Marketing is one of the most critical functions that can affect the success of a business. It is also one of the most difficult to get right, but with the right approach, you can create an effective marketing strategy. To help you figure out how to market your business, we have created the guide below.
Before continuing, we must clarify what marketing is.
What is marketing?
At a superficial level, you can think of marketing as the act of promoting a product or service. However, I think this definition misses the deeper, more useful understanding of what marketing is.
Peter Drucker’s definition of marketing is one of my favourites “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
The American Marketing Association also have a more comprehensive definition of marketing “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
These two definitions touch on the essential concepts of understanding the customer and value. Keep these points in mind when conducting all of your marketing activities.
11 tips for creating a marketing strategy for your business
Now you have a bit more of an understanding of what marketing is, let’s move on to our top tips to successfully marketing your business. These steps are relevant for both small businesses and large enterprises.
Understand your customer
The most important part of any marketing activity is understanding your customer. You might think that you already have a good idea, but take the time to do some more research so that you can confirm your thoughts.
If you have the budget, you can hire an agency to conduct market research to get detailed information on your target audience. If your funds to extend that far, you could run the market research yourself. You can use a tool as simple as Google Forms to run a survey and gather data. If neither of these options is suitable for you, then you can look up past market research and academic research to gain insights into your customers.
Questions you want to answer about your target audience are:
- Are they predominantly male or female?
- Is there a particular age group that is more likely to use your product or service?
- Do they have a particular job title, e.g. Marketing Manager?
- Do they work in a particular industry?
- Which websites do they visit?
- Which social media sites do they use?
- What is their budget?
- What relevant problems do they face that your product or service solves?
Conduct competitor research
Competitor analysis will help you to understand your business’ position in the competitive landscape. You can use the information from your competitor analysis in frameworks and models such as SWOT, Porter’s Five Forces, perceptual mapping, and the 7 Ps extended marketing mix.
Questions to ask about your competitors are:
- What are your competitors’ USPs?
- What marketing channels do your competitors use?
- What are your competitors’ pricing strategies?
- What are your competitors’ brand strategies?
Identify internal and external factors that can affect your business
You need to take into account the external environment and also internal factors of your organisation. The PESTLE framework is a useful model for external analysis, and you can use the 7 Ps marketing mix for the internal investigation.
Identify your USPs
Your unique selling proposition (alternatively unique selling point) is the factor that differentiates your products and services from your competitors. What is it that you do differently or better than your competitors? When deciding on your USP, you want to make sure it is of value to your customers.
Define your brand
Getting your brand right is vital as it impacts how your customers view your organisation. Your brand is what your customers think or feel when they see your logo, hear your business name or read your marketing communications.
When defining your brand, you want to create brand guidelines that at least cover your logo, typography, colourways, imagery, brand descriptors, and a grammar style book. Your branding should reinforce how you want to present your business. For example, if you’re going to present your enterprise as innovative, you would want to avoid branding that looks traditional or old.
Create an elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a short description summarising your offering. It is useful to have an elevator pitch as something you and your employees can use to describe your business to prospects, as well as throughout your marketing collateral.
Your elevator pitch should last no longer than 30 seconds and be clear, exciting and to the point. When creating your elevator pitch, think about what it is that you want to achieve with it. Some things to include in your elevator pitch are:
- What your business does – your offering
- The benefits of your products and services to clients
- Your USP
Set SMART objectives
Objectives give you and your team an aim. A useful framework for setting goals is SMART. SMART stands for stands for:
- Specific – Be specific when setting your goals. The goals should be quantifiable. Just saying “We need to sell more” is not a SMART objective. A better goal would be “We are going to increase sales by 20% year on year.”
- Measurable – The objectives you set should be measurable. If you cannot measure the necessary KPIs, you will not know if you have achieved your goals.
- Achievable – Define achievable goals. Do not set goals that are too easy to reach, or your business will not reach its full potential. Try to set goals close to the maximum of what is attainable.
- Realistic – Conversely to the ‘achievable’ factor, set goals that are also realistic. It is probably not practical in most cases to go from a new entrant to a competitive market and grow to be the market leader in under 12 months. Set an objective that is possible, otherwise failing to reach your goals could harm your team’s morale.
- Timebound – Set deadlines for when you will achieve your objectives. There is not much point in a goal such as “We will increase our conversion rate from 2% to 3%” if there is no time element. Otherwise, you might have to wait twenty years to achieve that objective.
Decide which marketing channels are most appropriate
Your customer research and competitor analysis should have given you useful information to decide on your organisation’s best-suited marketing channels. In an ideal world with no limit to your budget, you could max out your marketing efforts in every channel, but for most businesses that is unrealistic.
