Startups spend a great deal of initial time and energy on the product. You started with an idea; then it blossomed into a product. Now you may even have some startup money. Congratulations! Now it is time to start marketing your business to the masses.
But first things first. Any successful marketing plan must begin with a foolproof marketing strategy. You must craft your marketing strategy before planning and executing any of your tactics.
What Is Marketing Strategy?
Marketing strategy is a combination of your vision for the future of your company and identifying the best way to get there. Think of it as a map, something that defines every move you make going forward. To begin to define your marketing strategy, first take some time dreaming about your vision.
Take some time to think about where your business is going and why. Ask yourself what major beliefs will guide you. Use these answers to build your business’ mission statement, and make sure you stay consistent with that mission.
Once you have a clear goal in mind, and your business’ values are mapped out, you can begin to craft how you’ll reach that goal.
1. Identify Your Ideal Customer
One of the foundational elements of any marketing strategy is narrowly defining your target client. For small businesses, define what I call “the ideal client.” These will be the types of clients that not only will buy your product or service, but also love the product or service so much that they will tell others about it, which in turn brings you even more business.
If you’re a startup, you may not have any prior clients that you can use as a template. In this case, start by thinking about the problem that your product or service is designed to solve, and then identify everyone that could have that problem. Go far beyond the demographics of your ideal target. Try to place yourself in their shoes and think as they think.
You want to define your ideal client as narrowly as possible. You can’t just say your target audience are “women over 35.” There is nothing that allows you to draw any useful conclusions from this audience other than demographic information. Paint as complete a picture of your audience as you can. Try to create several individual personas. Each persona is one person with a story and personality.
Once you know exactly who each of these people are and their personas, you can target them and reach them better. You want to go so deep that you can immediately tell what matters to them.
2. Understand Your Ideal Clients’ Buyer Journey
The buyer journey is the map of every interaction your buyers have with your business. Once you know who your ideal clients are and the problems they want solved, you can craft your buyer journey to suit their needs.
I have used Amazon as an example of a great buyer journey for years. They are constantly updating their customer service, offering customers the opportunity to get fast, free shipping and easy online—and offline—ordering. They know that their customers seek convenience above all other benefits, and they have worked to make the process as convenient as possible.
Placing yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer personas, ask yourself how you would ideally buy the product or service you’re offering. Map out how you would want to interact with your business, then plan how to address each of those interactions.
Try to imagine any gaps, and put a process in place to close them. That way, when your first customer buys your product, you’ll make it seem as if you’ve been dealing with customers for years.
3. Make the Competition Irrelevant
In order to achieve incredible growth, you must change the context of how the market sees what you offer and, in doing so, make your competition irrelevant. I get the idea that you wouldn’t be creating a new product or starting a business if you didn’t feel it was unique. But in order to be successful, you must prove that difference to your ideal customers.
Most businesses try to focus all of their attention on selling, servicing and talking about where their market is today. They create products and services to sell to people who are already demanding those products and services. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s money to be made there, but that’s where everyone else is playing too.
You want to show your customers that your business does something that no one else does, or does something in a way that no one else does. If you keep this in mind, no one can compete with you.
4. Make Content the Voice of Strategy
Today, the common thread in almost every element of delivering on strategy is content. Content is how you move people through the steps of the customer journey. Content is how you give your marketing strategy a voice. Because of that, you must take a strategic and systematic approach to how your content is developed.
Use content to address some of the gaps you identify in your customer journey. Write a “Frequently Asked Questions” page for your website, or address potential questions in a blog post. Address customer concerns on social media or post a how-to video on your website. Continue to create great, strategically focused content, and you’ll gain and keep your customers’ trust.
5. Strategy Is the Key
Strategy is absolutely the key to any marketing plan. Make sure you achieve an optimal marketing mix across all of your promotional channels, whether it’s social media, print publications or by other methods. Take time to evaluate which channels and strategies are working, and don’t hesitate to modify or eliminate strategies that don’t work.
With these five elements, your marketing strategy will be foolproof. More importantly, your strategy will be extremely effective at reaching your target customers.