First let’s be clear, this is not a how-to- guide to help you write or build your marketing strategy (you can find some tips on that here), it is to make you aware of what you should know about your strategy. There is a difference. Everyone needs to know the basics about their own marketing strategy even if they aren’t the ones to build and manage it.
A lot of companies outsource their marketing needs, as not all companies are able to have an in-house marketing department. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still understand your marketing strategy, it just means you won’t be running it.
1. Marketing Plan vs. Marketing Strategy
It is important to first understand the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Your strategy is the explanation of the goals you need to achieve with your marketing efforts. Your strategy is shaped by your business and marketing goals.
A marketing plan is a detailed outline of how you are going to achieve those marketing goals. It is literally a laid out application or road map to guide you along the way.
2. Know About Your Target Audience
It shouldn’t only be your in-house or your outsourced marketing team that knows who your target audience is. This should be a company-wide fact. It is fine to leave it to the experts to determine your audience, but then make sure all parties on your team truly understand who they are and what the marketing strategy is for each segment. Six basic things to know about your target audience are:
- What they care about
- What they like/dislike
- What they want/need
- Location/Geographic Area
- Purchasing Habits
Knowing your audience is valuable to all team members. When you or your employees are out in about, you want them to represent and always be marketing your company. If you or they don’t know who your audience is, this could be difficult.
3. Finish What You Start
A common pitfall in many organizations is not seeing your marketing strategy through to completion. A lot of things get put in the strategy and plan, yet most of it never gets completed. This reminds me of a funny story I need to share with you:
“I had worked for a company that had an in-house marketing department. I was a marketing account executive who was in charge of building marketing plans, budgets and strategies for each in-house business division. As a marketing team, we were sick of our efforts going unnoticed and seeing our projects never being followed to completion. So in an effort to keep our plans and strategies top of mind with each business unit, we developed marketing plans that would not go unnoticed. Our plans were on 11 x 18 heavy card stock paper, full color. They were then bound with thick metal rings, metal covers and metal backs. They were additionally engraved with the each business units’ information and year on the front of them. There was no way our business departments could even put them in a desk drawer if they wanted to. As silly as our plan seemed, it worked. We definitely got our point across because that year our plans and strategies were taken seriously, actually used and executed more efficiently.”
Moral of the story is to hire a marketing department (in-house or outsourced) that you trust and support their efforts. So many times marketing strategies are made, but then never completed. As a leader, it is up to you to not only know your overall goals and strategy, but to also make sure it is followed through to completion.
4. Track and Measure Your Results
Like I have mentioned, you don’t need to be the one that knows how to do it all, but you do need to be aware of what is going on around you. I personally am no expert about tracking online marketing results, but I do know the end results and data I want to know to better understand our successes and failures. Make sure your team puts the right tools and analytics in place to report back to you what you want and need to know about your strategy results.
Let your marketing department know what reports you want each month. Keep an open line of communication between you and them. This will not only help your company function as a whole, it will allow you to make more informed decisions on the direction you should take moving forward.
5. Be Open to Change
This section is probably one of the most important ones. As your company evolves and grows, you need to be able to adapt with it. This includes your marketing efforts and overall strategy. Whether it is you that is the expert or a team you hire; listen to new ideas for change. Marketing is a section of your business that will always be evolving. New trends and strategies in the marketplace are happening on a weekly basis.
For example, if you are from a time where direct mail and phone cold calling were the only options, but your marketing team wants to set up an email marketing campaign, you need to listen. Move with the times and accept change.
“Marketing takes a day to learn. Unfortunately it takes a lifetime to master.” ~ Phil Kolter
Ultimately, not being in the dark about your marketing strategy is important to the overall success of your company. The more you can learn about your strategy and marketing plan, the more informed decisions that can be made. Knowledge is important. Get some.