How to Create a Successful Marketing Strategy in 5 Steps (with Examples)

A marketing strategy is your company's battle plan that guides your future marketing efforts.

A marketing strategy is more important than ever. We're overflowing with new technology, growth hacks, and marketing tactics that are definitely worth trying. A solid marketing strategy will help you focus on things that really matter and get them right.

Let me repeat that in other words.

A marketing strategy will help you choose the right marketing tactics, such as: B. for promoting your blog posts or creating an affiliate program. I need to clarify the distinction between strategy and tactic as you will often see people using these interchangeably.

In this article, you will learn how to develop a successful marketing strategy in five steps:

  1. Have your market research data ready
  2. Decide which segments you want to target
  3. Address your target market with the right positioning
  4. Choose some brand codes to be distinctive
  5. Set strategic goals for the coming year

Let's get into that.

1. Have your research data ready

It is important that you base your marketing strategy on data, not assumptions. That's fine because you probably won't be designing and launching a product without market research – or at least you shouldn't be.

Market research is an integral part of marketing and a topic in its own right. I won't go into that too deeply, but I'll provide options to get the data we need. Remember that even cheap, quick, and incomplete market research is usually much better than no research at all.

Here are some things you should have before developing a marketing strategy:

Feel free to go with what you think is sufficient at the moment. You can always come back to research if you are lacking data to set up the strategy. I understand that getting all the data right now is off the table for many new businesses.

a) Qualitative market data

Qualitative data shows you the “why” behind all of your market research figures. It's important to understand your consumers as they deal with their views, experiences, motivations, and feelings.

Traditionally, the best way to get such data is through focus groups and interviews.

Focus groups usually consist of five to ten people who represent your prospects. The group should be moderated by a professional who knows what questions to ask and how to get reliable and detailed insights. It's a great option to get the data, but not the cheapest in terms of money and time.

On the other hand, I would suggest that you interview your (potential) customers in any situation. Observe them even better in places where your product is bought, consumed or discussed. Take notes on this unfiltered and unbiased information. If you have a SaaS product, you can also record and analyze your users' sessions.

Here is a sample excerpt from an interview-style survey we conducted with our clients some time ago:

If you want to get free and solid quality data quickly, check out how people talk about your and competing products on social media, forums, Slack channels, and other online communities. It's less reliable than conducting face-to-face interviews, but it's still a fantastic source of qualitative data.

Here is an example of a quick search on Reddit for SEO Tool discussions where our product is almost always discussed:

b) Quantitative market data

Quantitative market data provides measurable information about your market. It answers “what, who, how much, and how many” questions to supplement the “why” questions from qualitative data. The best and most commonly used method of obtaining such data is by conducting surveys.

You have likely completed customer surveys in a variety of forms in the past. Given the ability to conduct simple and scalable online surveys these days, there really is no excuse not to do them.

If you already have a solid customer base, email list, or social media, distributing surveys is easy.

There are three things to keep in mind when creating a survey:

  1. Make sure you either distribute it to people who qualify as prospects or add survey questions to qualify them as such.
  2. Have a representative sample from which to draw conclusions. You can get an idea of ​​the sample size you need by entering your numbers into a sample size calculator. Even if I take the whole US Taking the population into account, it only takes 600 respondents to be 95% confident that the data is accurate to within ± 4%. You will likely need a much smaller sample.
  3. Ask the right questions. I will go into that in more detail.

Always know why you are asking a specific question in the survey. In general, here's what you want to know about the market:

  • Demographic data such as age or income.
  • Settings data, e.g. B. when they agree / disagree with certain statements relevant to your niche. An example of this would be the following question using the Likert scale:
  • Behavioral data on consumer preferences and satisfaction.

If you have the budget, you can hire an agency to conduct a survey on your behalf or buy consumer reports from research and advisory firms like Forrester. If not, it pays to spend a little time Googling market research reports as some may be available for free.

c) Market segmentation

Your goal here is to create a grid that divides the entire market into customer segments that share behavioral traits like product requirements. If these segments also share demographic data like age or income bracket, that's even better, but that doesn't happen too often.

This is already an application of the data collected in the previous steps.

Proper market segmentation for an email marketing service provider could look like this:

Note that this example is not based on proper research or actual numbers. Here you can understand the logic behind it.

As you can see, each segment should be described by:

  • A suitable name that describes their common behavioral traits and / or product needs
  • Size of the segment (people or companies)
  • Annual value of the segment
  • Your current market share in the segment

The hardest part of segmentation is creating the mesh yourself. In other words, by which behavioral traits do you divide the market? You should get the best answers from your previous data research.

Don't worry about the data accuracy here. Use the data you have on the market, extrapolate it from your representative samples in your quantitative research, and make some guesswork. These estimates are good enough for you to decide which segments to target.

