Modern marketing is harder than ever. Every marketer has to struggle to make their voice heard in a world of digital distractions and declining attention spans. This is especially true for start-ups, which have to build an audience from scratch.
Even if your content lands on (for example) someone’s Facebook feed, there’s no guarantee that they’ll pay attention to it. In fact, the majority of Facebook ads disappear up the screen unnoticed as users obliviously scroll by.
So, what’s a marketer to do? How can we make sure that our content gets seen, gets clicked, and gets conversions?
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula. Marketing is a constantly changing medium, and what worked yesterday may not work again today. All the bright colors and zany tactics in the world won’t do much more than make a temporary impression.
There is one thing, however, that always makes a difference: strategy.
Just as every good start-up goes through a significant discovery phase, every good marketing campaign starts with a lot of strategizing.
A good marketing strategy will arm you with everything you need to reach your audience, gain their attention, pique their curiosity, and encourage conversion.
Strategizing may not sound as exciting as producing a bunch of shiny, exciting new tactics - but it is, ultimately, the only thing that works consistently.
So, how can you produce the kind of marketing strategy that gets results? Here are eight key steps:
Understand your context
When you’re creating a marketing campaign, it’s really tempting to get stuck straight into drawing up templates, making creatives, and all that fun stuff.
However, to give your campaign the best possible chance of success, it’s important to first take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re selling a cloud-based contact center solution. You could dive straight into content creation with the help of your AI writing software, building up a stock of vibrant, enthusiastic posts, graphics, vids, etc.
But what if the market is saturated with this kind of content? What if cloud-based solutions have had negative press recently? What if your company doesn’t have the resources to manage this kind of dynamic campaign? What if the world is going through a digital downturn?
It’s vital to understand the context in which your campaign will land. To do this, undertake a situational analysis.
Situational analysis will warn you of potential problems before they arise. It will give you a detailed understanding of your context, which will, in turn, enable you to create campaigns perfectly pitched to suit the wider market.
What does situational analysis consist of? Well, basic market research is a good start. Follow this up with SWOT and PESTEL analyses. These will help you to understand the internal and external factors that will affect your campaign.
Done properly, the situational analysis will involve a lot of data-gathering. To keep your data safe and secure, consider implementing something like data lake architecture or a data management platform. This will secure your data and help you to organize it in the most useful, accessible ways.
Create SMART goals
You probably have a vague idea of what campaign success looks like. But a vague idea is not enough.
To propel your campaign towards true success, it’s vital that you have well-defined goals. This will ensure that everybody knows what they’re doing, understands why they’re doing it, and is pulling together towards the same objectives.
If you’re struggling to define your goals, try using the SMART framework:
For example, if you’re marketing phone systems, a SMART goal might be to sell 100 systems as a direct result of your campaign within three months. It’s specific. It’s measurable. Your situational analysis should have told you what’s attainable. It’s relevant to your overall brand purpose. And, finally, it’s time-bound.
Get close to your customers
You should have studied your customer base when doing your situational analysis - but it’s still worth getting a bit deeper into audience research before moving forward.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your customers. They’re the ones you’re trying to attract, build relationships with, and influence. Ultimately, they’re the ones paying your salary!
So, get to know them!
The better you understand your customers, the better you’ll be able to give them the content they need.
For example, it’s pointless trying to sell call analysis software to people who don’t even know how to record a phone call. A better approach would be an educational one - explaining the benefits and how-tos of call recording before moving into all the great things it can lead to (being sure to squeeze in a plug for your product!)
But you won’t know your audience’s level of knowledge if you don’t research them first.
How can you get to know your audience? Well, there are various ways, including:
- Tracking online behavior;
- Reading reviews;
- Platform analytics (for example, Facebook and Instagram provide a lot of data about your page followers, which can yield some very useful insights);
- Social listening (i.e., studying what your customers are saying and doing via your social media platforms).
Once you’ve gathered plenty of audience data, analyze it and draw insight. Leverage your team’s emotional intelligence to get to the heart of who your customers are, what they want, what they need, and how you can add value for them.
Map customer journeys
Different types of customers will have different “journeys” to conversion. Mapping these journeys out gives you the opportunity to target customers with perfectly timed content at crucial points in their journeys.
A general customer journey goes like this:
- Attention: the customer becomes aware of the product/brand;
- Consideration: the customer thinks about converting;
- Buy: the customer converts;
- Service: the customer waits for product delivery and/or engages with the brand in other ways;
- Loyalty: the customer becomes a loyal, engaged, and valuable member of the brand community.
