I disagree with a lot of marketers on this question. I don't believe a business necessarily needs to spend weeks (or even months) creating a strategy.
Don't get me wrong, if you're running a huge corporation with a marketing budget of millions then it'll take time. You'll definitely need to spend a while getting your strategy right before you start implementing it.
But I work with small businesses who want to see results as quickly as possible. Do they need to take weeks out of their business before they can start taking action?
I say 'no'.
Most people jump to this stage of the process first. This is the equivalent of placing a first order of 100,000 widgets based on a design on the back of a napkin. Yes, there's a chance they might do the job but you're risking losing a lot of money in the process. (Read 'Turning your marketing upside down' for a more detailed explanation)
First, you need a robust marketing function in your business that leads your customers comfortably through their buying process. You need to make sure you've designed your marketing to be effective and you've tested it out and are confident that it is converting customers with a good return on investment.
The process of doing this will almost always result in an upturn in sales, but if your sights are set higher and you want to grow your business more, you have two choices:
The order of these is important: it is far easier and more efficient to increase sales from existing, proven marketing activities. People often shy away from doing this because they're not confident their activities are delivering ROI. If that's the case, go back and put measures in place so you know whether they're working or not.
In any good manufacturing or software business, there will be rigorous quality assurance processes to make sure every product is up to standard. The quickest way to lose a customer is to fail to deliver on your promises. But if you measured every single thing, you'd never get your product out of the door. You couldn't test every keyboard that comes off the manufacturing line.
Instead you need to take meaningful measurements at regular intervals. You need to decide:
Just like you would check the quality of a product's components and subassemblies as well as the product as a whole, so too should you measure different elements of your marketing.
But marketing measurement doesn't have to be complex, especially if you know your way around an Excel spreadsheet.
Here's how to do it.
In engineering, you'd probably prototype and test a product before investing in expensive tooling.
Likewise, in marketing you want to avoid wasting large sums of money on activities that don't pay off. When trying any new marketing activity, it's always best to start small and scale up.
In the book 'Lean Startup', Eric Ries talks about building a minimum viable product (MVP). Think of your marketing in the same way - start with a minimum viable marketing operation (which is your prototype) and then expand on it. If you need a piece of marketing to fill a gap, then start with something that works and fulfils your basic requirements and build on it later.
Your prototype marketing activity should be used to test three different things.
Marketing often gets a bad name because marketers fail to demonstrate ROI. There are two parts to this issue: one is in the planning and the other is in the post-campaign measurement.
In this blog I'd like to share how I work out whether a campaign is going to deliver ROI. If I can't demonstrate that it has a high chance of success - before we start planning the actual activity - then it's scrapped. Even if it sounded like an amazing idea when it was first floated.
This process applies for almost all marketing activities and campaigns, whether it is advertising, email, direct mail, an exhibition or event, PR, or social media. Here's what you do...
Early on in any engineering design process, there's always a period of fact-finding.
Apply the same process to your marketing.
In my last blog ("What's the point of marketing?") I discussed how the first step in engineering a new product is to establish its purpose. In marketing it's the same, you need to establish the purpose of your marketing and how it needs to support your customers at every stage of their buying decision.
Once you've done that, you need to define your specification.
An engineering specification or functional design specification will typically include everything you want the product to do, how it should work, how it should be manufactured, timescales, cost restrictions and any other pertinent requirements.
In my last blog, I used the example of designing a keyboard. In this scenario, I'd need my specification to describe...
It's always tempting to sidestep this phase or start with a rough outline of what you want to achieve, However, the consequences of this approach can be costly.
Every new product, software, system or process must have a purpose. It must solve a problem or else it has no value and no one will buy it. By deeply understanding the problem your product solves for your customers, you can stay focused on what features will deliver the most value.
For example, if I was designing a new computer keyboard, I would need to consider...
Likewise, you must always stay focused on your marketing's purpose.
Most people who aren't marketers think of marketing as "getting your name out there". That if you want more customers, then you just need to tell more people about your product or service.
This assumes two things:
1. That as soon as people hear about you, they'll just "get it" and immediately understand the benefits of your product.
2. That the decision to buy is an easy one that doesn't involve too much thought.
If you sell an impulse-buy, like cupcakes, chocolate bars or jewellery, those assumptions are probably correct. So a marketing strategy that focuses on promotion (or "getting your name out there") is probably correct.
However, for most businesses I work with, at least one of these assumptions is wrong.
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