We'll get back to your segments in the targeting part.

d) Competitive Analysis

You use competitive analysis at every step of developing your marketing strategy. While you inevitably learn something about competitors in your data research, it is important to create your own overview of the competitive landscape.

A competitive analysis consists of these eight steps:

  1. Find your competitors
  2. Get background information
  3. Analyze competitors' products and services
  4. Familiarize yourself with their orientation and positioning
  5. Discover the sales channels of the competitors
  6. Immerse yourself in communication strategies
  7. Do some ghost shopping
  8. Behavior a NERD analysis

Here is a model of the NERD Analysis result for a fictitious email marketing service provider:

This is from my guide to competitive analysis which has a template that will help you do this efficiently. Give it a try if you haven't done this analysis before.

2. Decide which segments you want to target

The second step in developing a marketing strategy is deciding which market segments you are targeting. Or maybe I should say which segments to ignore, since deciding what not to do is often the more important choice.

But first let me explain the difference between terms that we marketers often use interchangeably:

  • Target segment – a specific market segment that you choose.
  • Target market – All of your target segments buy and use the products in the category together.
  • target group – Anyone who resonates with your marketing communications, regardless of whether or not they buy the products. For example, tech fans are likely Tesla's target audience, but few of them will ever buy the car.

Usually, if you've done a good job with your segmentation, your target segments are pretty obvious and easy to choose.

To help you choose your target segments, ask yourself the following six questions:

  1. Does your product match the requirements of the segment?
  2. Does it bring you the greatest value if you increase your market share there?
  3. Do you have the sales and marketing resources to increase your market share there?
  4. How difficult will it be to increase your market share there?
  5. Does this segment affect other segments? If so, how?
  6. What are the tradeoffs when you focus on new segments?

Your ideal target segments are those where you can make the most money with the resources available.

Note that some segments can influence the buying behavior of other segments. They can be influential people B2C or leading companies in your industry in B2B. Also take this overflow value into account:

As you can see from my market segmentation example, two relatively small segments influence the buying behavior of a much larger segment. Once you have chosen the Pro Small Senders and Pro Large Senders segments, you will inevitably attract new customers from the Affected Small Senders segment without ever targeting them.

Regarding the last question about compromise, you also need to consider that some of your current customers will inevitably go to competitors. If you choose to move your focus and resources elsewhere, it will be easier for your competitors to draw those customers away from you.

Above all, remember that reaching out to everyone is rarely the best strategy. Answering these six questions should make it obvious.

3. Address your target market with the right positioning

Positioning should make your target market perceive your brand. It is the intended brand image, made up of associations people have with your brand and products. Positioning allows you to differentiate yourself from your competitors and, in some cases, even influence how the target market perceives your competitors.

For example, this message contains a lot:

"Burger King vs. McDonalds and Apple vs. Microsoft are just famous examples of using the "versus" positioning type. You can also do this easily from the position of the smaller player:

But you don't always have to choose a fight. First, it is not necessary to be successful, and second, you are sometimes walking on thin ice, which can lead to bad advertising:

Techradar's reaction to the Wix campaign in which they positioned themselves against WordPress.

So wix sent out super expensive headphones pretending to be from WordPress to dozens of people, and a personalized video warned me of their new anti-WP campaign.

I still like WordPress and it seems most do WP Community has a good laugh. Thanks to @WordPress 😆

– Wes Bos (@wesbos) April 6, 2021

You can be successful by just focusing on your brand and your products.

The power of positioning lies in the consistent communication of the few associations across all of your marketing channels. If you don't, the market will do the positioning work for you. That rarely fits your desired brand image.

How do you come up with the key attributes that define your communication?

Dip in three Cs of positioning for the correct message

When thinking about positioning, you need to consider these three aspects, also known as 3 Cs of positioning:

  • Companies
  • Customers
  • Competitor

Well, you should know your own company. The rest is back in your market research data.

Put all the data together and come up with the following messages:

  • Relevant – does the target segment care?
  • clear – Are you going to get it?
  • Authentic – will you believe it?
  • Unique – does it stand out from your competitors?
  • Reachable – Can you deliver what you say?
  • Sustainable – Can you keep this position indefinitely?

While this process seems simple on paper, it does take a lot of thought and review of the ideas.

For example, we don't have a slogan, but we make sure these attributes are highlighted in all of our communications:

  • Be the best all-in-one SEO product
  • user friendliness
  • Makes you better at marketing and SEO

On our homepage you will find out immediately what we are doing and how you can benefit from it:

The SEO The industry knows us as a product-managed company that continues to grow rapidly without a sales team, and we don't shy away from emphasizing this position – often in a unique way:

You need to come up with something powerful, not over-glorified brand purposes or missions that mean nothing to the brand or its customers. Starbucks is a bad example of this in my opinion:

I'm sure anyone who buys an overpriced average coffee thinks about how it inspires and nurtures their minds …

You can tell I'm not a Starbucks fan, but even I can think of two better attributes that they could focus on instead – their availability and convenience. It's somehow included in the mission statement, but the focus is elsewhere.