Not every customer journey has all of these steps. Some have different steps. And your customers’ steps won’t necessarily follow in this order.
By studying your own customers’ paths to purchase (and beyond!), you can refine your campaigns to provide the right kind of “nudge” at crucial points.
Let’s say, for example, that you sell office headphones. By understanding when your customers reach the “consideration” stage (and what that stage looks like for them), you can target them with content detailing things like why yours are the best headphones for office meetings or hit them with exclusive discounts. Whatever is likely to prod them from “consideration” into “buying”!
At the “service” stage, well-timed emails or app notifications detailing things like dispatch date, estimated delivery date, and so on will keep your customers well-informed.
At the “loyalty” stage, you can do loyalty-boosting things like send anniversary discounts or start re-engagement campaigns for customers whose loyalty may be waning.
Craft stellar creatives
This is the fun part!
Let your creative juices flow, and come up with the kind of winning content that your customers will love.
Using what you’ve learned about your audience, your customers’ journeys, and your brand context, craft creatives that will engage your audience, prompt conversions, and take advantage of your newly found knowledge.
If you’re not sure what will work best (for example, would your email campaign subject line be better with or without emojis?), try ad hoc or A/B testing.
It’s rare to get even the best-researched campaign right the first time, so don’t be disheartened if your first few tests don’t perform as well as you’d like. Learn, refine, and keep going!
What kind of creatives should you use? Well, it depends a lot on your audience. For example, if your audience primarily hangs out on Facebook, don’t focus your efforts on LinkedIn ads! If your audience prefers visuals to audio, don’t make podcasts! If your audience uses mobile more than desktop, give them mobile-friendly content (or even an app!)
Spread your content far and wide
Get your campaign in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Start a blog, cross-post on all relevant social media channels, record audio ads, and maybe even produce some print ads (depending on your audience and what they respond best to).
Other people can be a real help here. Get in touch with people who could help you to reach or expand your audience. These could be:
- Blog owners;
- Fellow industry professionals;
- Relevant social media pages;
- The press;
You could also try affiliate marketing. This involves asking people to host your content on their website or page in exchange for commission every time their “affiliate link” leads to a conversion.
Affiliate marketing is often very successful, but it can be tricky to manage. If you’re not sure how to manage affiliates, it’s worth reading up on the subject. If you’re going into affiliate marketing in a big way, it may even be worth installing some affiliate management software.
Set up campaign automation
Marketing automation is a game-changer. Set it up right, and it will engage your audience in ways that you never could, even if you worked at it 24/7!
For example, email automation fed with the right data can not only deliver thousands of emails at the absolute perfect time, but it can also ensure that each and every one of those emails are personalized for the individual customer. Even the very best human marketer would be unable to perfectly personalize every single email.
Automation can also be set up to respond to specific triggers. For example, if you sell cloud computing workplace solutions, an automated ad could be set to appear in the social media feeds of everyone who searches online for “Cloud Computing.”
Again, audience research is vital for getting automation right. Automation is only as good as the data you feed it. Here, for example, an email dynamically changes depending on the recipient’s location. This kind of personalization simply isn’t possible if the geographical data isn’t available:
Build your community
It’s not always easy to build a brand community. It takes hard work, constant engagement, and a lot of persistence. But, gradually, all that work will pay off.
Fostering a sense of community also fosters loyalty. It gives you a pool of positive, engaged, and loyal customers who will not only return to your product again and again but will also act as ambassadors for you.
Community members can be a massive boon when it comes to marketing. For example, they may be able to provide you with user-generated content or positive reviews. They may share your content, recommend you to their friends, and more.
How can you build a brand community? Well, engagement is a great start. Ask questions on your social media pages. Respond to comments. Reply to messages. Set up competitions, offer discounts and rewards for participation - that kind of thing.
Loyalty schemes are also useful in community-building. You could also offer special discounts to subscribers or exclusive content (such as a newsletter, for example).
Research brings rewards
“Strategy” isn’t the most exciting word in the dictionary - but it sure does bring results.
A good marketing campaign is 90% strategy and 10% action.
Strategizing involves a huge amount of listening, researching, learning, and analyzing. Customer research, competitor research, situational analysis, performance analysis, QA analysis… it never ends!
However daunting all of this research seems, I promise you that it’s worth it. Strategic research will bring you a well-rounded understanding of everything you need to produce an engaging, well-targeted marketing campaign that hits all the right notes.
Knowledge is power. In this case, knowledge is also what leads to conversions.
So, if you want your marketing campaigns to succeed, head to the drawing board and build yourself a winning strategy!
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