How to define a marketing strategy

Military operation or just common sense? Does creating a marketing strategy need to be a laborious affair?

This combined article from Carla Barker from Greyrose Marketing and Luke Redhead from Sentry Collective is packed with useful information on the importance of a marketing strategy, how to create one, how to implement it into your business, and subsequently how to incorporate this across your social media channels.

Creating your strategy

Gone are the days when it was reserved for the armed forces and now the word strategy crops up in everyday conversations, especially when talking about business.

Whether it’s “we need to be more strategic” or “what’s the strategy here”, thinking differently and having a clear plan of action behind business decisions is becoming second nature, especially in a time where we have all had to adapt to changes outside of our control.

When people think about strategy it’s mainly around which direction they want the business to focus, which in a way is right, however, that is more so the aim or objective rather than the “how do we get there” piece. The strategy is how all other parts of the business are going to help contribute to this shared goal, and of course, that means you need a plan for each of these areas.

This can sound daunting, especially as you may feel like you need to know absolutely everything before you can create your plan of attack, but it really doesn’t need to be. By using some common sense, analysing any data available to you and looking at available resource and calling upon industry knowledge, you’re pretty much half-way there.

With that in mind, we’re going to take you through some tips on creating a basic strategic marketing plan which will align with your business aims and enable you to plan effectively.

What do you want to achieve?

Probably the most important thing to do is ensure that you have a clearly defined objective, both from an overall business perspective and from your marketing activity. You will constantly refer to this throughout the planning stages to ensure that your chosen activities support this. Where are you looking to get to or what are you wanting to gain are two questions you could ask to start with to understand your objectives.

Available resource and limitations

In an ideal world, you’d have an unlimited budget, a huge team and access to every system you could possibly need, but realistically this probably isn’t the case (and if it is, you’re super lucky!). So, before you do anything, you need to understand what resources you have, and what limitations you’re working within.

For example, do you have a limited budget? Is it only you that is going to be executing this plan or do you have other team members you can allocate tasks to? What skills do you have available to you, either in your direct team or from others? How much industry knowledge do you have? Do you need to do certain things before a particular date? What systems can you utilise? What communication platforms are you already using?

All of this will dictate how much activity is possible, what other insight/resource etc you will need and will enable you to create a realistic plan which can be actioned effectively.

What do you already know? What don’t you know?

Calling upon personal experience or that of others in the business, you’ll want to gather as much information and insight as possible. This includes things like the industry you’re going to be focusing on, is this a new industry for the business or an existing one? What do you know about your target audience already? Do you know who your target audience are? What are your competitors selling or doing?

By doing this scoping and analysis it will put you in better stead when creating your marketing plan as you can use this as a base to make more informed decisions when looking at opportunities and creating things like audience personas. This is also a great opportunity to highlight any gaps that need to be filled. Do you need to research your existing customers in more detail? Do you need to gain more industry knowledge? Do you need to understand more about your competitors? All of these questions will help you to build the foundations of your marketing strategy.

Knowing your audience

This may seem obvious, but looking at this in more detail is the key to getting the most out of your marketing. Remember that your customers may not necessarily only be the people who buy from you. They could be the decision-makers, the people who will be using the product/service or maybe even someone who would not necessarily use it but who may recommend it to someone else to use. All of them are people you’ll want to target.

Start with looking at your ideal audience or creating audience personas will be invaluable. It will enable you to further understand the specific challenges each of these groups face, what channels they use and build bespoke, strong messaging for each.

Sense check

By this point, you should know a lot about your audience, your resources, your limitations and what you want to say. Before you get into the plan itself, it’s a good time to make sure that all the research you’ve done compliments your overarching goal. Are you looking at the right audience to target? By approaching them are you going to achieve the business objective of X? If so, fantastic! If not, you may need to do a bit of adjusting to ensure these align.

Scrabble letters spelling out the word plan


Creating your marketing plan

Now for the fun part, your plan of attack. What are you going to do to support the business objectives, and how are you going to do it.

In essence, you will use your audience personas to gain insight into your target audiences, what communication channels they use, their interests etc and then investigate suitable opportunities that fit into these areas that fit within your resource, time and budget requirements – easy right?!

Now it’s not just the marketing department who need a plan, you also need to ensure that other departments that are connected to your marketing activity also have their own plans. For example, you’d like to hope that your marketing will bring in more leads, therefore it’s just as vital that the sales department have a strategy on how these leads are going to be addressed and nurtured through to conversion and ultimately increase sales (if that’s your business aim of course!). What would be the point of doing all this activity to generate more business and then it’s not followed through by another team?

Testing

If you’ve got your master plan, but you’re still not entirely sure, then test! There is absolutely no harm in testing something to see how it’s received and also to gain further insight to improve it for next time. For example, if you’re looking to do some social media advertising, why not test different messaging or design styles (remember to only change one thing between them so you can analyse better) to see what performs better before you commit all your budget?

