It’s the question that drives so much of the bustling business world’s activity every day: how can a company create its optimal marketing strategy? For many businesses big and small, building a great marketing strategy can be an incredibly daunting endeavor. After all, today more than ever, it can be challenging to get your business the attention it deserves. There are infinite other companies and institutions vying to get and keep your customers’ attention, and there’s only so much time in the day and money in the budget to make sure your message is really getting out there.
However, while there are no guarantees in the world of business marketing, it’s still very possible to configure a marketing strategy that will work for your company. Yes, it’s a big, crowded world out there for businesses seeking to attract and retain customers, but that also means there are a lot of new and exciting opportunities for businesses like yours. You just need to be savvier, more organized, more focused, and more passionate than the competition.
Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound so simple! Conceiving of and implementing an effective business marketing strategy does take a lot of hard work. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most important questions a business must ask itself when beginning to prepare a new marketing plan. Read on and ask yourself these 11 questions – then answer them thoroughly and honestly. You’ll be in the mindset of a true marketing maven in no time.
1. What’s so great about our [product/service/company]?
You know your company is the best in the business – you’ve got an awesome product or service to sell, and the competitors just don’t have what you do. We like your confidence!
However, you should still take some time to remind yourself of why you’re the best. Is it because your team has great credentials, stellar results, or a unique perspective? Is it because your product is of the highest quality, serves a specific demographic, or gets rave reviews? What makes your business special?
It’s crucial to remember exactly what sets you apart from the competition. Doing so will make it much easier to accurately answer the next 10 questions and optimize your marketing strategy.
2. How have we fared with our current business marketing strategy?
Take a good, hard look at your current marketing strategy. What are you doing to market your business right now – and why? How has this changed over time? What’s working, and how do you know that it’s working? What’s definitely not working? What social media account hasn’t been updated in months because your coworker accidentally changed the password?
Make use of every bit of data and feedback you possibly can. If you aren’t sure which aspects of your current marketing strategy have been effective, then you may want to consider surveying current customers and/or business partners to find out. This is your opportunity to take control of your business’s marketing strategy – you want to start off on sure footing by gathering as much information as possible and conducting an honest, constructive assessment of your present situation.
3. What are our competitors’ marketing strategies like?
Now, take a good, hard look at your competitors’ marketing strategies. How well are they communicating with your target customer? What kind of image are they projecting? What marketing platforms and techniques have they invested in most heavily? How much information can you obtain about the effectiveness of their marketing efforts?
Taking stock of the marketing that will be in competition with yours is absolutely essential. This will help you to hone in on how your business fits into the overall landscape. It can even make it easier for you to identify what you most want to express to your target customer.
4. Who is our target customer?
This is where you need to start thinking specifically about what you want the result of your new marketing efforts to look like; you can’t direct your marketing to your target customer if you don’t know who that is. You need to really know your audience and show that you are catering to their needs and tastes. You also need to reach them where they are, whether that’s where they are physically (e.g. the grocery store, a football game), in cyberspace (e.g. Facebook, Instagram), or somewhere else entirely (e.g. the local radio station they love to blast in the car).
So visualize the person who is most likely to buy from you, and don’t be afraid to get detailed: who is your target customer? How does she self-identify? What are his passions? What does she look like? What are his goals? What social media platforms does she spend her time on? How does he decompress after work? How much money does she make? You can always expand your marketing reach in the future, but it helps to be very specific and focus on that target customer.
5. What is the specific message we want to convey?
Now is the time to begin to really think about how your company can fit into the life of your target customer. What do you want your target customer to know about your business?
It’s not efficient, cost-effective, or compelling for a single marketing campaign to try to include tons of different messages. Yes, your company is trendy and provide healthy alternatives to the leading brand and is committed to giving back to local communities and has a fun and quirky corporate personality and has a million other great possible selling points, but the goal of a marketing campaign is not to be all things to all people. It is critical to pick a specific message that will really resonate with your target customer and make them want to spend their money with you.
