Without a robust marketing strategy, budget is wasted and growth opportunities missed. So how do you know if your strategy is solid? Check out our Marketing Strategy Checklist for the full rundown, but for a quick and dirty check-up, look for these four things:
#1 Detailed profiles of each target customer
The proper term is “buyer personas”, but no matter what you call them, it’s critical your strategy outlines who potential customers are as individuals. It’s not enough to define the types of companies you’re targeting, because companies don’t make purchasing decisions, people do.
Buyer personas start with a fictitious person who represents your ideal customers. How old are they? Are they male or female? Do they have a college degree? They also contain this person’s interests, motivations, fears, pain points, and influences; all the things which impact how we make decisions.
Buyer personas also look at potential customers’ actions at each stage of the buying cycle: what makes them realize they have a problem? Where do they go for information? Who else is involved in this decision? Once they’re a customer, what keeps them loyal? Answering these questions will make your marketing strategy more effective and get you a much higher return on your marketing budget.
#2 Value propositions for each targeted customer and each product or service you offer
A value proposition is best described as the intersection between what your customers want and what only you can provide them (side note: if you don’t have buyer personas, you probably don’t have good value propositions).
The first mistake many companies make is confusing their vision or mission with their value proposition (i.e. “Providing high-quality products with the industry’s best customer service”). That’s all well and good, but unless it’s a statement none of your competitors can make, it’s not a reason for customers to choose you, period.
The second mistake companies make is thinking they have only one value proposition, when in fact, you should have at least three:
- – One for your company/brand: why should your ideal customer buy from you over any of your competitors?
- – One for each of your products and services: why should customers choose this solution over the alternatives?
- – One for each buyer persona: why should this specific person buy the product you offer them over any alternatives?
Without a detailed understanding of what differentiates you, you’ll waste time and money sending messages to the market that simply don’t land, and more often than not, end up competing solely on price.
#3 Updated competitive positioning
Competitive positioning is how customers view the value offered by your product relative to other choices. To understand your products’ positioning you must know three things: what features and benefits matter to your customers, all of the alternatives your customers have, and how customers view all those options when it comes to what matters most.
Need help getting started? Download our free Guide to Competitor Positioning.
Unless you offer just one product or service, understanding your competitive positioning as a company is insufficient. This is because each product or service has its own set of alternatives from which your customers can choose.
Keep in mind that competitive positions are relative: the strength of your competitive advantage and uniqueness of your offer depends on the alternative choices your customers have. When market dynamics change, so too does our value in the eyes of our customers. This is why a strong marketing strategy must also include a market intel and feedback plan.
#4 Market intel and feedback loops
An effective marketing strategy takes advantage of the unique value you offer the market. However, when the market changes (say, two competitors merge or someone introduces a new product), your positioning within the market also changes and your strategy must evolve. This is why it’s critical your marketing strategy include a formal process for gathering, interpreting, and utilizing market intelligence and customer feedback.
For most businesses, intel gathering happens daily as we read industry publications and small talk with customers and vendors. The sheer volume of market information we encounter every day can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s crucial to have a plan to ensure you make the most of this information and stay one step ahead of your competition.
Are you using your customer satisfaction surveys to ask questions about your competitors’ performance? Are you compiling and vetting the competitive intelligence your sales teams hear every day? Do you monitor industry trends and their implications on the value your products offer?
Take the time to formalize your market intel and feedback loops and review your marketing strategy regularly, checking to be sure your assumptions still hold true.
My marketing strategy isn’t as strong as I’d like…now what?
If your company’s marketing strategy is missing any of these four components, you’re likely wasting marketing budget communicating messages that don’t resonate as well as they should. Experienced strategy consultants can help you develop a thorough, actionable marketing strategy without the complexity and expense of a large firm. Just drop us a line.