Have a position for each target segment

If you address multiple segments with different behaviors and needs, make sure you are communicating what they are all about.

For example, SEO Professionals, marketers and even "normal" website owners use our product. But their needs are very different. Our positioning attributes work independently of the target segments, but we definitely need to adjust the essentials separately.

We reflect this on pages that are likely to land different segments.

We target the largest segment on our freemium product page, website owners. The copy is written for SEO Beginner:

The positioning type "Versus" is also used:

On the other hand, our Site Audit product page is aimed at seasoned marketers and SEOs:

The interesting thing about it: Site Audit is a central tool in the freemium product. We are simply addressing the same thing from two very different angles.

4. Select some brand codes to make them distinctive

A brand code, also known as a distinctive asset, is anything that you consistently use in your communication. You can think of it as your positioning buddy.

The most common brand code is your logo and visual style. But that's it for most brands. It is not enough to stand out from the target group and be distinctive.

Your ultimate goal should be that your target group recognizes your brand even without a logo:

Your brand codes should be unique, which makes you distinctive and ideally famous so that your existing audience can easily connect the dots.

At Ahrefs there are two other brand codes in addition to our logo and the color blue. The first is our custom font:

The second is our bearded mascot, often accompanied by a corgi:

Your creativity knows no limits. All that matters is that you choose something to associate your brand with and use it consistently.

Other examples of brand codes include your own emojis, gifs, unique words, slogans, or even the style you are promoting. Just think of Mastercard's “priceless” campaigns.

You can stand out by focusing on non-visual things as well. We all know McDonald & # 39; s I love ringing as an example of an auditory brand code. But you can even have your own smell like some hotels and luxury brands do.

5. Set strategic goals for the year ahead

You need well-defined marketing goals to guide your marketing efforts and provide benchmarks for evaluation. All you need to do now is to set up your strategy.

Your marketing goals should be in line with the popular ones CLEVER Criteria:

  • Specific – with a clear indication of the desired result: "Who, what, when, how much, …"
  • Measurable – You need to be able to track progress using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • Reachable – Be brave with your goals, but also realistic; Use current growth as a benchmark.
  • Relevant – Does the goal align with your overall marketing and business strategy?
  • In time – Set a time frame for achieving the goal.

An example of such a goal could be:

Grow Ahrefs Webmaster Tools' verified global user base from 100,000 to 500,000 by the end of 2021.

You should have a marketing goal or two for each of your target segments for the year ahead. That would be part of your marketing plan.

Strive for a combination of short-term and long-term goals. In other words, have goals that will lead directly to more profit and others that will help build your brand.

Typically, the ideal balance between marketing spend on sales growth and brand building is around 40:60. This is one of the most important marketing concepts.

There is an entire publication devoted to this concept. The key to success is that branding is proven to be the main driver of long-term growth and success.

Here is an example of a branding marketing goal KPI::

Increase brand awareness among webmasters in the US from 25% to 40% by the end of 2021.

Final thoughts

If you are even remotely following these steps to develop a workable marketing strategy, you will be better off than most marketers. Our industry seems a bit fixated on promoting enticing “must-try” tactics as strategies. We can do better.

Look, if you come across a new cool marketing tactic that aligns with your strategy, go ahead, give it a try. But you will often find that it is better to stick with your guns.

Although creating a marketing strategy, along with research and tactics, accounts for about a third of the marketing effort, the output should be short and easy to understand. It may take weeks or even months to come up with a great strategy, but you can convert this into a shortlist of target segments, positions, brand codes, and goals.

Simply put, when you do the research and strategy work, you are set for long-term success. Just visit it once a year as your business, segments, competitors, and market dynamics keep moving. Planning your marketing for the coming year is better even with fresh dates.

Anyway …

I have to give credit where credit is due.

Although I studied marketing and have experience in strategic marketing positions, it was these four marketing masterminds who shaped my current marketing views the most:

Mark Ritson – Marketing Professor, Brand Consultant, Columnist, Mini MBA in Marketing Lecturer

Byron Sharp – Marketing professor and researcher, author of How Brands Grow

Peter Field & Les Binet – experts in marketing effectiveness, authors of The Long and the Short of it: Balancing Short and Long Term Marketing Strategies

This guide was greatly inspired by their articles, books, lectures, and lectures that I have studied over the years. If you want to become a better marketer using practices based on actual research, follow them and study their work.

Have questions or comments? Ping me on Twitter.

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