6. Are our goals SMART?
We know your company is smart, but if your goals aren’t SMART, then you have some room for improvement. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
This means that as you plan this exciting new step for your business, you need to ensure that all of your marketing plans and targets are:
- Directly related to the Specific message and target customer you decided upon;
- Set up in a Measurable way, such that you can effectively track the success and progress of your efforts (and make changes as needed);
- Attainable rather than so ambitious that you can’t realistically achieve them;
- Truly Relevant to your company’s overall growth and value; and
- Set to a particular Timely schedule rather than simply going on indefinitely with no plan for the future.
7. What is our budget?
It’s crucial to plan a reasonable marketing budget and stick with it. You don’t want to be spending exorbitant amounts of money on marketing efforts that may not pay dividends. However, if you don’t invest sufficiently in your business’s future through marketing, then you’re simply wasting your time – and your company may not thrive or even survive.
The commonly offered wisdom is that B2B (business-to-business) companies should spend 2-5% of their total revenue on marketing, while B2C (business-to-consumer) companies should set their marketing budgets in the 5-10% range. (The U.S. Small Business Administration is more specific, recommending that small businesses spend 7-8% of their revenue on marketing.) However, typical spending on marketing varies widely across industries, so you should do your research and see what other comparable companies are spending before finalizing that all-important budget.
8. How can we retain our current customers and keep them coming back?
It can be significantly more expensive and less reliable to secure new customers than to retain current customers, so any business working on a new marketing strategy must keep them at the fore of everything they do. Failing to prioritize customer retention is simply bad business.
So don’t take your existing customers for granted: cater to them and remind them of why they chose your business in the first place. If you don’t know what your current customers want, then ask them. Making your customers feel listened to and connected to your business can make an immense difference when it comes to retention – and your bottom line.
9. What are the best marketing channels and techniques for us?
Now is the time to do your research and find out about the most effective ways to get your message across to your target customer. Today there are seemingly innumerable options, both traditional and digital, for business marketing. This can be incredibly overwhelming: where to begin?
Traditional marketing methods include television advertisements, radio spots, and print advertising; these are often relatively expensive, but they can also be incredibly effective when executed properly and are still virtually the only ways to reach certain demographic groups. Some of the most common types of digital marketing are various social media, search engine advertising, and email blasts. These tend to vary in price, with some being nearly free, and their results are typically more easily measured than those associated with traditional marketing methods; however, these digital marketing strategies can also be very time-consuming to maintain and, of course, may also be used ineffectively.
10. Is content marketing for us?
Many businesses are now using content marketing strategies, meaning that they release free content like videos, blog posts, and social media posts in order to attract and retain customers. This content is intended to reel that target customer in and give them something they want; this can be anything from information and helpful tips related to the business’s area of expertise to an entertaining distraction from the stresses of the day.
Content marketing can be very helpful in establishing your business, not only in terms of name recognition but also in the position of an authoritative, trustworthy industry leader. (This itself can be very valuable, hence the related concept of authority marketing.) It is a fantastic way to harness the power of storytelling, which has been said to increase conversion rates by as much as 400%, and give your customers a sense of what you’re all about. It can also make your customers and prospective customers feel a sense of loyalty to your business.
However, content marketing is not a good fit for every business. It can be nearly impossible to stand out from the pack and be heard in a sea of other content. It also nearly always requires a significant – and ongoing – investment of time and money before it can even potentially begin to show results, which can be profoundly frustrating and/or simply unrealistic for some companies.
11. What are some creative, unexpected ways to get our message across?
Sometimes you have to think outside the box to truly connect with your target customer, convey the right message, keep their attention, and establish your company as an industry leader. This can mean nearly anything, as long as it’s within your budget – the sky’s the limit!
Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Your business may wish to consider:
- Seeking to have your CEO (or another top professional) quoted in media articles about your industry or other related subjects;
- Partnering with other brands targeting the same kind of audience for a giveaway or promotional event;
- Applying for business awards and other formal recognition;
- Offering your product up for corporate and event gift bags; and/or
- Running fun competitions – with your product or a discount as the prize – for followers of your social media accounts.
Putting in the time to reflect on your business and its marketing goals, as well as to conduct thorough research, is absolutely necessary for businesses seeking to strategically move forward with an optimized marketing strategy – and to gain and retain customers. It can be the beginning of a long and challenging process, but it is also often rewarding, creative, reinvigorating work. We hope that asking yourself these 11 questions has helped you to begin the process of establishing a new and improved marketing strategy for your business with some pep in your step, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish!