How to Develop an Effective Marketing Strategy
A good marketing strategy is at the core of any business’ success. It’s what keeps all of your marketing efforts focused and goal-oriented.
In this blog article, I’m going to help you find structure in your marketing activities and teach you how to create a successful marketing strategy for your business.
Here’s what you’re in for:
Are you ready to kick off your marketing game plan? Let’s get started.
What’s a marketing strategy?
Within your marketing strategy, you:
- Set up your long-term marketing goals
- Determine the main value your business offers
- Define your target market
The strategy serves as a roadmap for the company’s marketing team, keeping their efforts focused on what the company is trying to achieve. At the core of a good marketing strategy are a company’s purpose and values.
Let’s take a look at Spotify, for example. It’s one of the most popular streaming services out there and it’s all about a personal listening experience using advanced technology. Therefore, Spotify markets its business and keeps listeners coming back for more with:
- Playlists curated by decade, genre, or even specific moods like All the Feels
- Personalized playlists based on recent and long-term individual listening activity
- Annual listening activity stats called Spotify Wrapped that highlight your personal taste and favorite songs
- Playlist generators based on your pets, zodiac sign, and imaginary celebrity party guest lists
In short—Spotify likes to get personal and that’s what people love about it. By sticking to its values and brand message, Spotify’s been able to set a strong image for itself and build a loyal following that knows what to expect from the streaming app.
Differences between a marketing strategy, plan, and tactic
Wait, aren’t these three the same thing? No, they’re not, and here I’ll explain the nuances that set them apart.
To recap the previous section, a marketing strategy is the backbone of your marketing efforts. It sets the general tone of your marketing activities, goals, and milestones.
A marketing plan, on the other hand, is a specific set of steps. Usually, marketing plans have a specific campaign timeline, so they don’t run forever. Marketing plans are a small but significant part of a marketing strategy, ensuring deliberate actions.
To illustrate, let’s imagine I’m running a custom travel merch business. This year, I just launched fanny packs. Since any custom product involves spending time and other resources, it’s important that the product offers a return on my investment. So my goal for the next 6 months is to sell, let’s say, at least 1000 fanny packs.
To get there, here are my marketing plan steps I will take to reach that goal:
- Publish a social media post announcing the product launch and create awareness
- Host a fanny pack giveaway to generate positive reviews from winners
- Run a special discount for fanny packs or orders that include them to motivate purchases
- Repost positive reviews of the custom fanny packs to create social proof
- Post a blog article about the top must-have travel accessories and include fanny packs on the list
There’s obviously a lot more I can do, but you get the gist—don’t go in blind and hope your goals will happen on their own. Be mindful of the ways you market your brand and products to make sure you progress in your desired direction.
Moving on to marketing tactics. These are effective ways to achieve marketing goals and fulfill marketing plans. Marketing tactics are often mistaken for marketing plans. The difference between the two is that marketing plans are specific to a particular company and will include clear actions and KPIs (indicators that measure performance). However, tactics are purposeful marketing tricks that are widely used by different companies.
If you look back at my marketing plan example, some of those steps are in fact marketing tactics, like:
- Using feedback to drive brand credibility
- Blog marketing
- Social media marketing
Why you should have a marketing strategy
A strategic marketing approach helps companies make sure all of their marketing efforts support and drive them closer to their goals. A marketing strategy helps you navigate through every step you take and connect the dots between marketing tactics, plans, and your company goals.
It also helps you make smart investments with your marketing budget. There are a lot of effective marketing tricks, but not everything works for everyone. For example, Facebook Ads are a great way of targeting a specific audience with your content and products. But if your desired audience doesn’t use this social media network a lot, it doesn’t make sense to put time and marketing budget resources into it.
How to create your marketing strategy in 5 steps
1. Define your company’s value
Identifying the main benefits that your business offers will help you develop a strong identity. If you already own a business, chances are you’ve done this. If not, to get a better understanding of your value, you can start by answering these questions:
- What sets you apart from others and gives you a competitive advantage?
- How will your business enrich your target customers’ lives?
- Why should people use your products rather than a competitor’s?
In short, this step gives your business a clearly defined purpose and motivates people to buy from you.
2. Find your target audience
Once you know what your business has to offer, determine who’s your ideal customer. One of the best ways to pinpoint this audience is to do a competitor analysis. Study who your competing businesses are targeting and see if there are any untapped markets you can snatch from them.
3. Define your target audience
This is a crucial step in your marketing strategy that’ll help you find the best way to communicate with and persuade your audience. Once you’ve identified your target audience’s approximate demographics, create a profile for them. If it helps, imagine them as 1 very specific person. Answer these questions to better hone in on your target audience:
- What’s their age range?
- What do they identify as?
- What’s their job title?
- What are their values?
- What’s their sense of humor?
- What are their biggest pain points?
- What makes them happy?
- How often do they shop and how much money do they spend?
- Where do they shop—is it online?
- Do they research products before purchase or do they impulse buy?
- Which are their favorite social media platforms?
- What social media post format do they like the best?
To summarize, try to find any patterns in your target audience and write them down. This will help you communicate with them in a way that resonates.
4. Set up measurable goals
Now’s the time to write down what you want to get out of your business. When doing this, try to think long term. For short-term goals, you can use your marketing plan.
To help you better understand this, let’s go back to my travel business example. Here would be my potential goals and how to measure them:
- Become the go-to accessory retailer among travel enthusiasts—compare the social media followings of my competitors with my own
- Enrich travelers’ lives with innovative products—analyze new potential products to add to my catalog and assess how many product launches I do over time
- Provide a platform for traveler stories—analyze the number of user-generated content from travelers on my marketing channels
- Be an authority in the travel community—check if I’ve been published, re-published, or recognized in any other way by popular travel influencers and the media
As you can see, even though the goals may seem abstract at first, I’ve made sure to attach either a number (how many followers, products, posts) or a yes/no value (have these media platforms or people mentioned me) to each of them.
Your marketing strategy goals should ideally be something that you can always assess, improve on, and strive for in the long term.
5. Congrats, you’re ready! Time for a marketing plan.
Now you’ve got your strategy. Move forward to execute that strategy with a marketing plan. Take some time to split your long-term goals into smaller short-term ones. For example, the goal of “being an authority in the travel community” can be narrowed down to:
- Collaborate with at least 2 influencers in the next 6 months
- Gain at least one publication in a popular (at least x number of monthly visitors) travel media outlet
Set up a timeline for your marketing plan and choose an audience segment that those goals would work best for. Afterward, decide on the most effective marketing tactics for this goal and audience, and then get started.
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Learn from the market leaders: successful marketing strategy examples
It can be intimidating to see your big picture goals just laid out like that. But consistent marketing efforts are going to get you there. You just have to be patient and persistent.
Let’s take a little break from studying and look at some inspiration to keep you motivated in your process. Here are a few household names that have achieved their business goals thanks to strategic planning.
Twitch—focus on your community
When Twitch, a video streaming service, started, it had pretty big shoes to fill. With intimidating names like YouTube, Instagram, and other services providing live streams from already established online celebrities, there was a lot of room for failure. However, instead of targeting just anybody who wanted an audience, Twitch narrowed its target market to a specific niche: gamers.
Even though gameplay videos were already popular on YouTube, Twitch decided to make it more fun by focusing on the live experience. The focus on video gamers specifically was due to the rapid growth of the gamer community’s popularity. Twitch’s added value as a streaming service was a sense of togetherness. Their official brand statement says that “Twitch is where millions of people come together live every day to chat, interact, and make their own entertainment together.”
Yes, the Twitch customer base has outgrown just gamers and people who like to watch gameplay. But the niche marketing strategy and the community-focused approach are what helped Twitch stay afloat among competitors. Their marketing strategy is proof that defining a target audience, instead of focusing on anyone and everyone, is crucial to remaining in business.
Nike—values come first
Fun fact: did you know that Nike actually started thanks to an old waffle iron? After the company founder’s light-bulb moment to incorporate the waffle grooves into running shoes, it became a staple brand in the athletic community, especially among professional runners.
However, that was then. Thanks to today’s cultural shift towards a more inclusive society and giving equal opportunities to everybody, Nike has, in the past few years, changed its marketing strategy and moved towards values instead of simply featuring sports all-stars.
Just think of their current mission statement: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” This was a strategic approach that not only created a more likable brand identity in the younger generations, it also broadened their target market. Nike went from targeting peak-performance athletes to focusing on regular people trying to pursue their passion, regardless of their circumstances.
