Preserving the Marketing Efforts that Make Sense for You
So far, we just talked about ways to get rid of the old stuff that you don’t want. What about the marketing efforts that surprise you with their results and that still seem relevant? You need to keep them!
You may find that some marketing efforts that you would never consider pay off in meaningful ways for the company.
Keeping in mind that we need to start from the company vision, look for ways to incorporate successful marketing efforts into a strategy that meets the needs of current and future customers. You will have a much easier time getting your new efforts to work if you can put them alongside marketing components that are already performing well.
Your job is to create a marketing system that creates results. Don’t kill the parts that are already performing.
Once you’ve identified what is and is not working, then you can take your available resources to build the rest of your cohesive marketing strategy.
Present Your Ideas to the Right Stakeholders
When I first got into marketing, I believed that the idea was the entire challenge. Coming up with a strategy seem to be the most important component of marketing.
It is important, but presenting your idea to all of the stakeholders is equally important. You have to know the politics at play. You have to be careful not to insult anyone’s work unintentionally. Lastly, you have to be convincing.
This is where the focus on the company vision helps solidify your idea. Again, this isn’t just your opinion. You are working from what the company wants to accomplish. The more you can align your recommendations to the company vision, the more likely you are to succeed.
Before you present your plan, you need to develop a list. Here’s what you need to know:
- What marketing recommendations are my must haves?
- If I had to give up some of my ideas, which ones would they be?
Even with careful planning and good data, you’re not always going to win these discussions. If you can come out these presentations with a clear picture of what your trying to accomplish most, you can continue moving the value of your marketing efforts forward.
Be receptive to the ideas of the stakeholders in the room. Argue for what you most need. Be willing to change your mind when it makes sense.
Keep calling the discussion back to the need to nurture current and future customers. This will help take some of the subjectivity out of the discussion and keep everyone focused on creating a higher lifetime value for each customer.
Before you start developing new marketing ideas, take a look at what you have in place. Can you describe your marketing strategy as cohesive? Can you align each marketing effort to a specific point in the customer journey (either before they’re ready to purchase or after they’ve made their first purchase)?
If there are efforts that you can’t align to the journey, consider whether they are still worth keeping.
On the flipside of this “assignment,” look for gaps in your customer journey. Consider what marketing efforts will help take care of those needs.
By keeping the customer needs first, you can start down the path of more effective marketing.