How to Create a Marketing Strategy

The goal of the “The Marketing Machete” blog series is to help retreat owners and event planners cut a clear path to their prospects, and their retreat venues and events.  Coming up with a clear strategy is the first, and most vital step in the process. 

Far too many business owners rely on intuition, and false assumptions when making marketing decisions. 

Many also confuse tactics with strategy.  Simply engaging in marketing tactics isn’t the same as having a marketing strategy.  Your marketing strategy should focus on your business goals – not the tools and tactics you plan to use to accomplish these goals. 

In his treatise on military strategy, “The Art of War”, Sun Tzu wrote, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  We’ll be discussing a number of marketing tactics in upcoming posts, but for now we want to focus on Step 1, marketing strategy.

When creating your marketing strategy, it’s important to ask yourself a few basic, inter-related questions.

What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?

Unless you understand what makes your product or service better than your competition’s, and how to communicate that difference you will get lost in the crowd.  Your unique selling proposition is what differentiates your business from the rest, and it could be one, or a combination of these and other factors:

     ·         We cater to a specific niche

     ·         We cater to a broad range of customers

     ·         We make it easier to do business with us

     ·         We’re a recognized expert in our industry

     ·         We serve the local market

     ·         We serve a global market

     ·         We’re a small business, and offer personalized customer service

     ·         We’re a recognized brand that people know they can trust

     ·         We offer the best customer service

     ·         We’re the most affordable

     ·         We’re the most expensive – and we’re worth it

Your USP may be completely different from the examples listed above – there’s a reason it’s called your unique selling proposition.  As you can see many of the above examples are mutually exclusive, and that’s o.k.  Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for disaster.

Who is your competition?

Another notable quote from “The Art of War” states, “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”  Knowing your competition’s unique selling proposition can help you identify your own.  For example, if your competition focuses on serving a broad customer base, it might be better to focus your marketing efforts on connecting with a particular niche that they don’t serve.  In some cases it makes sense to claim the same USP as your competition – as long as you know you can win that battle.

As you go through this step in the process, there will be some businesses you had considered as competition that are not actually competing for your target market.  In some cases, this can lead to mutually beneficial alliances.

Who is your ideal customer?

Many businesses mistakenly think they know what their USP is, because they don’t fully understand their target audience.

For example, they may focus heavily on being the lowest-priced competitor because they think it’s what is most important to their customers.  That’s great – If that truly is what your target audience is looking for, however, many people equate lower cost with inferior quality, so focusing on this as your USP could actually backfire.

Tip:  When identifying your USP, Competition and Ideal Customers, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of your existing customers.  You’ll find that most customers are more than happy to take part in brief, anonymous online surveys.  Be sure to include questions about how your business can better serve their needs, and provide the opportunity for them to offer their own comments and suggestions.

What are your marketing goals?

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most important questions to consider when formulating your marketing strategy.  Naturally, you’re involved in marketing for the purpose of growing your business, but there are a variety of ways to do this.  Here are some examples:

     ·         Getting more repeat business from existing customers

     ·         Attracting new customers

     ·         Increasing brand awareness

     ·         Driving more leads to your website

     ·         Establishing your business as a trusted source of helpful information

     ·         Launching a new service

Creating a marketing strategy is usually a lot less time consuming than you might think, and it’s not carved in stone.  Your strategy will likely change over time to meet the changing needs of your business and your customers.   The important thing is to nail down some general, measurable goals based on objective information. 

We hope you’ve found this article helpful.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please visit our forum to join the conversation.

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