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A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Strategy

Allow me to oversimplify the marketing process for a moment.

In order to have the opportunity to sell something to a customer or generate any type of action from an audience three things need to occur:

1. Your company and product need to be visible to and/or easily discoverable by your target prospects.

2. You need to establish credibility; insofar as your target prospects need to view your organization as having a product or service that can reasonably solve their perceived problem.

3. You have to be thought of by your customers at the moment where they’re considering taking action. After all, its great to be Coca-Cola but unless your customers are thinking of you when they’re thirsty all of the great brand equity in the world doesn’t matter.

Let’s take this simplified marketing model a little further.

There are two general buckets of marketing tactics to draw from as you seek to make yourself discoverable, credible and top of mind for your prospect: paid media and earned media.

Paid media is what most people think of when you say “traditional marketing and advertising.” These are existing communications channels with established audiences that you can buy into. Think television, radio, newspapers or even pay per click advertisements on search engines. Paid media is a great tool to get the attention of a particular audience demographic in an effort to educate and encourage action through visibility and repetition. The major disadvantages are, of course, that it can be expensive and you’re only renting the medium. Once you stop paying, you’re no longer visible to the audience.

Earn media, on the other hand, involves tactics like blogging, search engine optimization, permission based email marketing and public relations. These are tactics where you build trusted relationships through content and relevancy in order to educate and encourage action. The major advantage here is that you’re building a communications infrastructure that over time will continually generate inbound traffic/inquiries and lower your cost of customer acquisition. However, earned media requires that you always add value with every audience interaction otherwise you’ll quickly lose their attention – and unfortunately for most of us its hard to be relevant, informative and (if possible) entertaining on a regular basis.

7 key marketing strategy questions that need answering.

Most good marketers will tell you that your business actually needs some combination of paid and earned media – and they’re right. But how do you decide what’s the right combination given your limited time and money? Here are 6 questions that, if you can honestly them answer, will put you a long way on the path to getting the biggest bang for your marketing buck

1. What am I really trying to achieve? In other words, what are the business outcomes you hope to create as an outgrowth of your marketing efforts? More eCommerce sales? More leads for your sales team to follow up on? More repeat business from existing customers? More press coverage? There’s an endless variety of potential business outcomes, but decide which ones are important to you and build your marketing strategy around them.

2. What steps do my audiences need to take in order for me to reach my goals? Does a customer need to visit your website? Go to a retail store? Pick up the phone? Do your best to define the action steps your audience needs to take in measurable terms. This will not only help you craft better messages / calls-to-action but also help to define the key performance indicators to measure success against.

3. What is my priority message? Trying to say too much all at once just about guarantees you’ll get lost in the clutter. Focus your message on the one point you want to get across and structure your communications around it. If you have multiple messages to communicate to the same audience, focus on the most important one first and save the others for a later date.

4. How can I make it about them? Self interest is a powerful motivator. Define your message in terms that reflect your audiences’ needs and it’ll be easier to generate action.

5. How quickly do I need to see results? If speed is important, focus on paid advertising opportunities that allow you to buy into channels with existing, engaged audiences. If you have more time, say 6 to 12+ months, you can lower your long-term acquisition costs through earned media tactics.

6. What’s more important, my time or my money? If your budgets are tight you’ll need to invest sweat equity in communicating with your audience. This means leaning more heavily on earned media tactics that allow you to organically build inbound inquires and website traffic through media coverage, word-of-mouth “buzz” and search engines. If your budgets are more flexible, you can look to paid media channels to generate near-term interest as well as vendors to help you get your earned media tactics in place faster and more efficiently.

7. Once I have their attention, how can I stay top of mind? Repetition is the key, but there’s many ways to do it. Capture your audience with an email marketing program, establish a social media presence or schedule your paid media investments into “flights” over the course of the year. Just don’t forget that it increasing takes 10 – 20 touches before your audience will be remember you when the time is right.

Unfortunately there’s no short cuts when it comes to marketing. However answering these questions – and taking a strategic approach to your efforts – will save you money while generating better results.

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