Use insights from your research to identify those channels that are both within your budget, and that will provide the best return on investment (ROI). Choosing the wrong channels could make or break your business.
Define your tactics/actions
Once you know your objectives and which channels you are going to use to market your offering, you then need to decide upon your tactics and actions. Use a spreadsheet or other tool to list all of the required steps to achieve your objectives. Alongside each step set an owner of the action, a completion deadline, and its current status.
There are many tools you could use for tracking actions, both for yourself and your team. I will not list them all here, but a quick search for ‘task management software’ will provide you with lots of options.
Determine your budget
You need to define your marketing budget. Not setting a budget could end in your spending getting out of control and possibly losing you much money. Setting a budget also forces you and your team to be more creative and resourceful to achieve your objectives.
Ideally, you will be able to set your budget based on your goals and forecasts to achieve those objectives. Though in many situations, this may not be realistic. Most likely, your budget will be whatever the business can spare for marketing.
Set separate budgets for each channel and try to stick to these if possible; however, be prepared to be flexible and re-allocate budget from poorly performing channels to those that are delivering the highest ROI.
Measure your results and refine your strategy
As mentioned in the SMART objectives above, you need to make sure that you measure your results. Ensure you have analytics tracking set up for conversions. Your sales team should also be communicating with your marketing team where leads are coming from and whether they convert into customers.
Pencil in quarterly and annual reviews of your objectives. Use the results of these reviews to refine your marketing strategy. For example, perhaps one channel is underperforming, and another channel is performing better than expected. You could move the budget from the underperforming channel to the high performing channel.
Best ways to market your business – top marketing channels
You might be wondering which marketing channels you could use? Read on to find out about some of the most popular ways to market a business. Note that this is not an exhaustive list, but you will likely find some marketing channels below that would be suitable for your enterprise.
Organic search refers to unpaid listings on search engines such as Google and Bing. Improving rankings in search engine results and increasing traffic from these unpaid listings is referred to as search engine optimisation (SEO).
Organic search can be an excellent source of traffic and is often described as ‘free’ since you do not pay for the listings, but calling organic search free is misleading. SEO still costs time as well as the budget needed either to hire an SEO agency or consultant, and the costs involved to create content and update your website.
Note that organic search is considered a long-term strategy compared to a channel like PPC.
PPC stands for pay per click. Pay per click refers to online advertising where there is a charge for each click of your ads. One of the most popular platforms for PPC is Google Ads paid search listings.
PPC can drive a lot of traffic almost instantly, but it can also be costly. Make sure that you have carried out in-depth keyword research to identify which search terms will provide the highest ROI, not a negative return.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are all examples of social media platforms used for marketing. It is only really worth marketing on social platforms used by your target audiences.
You can market via organic social and paid social. As with search, organic social is often a long term strategy as you need to build up a following to increase the reach of your posts. Paid social allows you to reach a large audience quickly, but comes at a cost.
Paid social can be low cost, but it depends on the platform. In our experience, Facebook is generally much cheaper than LinkedIn. Note that this does not mean you should always advertise on Facebook instead of LinkedIn. It depends upon which social platforms your audience uses.
Content marketing is the creation, distribution and promotion of content to market a product or service. Often when people think of content marketing articles spring to mind, but the content does not have to be only text. Content could take the form of images, audio, video, an interactive app – almost anything.
Content marketing often blurs the lines with other channels. You can use content marketing to improve your organic search rankings, as well as to increase your followers on social media. You can also use additional channels to promote your content.
You want to avoid the trap of creating content without a strategy, and just creating content for the sake of it. Identify which content your target audience wants to consume and share, and make that type of content.
Email marketing is still a hugely important channel and is a great way to communicate with your existing contacts. There are many email marketing platforms out there for you to use, often offering a completely free tier.
Consider using email to support your other marketing efforts. For example, send out digests of your latest posts to support your content marketing or email invites of your upcoming events.
Make sure that you are GDPR and e-privacy compliant. You do not want to be reported to the ICO and fined for breaching someone’s privacy.
Affiliate marketing is a form of performance marketing where third-party publishers receive compensation for promoting products and services. Generally, third-party publishers are compensated for sales or leads that they generate.
When setting up an affiliate marketing programme, you will need to decide whether to run it in-house or use an affiliate network. Each has its pros and cons. Managing everything in-house will give you greater control, direct communication with your affiliates and potentially lower on-going costs. Using an affiliate network will get your affiliate programme started quicker, less management will be required from your end. You will also get access to a ready-made database of third-party publishers willing to promote your products and services.
