5 Steps of Building a Marketing Strategy That Works

When QR codes first came out, a pest control company in NYC asked people suffering from bed bugs to scan a code with their phone to learn how to get rid of the pests for good. The ads were plastered on the outside of community transit buses in gigantic letters. The act of following the call-to-action would require people to publicly declare their embarrassing hygiene issue to the masses.

How many people do you think scanned the code? I am sure it wasn’t many.

Now, maybe, if the bed bug campaign goal was to generate publicity the company may have met its marketing goal. But, more than likely, the goal was to attract sales and the money could have been used elsewhere for a much greater return.

This may be a comedic example, but it’s, unfortunately, true and is a great illustration of the seriousness of ensuring your strategy is properly set up. Let’s explore how to build a successful marketing strategy.

Step 1: Situational Analysis

A situational analysis is simply a short paragraph defining the business issue, problem or opportunity at hand. It may sound simple, but it’s all too easy to throw tactics at a situation without fully understanding the full picture. Not having it leads executives to say things like “I need to do radio ads because I need marketing.” This is a dangerous approach to marketing and not a good use of resources. It would be like trying to put a puzzle together without looking at the master image. By answering the following questions, you can set up a solid situational analysis. Often you can use it to frame your goals. It will also act as a guide for the next steps of the strategy.

  • What is the problem, or opportunity? What is the who, what, when, where, why, and how?
  • What is the history of the issue or opportunity?
  • Who are the current and potential target audiences and what are their basic ‘buyer personas’ (age, income, job titles, location, interests, beliefs, and challenges)?
  • What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats the situation brings?

Step 2: Research

Only after your situational analysis is set will you have enough information to know what type of research to conduct. The information gathered in this stage will inform you on which tactics to use, which messages to craft, and who to target. All the following research techniques could be used without spending oodles of money.

  • Conduct man-on-the-street interviews and telemarketing surveys.
  • Set up web-based tools like Survey Monkey.
  • Review third-party research from nonprofits, creditable sources, and industry organisations.
  • Conduct Google News searches around your company or topic to see how it is portrayed in the media or to gain message positioning ideas.
  • Search hashtags on social media sites or public comments on your competitors to determine public sentiment.
  • Hold town hall discussions or focus groups made up of employees, customers, or constituents.
  • Look at news stories or press releases from other companies to see how they handled a similar situation or what they are up to.

Step 3: Plan

The output of your research results should provide the key information to identify or refine everything in the planning stage – your goals, objectives, tactics, audiences, and messages.
Goals & objective setting

Goals are the lofty actions that a company wants to achieve such as increasing sales or building a better reputation. Objectives go deeper and make the goal SMART, or specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound. Below is an example of how goals and objectives relate.

  • Goal: Educate adults 18 and older in Cayman on the benefits of launching XWZ product
  • Objective: By June, gain 8,000 (12% of population) unique visits to the campaign landing page(s) with an overall average site view time of 3 minutes, 3.5-page views, and 500 quiz completions

Personas and Audiences
Based on the research, you will set up deeper profiles on who you are targeting with your communications. You’ll want to also prioritise and segment your groups. Basic information to build your profiles could include age, income, job titles, location, interests, beliefs/values, challenges, and dreams.

For example, your primary audience may be residential landowners in a district where homes are valued at over $1 million that resonate with messages of wealth management and retirement savings, while a secondary audience of young renters may resonate better with services for down payment assistance or debt consolidation.

An easy way to approach tactics is to a model called PESO which stands for paid, earned, social, and owned channels, which we’ll explore in the implementation stage. Some of these will cross over, such as social media where you can own your own channel, pay to promote via ads, and also earn additional coverage from followers.

Timeline and budget
The last steps in planning include setting a timeline and budget. These should be somewhat flexible and include ample buffer room.

Step 4: Implementation

The tactics below would have already been identified in the planning process and the details of how the tactics would be accomplished will be completed in the implementation stage. We’ll use this section to explain the PESO method.

Requires spending money for an exchange, such as sponsoring an event or placing ads on social, digital, TV or print.

Includes non-paid activities such as gaining meetings with elected officials, securing media interviews, or being invited to speak at a conference.

Engaging influencers, establishing LinkedIn groups, trending hashtags, live events or contests.

All things the company has control over such as your website, email marketing platforms and blog sites.

Step 5: Evaluation

Evaluation should be measured against the original objectives and not random outputs that have nothing to do with your goals. Measurement can include using Google Analytics, third-party plugins and survey platforms.