To sum up, Nike should teach you that adaptability in products and marketing strategy is key to your business growth and what will make your brand timeless.
Red Bull—targeting and content is king
Red Bull is also a story of innovation and targeting a specific market. It started out in a tough spot—back in 1987, when the product was first launched, energy drinks weren’t really a thing and marketing funds weren’t as accessible as they are now.
So, instead of going the traditional advertising route, Red Bull simply went directly to its target audience, men ages 18–35. And I mean literally: Red Bull would visit events, frat parties, bars, and other places and hand out free cans of their drink. As a result, word of mouth spread in a flash and the company quickly elevated its brand awareness.
Today, Red Bull focuses less on selling an energy drink to anyone who needs a little boost, and more on energizing their target audience with inspiring content. Videos, blog articles, and other content streams that cover energy-seeking experiences and people who never stop are their focus. Red Bull’s content includes extreme sports events, mind-blowing stunts, and even music videos. This marketing strategy centered on high-value, inspiring content is also known as inbound marketing.
Think of ways you can implement this into your own marketing strategy as well. Meaning, try to be where your audience is—maybe not in a literal, real-life sense, but do your research on your audience’s favorite media channels and create content that resonates with your people.
Starbucks—it’s a lifestyle
Sure, you don’t need an expensive cup of coffee with elaborate ingredients. But why do people still fall head over heels for it? Because Starbucks has crafted its brand and the coffee ritual into a whole experience and a way of life.
Same as Red Bull isn’t just an energy drink anymore, Starbucks isn’t just a good old cup of joe. Getting a Starbucks coffee is associated with treating yourself, a lifestyle, an aesthetic. And it’s a marketing strategy that’s focused on keeping their existing customers committed to the brand. For example:
- Exciting new drinks
- Seasonal cups
- Holiday drinks—staples like their pumpkin spice latte plus new ones
- Branded merch
Sure, you could get a similar or maybe even the same cup of coffee at a fast food drive-through. But why not sprinkle an affordable dash of luxury on top of your morning?
You don’t have to have groundbreaking products. You could be selling the same product categories as your competitors. It’s all in how you present it.
Time to set up your marketing strategy
I hope my instructions and examples of best marketing strategies inspire you to get started on your own solid marketing strategy. It does take work and you might have to adjust it over time. But your marketing strategy will be your most effective business partner when growing your brand.
- Research your audience
- Define your business’ value
- Set measurable goals
To make it a little easier, I’ve put together a free marketing strategy template for you. Subscribe to our newsletter below this article and download your checklist!
Frequently asked questions
What do the 4 Ps mean?
The 4 Ps stand for place, product, price, and promotion. Use these to define your marketing plan steps and milestones. For example, running holiday marketing campaigns:
- Choose where your campaign will take place, like social media
- Introduce seasonal products
- Sell these products at a special price
- Launch promotions to spread awareness of your campaign
How do I measure my marketing strategy’s success?
Your success measurements start with setting up your marketing goals. Make sure your goals are measurable. For example:
- Do: Have consistent social media engagement growth (at least 1% YoY)
- Don’t: Simply be “good at” social media marketing
That way, when you look at your achievements and revisit your business goals, you’ll be able to clearly tell whether or not your marketing activities are working, and how well it’s going.
If it looks like what you’re doing isn’t working, or at least not as well as you’d hoped, you can make some changes. This is something that can happen after a couple of years in business as retail trends and shopper demands and values change over time. It’s ok to readjust from time to time in order to stay in business long term.
What’s a marketing funnel?
A marketing funnel, or sales funnel, is your customer’s journey from being introduced to your brand to becoming a return customer. There are 5 marketing funnel stages:
- Awareness—your potential customers know you and your product exist but don’t know yet if they want to buy from you
- Consideration—they’re thinking about buying your product but still haven’t decided between you and your competitors
- Conversion—they’ve made the decision and bought your product
- Loyalty—your customers have returned to you for more products and consider you their go-to business
- Advocacy—your returning customers resonate with your product and brand so much that actively help spread awareness about your business and share positive feedback with others
What’s key brand messaging?
It’s a company’s string of efforts (like brand voice, brand story, visual identity, slogans, specific terms, etc.) to consistently communicate its main values, benefits, and goals to customers. Brand messaging helps businesses keep a consistent and recognizable brand identity.
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