Even though affiliate marketing is performance-based and you can set the criteria for commissions to be a sale, it is not risk-free. There are still other costs that you need to factor in, such as:
- a monthly fee for affiliate networks
- network commission fees
- costs to design creative assets
- employment costs for an affiliate programme manager
These other costs mean that despite being commission-based, affiliate marketing could still have a negative ROI if the programmes perform poorly.
Influencer marketing is the use of individuals with a relatively large following to market products and services to their audience. Generally, influencers’ leading platforms for communication will be social media, although this does not have to be the case. For example, an influencer could be someone with a popular blog.
You will want to ensure that the influencer aligns with your brand attributes. As necessary is choosing an influencer whose followers are your target audience. There is not much point in running an influencer marketing campaign to people who have little interest in your offering.
Influencers are generally categorised as follows (note the figures can vary based on the resource):
- nano-influencers – less than 9,999 followers
- micro-influencers – 10,000 to 99,999 followers
- macro-influencers – 100,000 to 999,999 followers
- mega-influencers – over 1 million followers
Note that influencer marketing can get very expensive if you want to hire people with a huge following. Depending on the platform, expect to pay five to six figures for an influencer with millions of followers.
Display network and programmatic advertising
Display networks, such as the Google Display Network (GDN) serve banner ads to their publishers’ websites. Programmatic advertising uses software to automatically buy advertising on publishers’ websites and apps via ad exchanges.
One of the differences between display networks and programmatic advertising is the type of content you can use for advertising. Display networks generally provide banner advertising. Programmatic advertising offers up a variety of ad formats, such as banners, video, native, rich media, and more.
Display and programmatic can be a relatively cheap way to increase brand awareness, but also tend to have a lower click-through rate (CTR) and conversions. Another issue with display and programmatic advertising is that people often use ad blockers nowadays, which reduces how many people in your target audience will see your ads.
Network marketing and referral marketing
Network marketing is the process of building a team or network of individual who market your products and services on a one to one basis with your target audience. Some network marketing practices have come under scrutiny, so make sure this method promoting your products and services is right for you.
Referral marketing uses the same concepts as network marketing. The difference with referral marketing is the focus is on word-of-mouth via people in close relationships with the referrers.
Business networking is when representatives from different businesses meet to build relationships and share referrals.
There are some business networking events that you can attend without being a member or regular attendee. However, other business networking groups will expect you to sign up as a member and regularly attend, as well as bring referrals for other members of the group. You cannot just turn up and expect others to provide you with referrals while offering nothing yourself.
Event marketing is the use of online and offline events to market your products and services. Since the events of 2020, online events have surged in popularity, with platforms like Zoom dominating.
For both online and offline events, you can either host your own events or exhibit at events hosted by another organisation. Hosting your own event provides you with the greatest visibility with those attending, but it can be expensive and will require considerable organisation and management to run.
Exhibiting at another organisation’s event will require a lot less management on your part. If the organisation is well-known, then they might have more attendees than you can muster, but it is also possible you will get lost amongst all the other exhibitors.
When deciding between online and offline events, the cost of online events is generally much less. Still, you can run into technical issues as well as it being more difficult for attendees to mingle, even when using break out rooms.
Partnership marketing is the collaboration of multiple organisations for marketing purposes. Partnerships with the right organisations can be beneficial for reaffirming your brand attributes, building brand awareness, and driving sales and leads.
A common form of partnership marketing that you will see is businesses forming a corporate partnership with a charity. A company might support a charity because it aligns with the business’ social responsibility aims. It may also be that a business supports a charity due to that charity’s beneficiaries being typical customers of the enterprise. For example, an organisation that provides eco-friendly products may partner with an environment and sustainability charity.
Depending on the nature of the partnership, this type of marketing can be expensive. However, if you choose to collaborate on some content that is beneficial for all parties, then the only costs are production and distribution of the content.
Public relations (PR)
Public relations (PR) is the process of communicating with the public. PR crosses over with other marketing channels, such as social media and content marketing. Generally, when referring to PR, people are referring to media relations.
PR can be great for building brand awareness if you can get mentions in publications that your target audience reads. Doing this might seem daunting, but if you can develop relationships with journalists, then getting comments is not impossible.
In addition to directly reaching out to journalists and publications, the press can pickup up a newsworthy press release. There are a variety of press release distribution services to suit all budgets, such as PR Newswire, Business Wire, and EIN Presswire.
You can market via television in several ways, including adverts during the programme breaks, programme sponsorship, and television appearances.