Or why not test some messaging on your internal teams? Work with your sales arm to test your messaging. Do they think what you’re saying is enough to inform, excite or engage the customer? How are they going to follow on from what you’re saying to manage that enquiry through the process? By taking the time to test and ensure you’re on the right tracks, you’ll give your marketing strategy the best chance for success.

Execution

Time to get it all out there. Weeks, months or even years of planning have taken place, you’ve got everything ready to go for each campaign, you’ve had it checked and rechecked, it’s now time to push the button! You can plan in advance and schedule communications to go out on the day to make this process smoother for you, so be sure to consider all available options on how you want to get this out on the big day.

Analysis

As with any activity you do, if you don’t analyse your results, you can’t see the impact it has. Sometimes you’ll want to see why a campaign performed better or worse than expected, and other times you’ll want to try and track a direct ROI to report back into the business. Whatever you’re looking to report or learn more for your next activity or give you some great results to shout about analytics are going to be an essential step in helping you do this.

Creating a marketing strategy isn’t as bad as it seems!

As you can see, creating a strategic marketing plan isn’t as scary as it might sound. If you have the right plan to follow, complete the steps as best as you can and collate all your insight, you’ll be reeling off plans in no time. However, if you find yourself a bit stuck or need a helping hand, then you can always call upon consultants or agencies (such as Greyrose Marketing) to give you a hand in creating these too.

Polaroid style tiles with different social media logos in them

Creating your social media strategy

Once you’ve understood the fundamentals of a business strategy, applying this logic to social media can be easy. Social media is a relatively new form of marketing and comes with lots of great benefits, so creating a strategy to get things right is crucial. This is where the team at Sentry Collective step in to help in this article!

Why use social media for business?

Before building your social media strategy, it’s important to understand what the goal of social media is for businesses. Some of the key end goals could be:

  • Building a larger brand awareness
  • Building a larger following
  • Directing traffic to your website/other locations
  • Establishing a network and build connections/followers
  • Promoting products and/or services

With social media, it’s important to account for the human element in your strategy. People use social media for their personal lives and to keep up with their interests. This means your social media posts need to provide value to your audience.

How do you do that? Great question…

Ensure your posts provide value

Providing value through your posts means to share valuable content and educate your followers on your industry. If you’re an expert in baking, share some recipes that people can use at home or explain some of the common cakes that people order.

For those who are interested in what you’re posting, they’ll follow your page or your profile as you’re providing them with valuable content, things that they’ll learn from. These are the posts that are crucial to ensuring that your audience has their eyes focused on your social media posts. These are the posts that people follow pages for, as in their free-time when they relax on their phone, they’ll see posts that matter to them.

You may be thinking “but how will I make sales?”, which is a common worry for many businesses new to social media. However, that’s where the beauty of social media comes in. Social media isn’t designed to directly convert into sales. It can, and it can be very successful, but the key is in the name: ‘social’ media.

Social media is all about being social, keeping in touch with your followers and engaging in conversations. This is what makes social media so different from other types of marketing, and why it’s seeing such an uptake amongst businesses in recent years.

The 60-20-20 Method

Going back to the goal of social media, it’s important to use a strategy to ensure your posts are delivering the key results that you’re looking for. Applying a strategy to social media following the above methodology will allow you to easily identify your end goal and effectively work towards this.

With social media, a great method to implement into your social media strategy is the 60-20-20 method. This tried and tested method is a great way of ensuring you’re hitting the mark with social media and helps to mitigate the risk of promoting the wrong style of post too little or too often. To learn more, see below!

Understanding the importance of social media is important, but being able to effectively implement it can be tough. That’s where the 60-20-20 method comes in.

This method is a rough guide to the number of types of posts you should be putting out there to your followers. As a very rough rule of thumb, you should make sure that…

…60% of your posts are informative (sharing information about your industry etc)

…20% of your posts should be conversation starters

…20% of your posts are promotional to your business.

If you use the above as a rough ballpark figure, this will ensure that your posts are delivering value to your followers and helping them to learn more about your industry or niche, whilst establishing yourself and/or your business as an expert in your area.

A great way to ensure you’re keeping to the figures above is to use a social media calendar. There are lots of tools out there that allow you to easily schedule your posts in advance so you can easily keep on top of them and make sure you’ve got the right mix across the next week, month or whatever timeline you choose. This allows you to step away from day-to-day posting without compromising on your posts, giving you time back in your day. Another win!

Learn how to build your social media presence

We at Sentry Collective have put together a detailed guide on understanding the fundamentals of social media and how to grow your online presence. Covering tips on building your visual branding, sharing our proven methodology on posting and how to analyse results this guide is a valuable tool to help you make the most of your social media.

Access to your FREE copy of our guide here, or contact the team today.


A final note from us

We hope you've found this article useful and it's given you a base to start your marketing and social media strategies with, however of course if you need any further advice, please feel free to get in touch with either Greyrose Marketing or Sentry Collective.