Gerrit Walters of Sydney’s Monsterful Marketing and Advertising might have been Leonidas, if the Spartans were in advertising.
“The word strategy comes from the Greek strategos, meaning army leader or general,” says Walters. “I think it’s important to keep this in mind when developing a marketing plan. Similar to a military strategy, a marketing plan needs to be thought out, the objectives need to be clear, and you have to be aware of your competitor’s movements and be flexible in response to them.”
So what does a good marketing strategy look like?
Walters’ suggestion, in order of priority, looks like this:
- Objectives: What do you need or want to accomplish for your business? This dictates what success looks like.
- Identify your target market. Once you have that, understand them intimately, i.e. what do they want, what do they aspire to, what do they feel they need, what behavioural triggers make them take action etc.
- Competitor analysis. What is everyone else doing? What works for them, what doesn’t? What makes you better?
- Identify your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as potential opportunities and threats. What you need to identify here is what you can use to sell yourself that is credible, and a viable offering over an extended period.
- Unique selling proposition (USP). This is what you are selling and makes you different from the crowd.
- Your positioning. Bring together your USPs, what makes your company interesting and your target market knowledge to develop a positioning statement.
- Map your positing against your competitors and ensure that you have created a space in the market for your offering in the minds of you potential customers.
- Tactics – traditionally the 4 P’s of marketing (price, place, promotion, product). This is basically what you are going to do to bring your positioning and your USPs to life.
- More tactics – I also include two or three more options for consideration should my tracking indicate that my preferred tactics are slowing in terms of delivery. This is a back-up to ensure that I have ideas in place to address changes in the market.
- Costs, and expected returns on each tactic.
Walters emphasises the first point as the most important: “The objective is the fundamental underpinning for all your marketing activity. If you don’t know what success looks like and you aren’t able to verbalise it, do yourself a favour and don’t spend any money on marketing. Take the time to understand what your business needs and the role your marketing plays in answering these needs.”
And once you’ve got an objective and a strategy to achieve it, write that strategy down. “If a strategy isn’t clearly laid out on paper it can’t be followed. A strategy has to be something that can be shared when you aren’t in the room, especially when it comes to small businesses. If the marketing strategy is something that only exists in one person’s head, chances are that there isn’t a clear picture across an organisation of what the purpose of marketing is at any given moment.”
So, what is Walters’ advice to start-ups and other small players?
“Pick a fight. Tell your target market where the status quo is letting them down, what all the big players have missed and what makes them a poor comparison to your offering. This tends to get attention amongst your audience and in the media. I’ve also found that if you can get a market leader to acknowledge you in some way people will start taking you a lot more seriously.”
Walters also acknowledges that start-ups have some advantages. “Being a small challenger brand is tough, but is can also be a lot of fun – mainly because you’re fast, agile and free to do what you want. These are things the big brands, in most cases, can’t match.”
Finally, what is the best way to evaluate any particular strategy’s effectiveness? “I always look for engagement,” says Walters. “Have people come and interacted with my brand, and for how long? Enquiry is another great measurement, it shows that your strategy made people take action and that they are aware of you, which is what you want from your marketing. This creates a window to follow-up and conversion. I also keep track of repeat purchase numbers vs. new purchases after implementing tactics – this can tell you a lot in terms of what messages resonates with each of your segments.”