While advertising on television can get your products and services in front of many eyes, it can be costly. If you are looking to run ads during peak times, expect to pay thousands for your ad to run. You also need to factor in the cost to produce the advert.
A more cost-effective method to market via television is to appear on relevant shows as an expert. For example, you could appear on the news as an industry expert. Of course, this requires you have the credentials and reputation that would justify your appearance on the show.
Print marketing is marketing communications delivered via printed media. Print marketing can include brochures produced by your business, leaflets, and advertisements in third-party publications.
One of the cons of print marketing is that it is not as easy to track results when compared to digital channels. While this can mean optimising your print marketing campaigns can be complicated, it can be cheap to advertise in local and niche publications. Also, if you have an in-house design team, then producing your own print marketing materials could also be low cost.
84 marketing ideas for your business
Below is a list of marketing ideas and actions for your business.
- Exhibit at events
- Answer questions on Quora, or other Q&A websites, relevant to your offering
- Produce video content
- Use personalisation on your website to tailor your content to each visitor
- Start a blog on a third-party site, such as Medium
- Define your unique selling proposition (USP)
- Create an email newsletter
- Build landing pages for each of your products and services
- Create infographics of useful or interesting data and information
- Start a blog on your website
- Conduct keyword research to identify which search terms to target
- Create buyer personas
- Create a marketing plan for your business
- Apply for relevant business awards
- Post articles on LinkedIn
- Use A/B testing to optimise your webpages
- Design a mascot for your business
- Create your elevator pitch
- Host a webinar that would be of interest to your target audience
- Make sure your website loads quickly – you can run tests using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool
- Schedule your social posts to publish at the time when your audience is most active on social platforms
- Set up a customer loyalty programme
- Create white papers
- Start a YouTube channel
- Run a contest that can and use it to promote your business via multiple channels
- Create business cards
- Write and distribute press releases for all newsworthy business activity
- Start a separate personal blog that references your business
- Create a custom email signature that contains your social profiles, website and any other relevant links
- Develop a brand advocacy programme
- Analyse your competitors’ marketing for ideas
- Update old articles on your website
- Publish a book relevant to your industry
- Track the ROI of marketing campaigns and channels, then optimise your future marketing based on this data
- Run display advertising campaigns on relevant websites
- Survey your customers to find out how happy they are with your service
- Attend online and offline events that your target audience would also attend
- Offer discount codes
- Display customer reviews and testimonials on your website
- Add an email newsletter subscription sign up form to your website
- Set up web analytics on your website
- Produce an editorial calendar for your content
- Use relevant hashtags in your social posts
- Contribute content to other websites that are popular with your target audience
- Create an expert roundup article
- Create a referral programme
- Identify relevant organisations that you can partner with and reach out to them to see if there are any opportunities to collaborate on a piece of content
- Reuse the same content for different media, e.g. turn an article into a video, a slide deck, a podcast and an infographic
- Engage in relevant online forums
- Make sure you optimise your website for mobile devices
- Create your brand guidelines
- Fix any broken link to your website and on your website
- Fundraise for relevant charities
- Define your true-north metrics – what are the handful of KPIs that genuinely indicate the success of your business
- Set up paid search ads for your target search terms
- Contact relevant influencers and see if they will mention your products in return for free samples
- Use a CRM to manage your marketing communications with customers
- Ask family and friends to promote your business to their networks
- Create a website for your business
- Use a social media post scheduling tool to plan out your social posts ahead of time
- Work pro bono for relevant charities
- Engage in relevant trending topics being discussed online
- Develop marketing campaigns for relevant annual events and holidays
- Promote your content via paid social ads on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
- Produce instructional/how-to videos
- Optimise your website for local search if relevant
- Create a Google My Business listing
- Create templates that your audience would use
- Create social profiles for your business
- Offer a free introductory session
- Join a business networking group
- Use autoresponders when people email your business
- Become a member of professional organisations
- Speak at relevant industry events
- Carry out focus groups to identify what your target audience wants and what they think of your products and services
- Use marketing automation to perform repetitive tasks
- Provide content prizes for events attended by your target audience
- For B2B businesses build relationships with your target audience on LinkedIn by commenting and engaging with their posts
- Produce physical promotional items for use at in-person events and to send as gifts to existing clients and prospects
- Produce a brochure of your products and services
- Use A/B testing to optimise your online advertising
- Perform an SEO audit of your website
- Define what the benefits of your offering are
- Submit your website to relevant business directories
Now you have read through, go and build out a strategy for your business. Remember the first stage is researching your customers, your competitors, the business environment and your enterprise.
If you would like any help with your marketing, then reach out to our team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.