Starting a new marketing strategy is exciting. You’ll get to come up with creative new ideas, see your brand applied in new contexts and in new ways, and hopefully see a positive ROI that makes all your peers and supervisors happy.
But successful marketing campaigns don’t just appear out of thin air. A lot of work goes into the execution and follow-up of great campaigns, but the real value — the make-or-break of a particular strategy — comes in the planning phase.
Before you finalize a strategy, make sure you have these seven pieces of information at a minimum:
1.Your main goal
That’s obvious, right? Get more customers, make more money. But marketing is a bit more nuanced than that. You’ll want to dig deeper into the specific marketing area you’re working in; for example, are you trying to drive more traffic to your site? Are you trying to earn more conversions? Are you simply building more brand recognition? Then, identify the specifics: Are you looking to achieve a certain growth rate? Are you working within a specific period of time? The more specific you are here, the better.
2.Your target audience
You’ll also need to know your target audience, and I mean really know them. It’s not enough to make a reasonable guess about who might be interested in your product; you need to prove, with research and objective data, that they’re interested in your product, and make sure no other demographics would be a better fit for your approach. Then, figure out what makes them tick; use surveys or existing market research to get inside your average customer’s head and build your strategy from there.
You also need to know who your competition is and what strategies they’ve been using — for multiple reasons. Do some quick Google searches if you aren’t familiar with other companies like your own, and identify some of your most popular competitors. What kinds of strategies are they using? How are their goals and audiences different from yours? What key differentiating factors can you take advantage of to better appeal to your shared audience? You can draw inspiration here, and also find creative fuel for how to plan and target your campaigns.
4.Your medium options
No matter what your goals, audience and competition are like, you’re going to have multiple options when it comes to getting your message out. Will you try a traditional advertising approach, or opt for something more inbound, like content marketing or SEO? Which social media platforms are you going to choose? The options are practically unlimited here, so make sure you weight the pros and cons of all your options as thoroughly as possible before settling on a final option.
5.Your messaging options
Next, decide: What’s the main message you want to give? What do you want your brand to be known for? What kinds of feelings do you want users to have when they encounter you? What takeaways should they have about your products and services? This will require special attention to your audience’s psychological profile, but also a great degree of creativity.
Next, you’ll need to know approximately how much your campaign is going to cost. Some options are far more expensive than others, so depending on the size and scope of the budget you’re working with, your ideal medium and messaging strategy may not be a feasible option. If that’s the case, try to water it down. Can you save money by opting for a smaller channel of distribution, and scale up later?
7.The projected return
Finally, you’ll want to consider the projected return, and I saved this for last because it’s hard to say exactly how much your strategy will return to your brand until it’s up and running. In a way, this is one final goal for you to set for your strategy; How much revenue are you hoping to gain, compared to how much it’s costing you? This question of ROI is the most important one to answer when you develop your marketing strategy, so pay careful attention to it once your strategy is up and running.
These seven pieces of information aren’t comprehensive; in fact, even with these basics, you should still do some extra research to fact-check yourself, learn best practices and consider alternative approaches, but these are the fundamentals that no marketing strategy should be without. As you gain more experience as a marketer, some of these pieces of data may remain consistent (for example, your target audience may not change if you remain at the same position), and some of them will become easier for you to research and comprehend, coming almost naturally to you.
Still, it’s a good idea to run through this checklist during your planning phase to make sure you’ve touched on every point.