Define Your Marketing Strategy With Three Easy Steps
Einstein said “if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Ok…but that’s easy coming from someone whose largest contribution to society might have “simply” been an easy-to-use formula.
But what if that were true? What if we could filter each component of any marketing strategy to its own e=mc (squared) to create an easy formula? One of the great skills anyone can possess is to take something complex and simplify it.
If you are creating a marketing strategy, ask yourself these three simple questions.
- Does it have a focus?
- Is there a well-defined approach?
- What is your value proposition?
Let’s take a closer look.
1) This One Thing Is The Most Frequent and Fatal Mistake
The most frequent and fatal mistake in any strategy is a lack of focus. In fact, any entity operating without a strategy could be defined as having a lack of focus. This can happen when every decision maker with a seat at the table decides every offering should be for everybody, and nobody wants to hurt anyone’s feelings and tell them that’s not how it works.
Aiming for a target, along with the ability to showcase your offerings as different, useful and valuable in a coherent, consistent manner, will make the biggest difference in the return you see in your strategy.
2) The Approach — And Why It Doesn’t Have To Be Different
Your approach is an “internal North Star“. It typically involves how you are going to leverage critical items such as brand components, targeting, channels, partnerships, success metrics, and other focus areas. The approach can be separated into these basic constructs:
- You’ve found a better approach to the status quo
- You’re going to zig where your competitors zag.
- You have an innovative idea
Let’s take a deeper look into each of these approach types — each comes with it’s own set of risks.
A Better Way
Your approach doesn’t have to be tactically all that different from your competitors. You may find value in replicating a well-known approach but executing it with better quality, in a higher quantity, combining it with related offerings, or doing it in a way that is more cost-efficient.
Conversely, if you think you can beat the status quo, you must compliment your addition by eliminating or reducing elsewhere. There are checks and balances.
Let’s say your competitors are using the majority of their budget on social media. You think this is the best approach, but you think you can produce higher quality content to drive more business. That’s great, however, this would theoretically increase cost in human resources or decrease team efficiency, so you must ask if your organization, clients and/or customers are willing to pay more for their social media marketing services or sell them on less productivity for better content.
A Different Way
Let’s say your competitors are using the majority of their budgets on social media video content. But you have found through research that there is an opportunity to better find your audience through email marketing and blogs. You want to go all-in on these channels with the budget and resources you have at your disposal. You’re going to zig while they zag.
The intent of this approach may not be explicitly seen by your audience. It is something discussed with your team and then implemented accordingly.
The more unique the approach, the higher the risk of failure — or reward — you will see. This phase is ultimately where you are deciding “how many chips do I want to push into the center of my table?”
A New Way – How Innovation Creates Solutions — And New Problems
Perhaps you have discovered new tool or creative methodology to social media in order to offset costs and pricing with greater efficiency. Now you have to consider potential internal constraints. This could include internal pushback, the up-front costs of training, software/tech costs, and the time it takes organizing the implementation of a fundamental paradigm shift in the way your social media marketing operations work.
Also consider that this might upset the apple cart. It may cause turnover, stress human resources, anger cross-functional teams and cause other organizational issues.
The decision to approach strategy a different or new way is best done with an experienced person/team and buy-in from the top down. It’s often a risker proposition with a greater reward.
Don’t let your marketing strategy become just a great idea or a theory. Success hinges on the follow-through. Have you properly communicated your intentions to your team? Do they believe in the new approach? Implementation and management is a different article for another day.
3) The Value Proposition
Your value proposition is the core message designed to appeal to your audience’s self interest. This is what will be visible through your messaging. It’s your external approach to the marketing strategy.
In a commoditized market, value propositions are often similar from competitor to competitor with points of differentiation in features and cost. Their marketing strategy reflects these subtle differences as they battle for market share.
What A Value Proposition Is NOT
There are many opinions on what a value proposition is, and where it sits within the brand umbrella. A value proposition is a component of many things, but often gets confused with what it is definitively not:
A brand promise — this sets expectations for the brand that may include but are not limited to mission, values, and identity.
A mission statement – a mission statement forms the “why” for your company. It outlines the direction and purpose of the brand.
A tagline – this is a short phrase or slogan that should aim to help anyone who encounters it remember the brand, product or service. Think McDonalds: “I’m lovin’ it.”
What A Value Proposition Is
Here are common examples of well-known brand offerings and their basic value propositions.
- Netflix Premium: Unlimited, commercial free streaming and high quality content.
- Amazon Prime: Free shipping within 48 hours to a large variety of retail products.
- Spotify Premium: Unlimited, commercial-free streaming audio content.
- Uber: Get a safe and reliable ride fast within minutes at an affordable price.
- Dropbox: A 2GB free space to store, sync, and share files online.
There are alternatives to all of these services. But if you ask to what Lyft, which has a similar value proposition, has against Uber, go back to number two — the approach. Lyft’s brand, targeting, advertising channels and geographical focus are all points of differentiation.
What A Value Proposition COULD Be Contained Within
Positioning statement – this is an expression of how a given product, service or brand fills a consumer need in a way that its competitors do not. This would contain your value proposition, but it would have more detail about your target market, features and benefits.
Elevator pitch – A quick summary that is clear and concise, with talking points about the key benefits or features of your brand that may include pieces of, but are not limited to, a brand promise, mission, and positioning statement.
Don’t Be A Genius Like Einstein
Heed his advice instead, and simplify.
The HBR Article “Many Strategies Fail Because They Are Not Actually Strategies” has this to say:
“Many “strategies” fail because they are actually goals, or a highly organized set of priorities and objectives. A workable strategy is really just a concise, clear set of defined choices that a larger group is able to follow along with.”
Remember this when creating your marketing strategy — whether it’s a specific channel strategy like SEO, social media, email marketing, or something organization-wide.
Challenge yourself to take what you’ve built and reduce, break down, and clarify. Create your own formula. Use this one. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure your objectives are clear, and communicated in a way your team will understand.