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What is marketing strategy?

An organization or business' marketing strategy is a long-term, future-oriented approach and an overall game plan with the goal of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage by understanding the needs and wants of customers.

A marketing strategy encompasses everything from how a company positions itself, to the creative, to the strategic partners, to the media relations, to the marketing mix, to the channels and tactics.

A marketing strategy describes a company's strategy for attracting prospective customers and converting them into customers. As well as its value proposition, key brand messaging, and demographics of the target audience and customers, it contains other high-level information.

In the more ambiguous days of marketing, broad marketing strategies were known as "branding.". The following is a practical summary of the main points of the strategy and some of the key methods and goals used to achieve them.

What is the difference between a marketing strategy and a tactic?

Marketing strategies are broader than specific tactics. For example, a business could have a content strategy for their social media channels or for search engine optimization, and then they could have specific tactics they execute for each channel.

Overall marketing strategy -> Digital marketing strategy -> Specific tactics

What is the importance of marketing strategy?

Sometimes marketers and eCommerce owners get lost in the weeds, in the bits and bytes. They lose track of the overall vision of the business and the large goals. They lose track of the target audience and the main pain points that their product solves for the customer. When that happens, the specific tactics that the business employs can lose their effectiveness.

So, a marketing strategy is not some dusty old document that you put on the top shelf and forget about it. It's a vital process of discovering your company's top goals and objectives, and ways to achieve them. That becomes a blueprint for everything you do to better market your product or service.

1. Define your brand value and offering

It is essential to define the core values of your brand so that they align with what your prospects and existing customers find important, as well as what your industry trends and competitive environment are, and what you offer, i.e. your product, are.

That’s not an easy task, but without it, all the other marketing tasks become much more difficult.

2. Identify customer pain points and expectations

One of the top reasons why products or services fail is when their makers fail to identify the customers' pain points. In other words, they don't meet the customer's needs or they don't solve a vital problem in their lives. Also, those needs may change over time so it's important to continue examining the customer journey and solve your current customer challenges.

3. Identify market trends and competition

That brings us to our next topic - creating a competitive analysis. This is a crucial step in the marketing strategy plan creation because this is where you will identify what differentiates your product or service from the competition. You can do this through a simple SWOT analysis to determine your brand's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Without this step it's going to be very difficult to create a product that provides unique value to the consumer and stays competitive with the market trends of the day.

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis looks at internal and external factors that can affect your business. Internal factors are your strengths and weaknesses. External factors are the threats and opportunities.

Conducting a SWOT analysis

  1. Decide on the objective of your SWOT analysis

  2. Research your business, industry and market

  3. List your business's strengths

  4. List your business's weaknesses

  5. List potential opportunities for your business

  6. List potential threats to your business

  7. Establish priorities from the SWOT.

4. Create your value proposition

Now that you have your story right, it’s time to build the right strategy for your marketing. That means making business decisions about what you are delivering and to whom.

Your product or service says the most about your brand.

This is the actual hands-on experience prospects and customers have with your brand, and it can affect their perception about it the most.

Use your values to make sure you walk the talk and implement what you said about yourself in your offering.

5. Identify your target audience

Deciding on your target audience could change the way you present your brand and even the language you use to do it.

To define your main persona, you can use this question list:

  1. Who is my persona? Is he a male or is she a female? What age is he or she? Name your persona and attach a photo so it will be easier for you to plan your messaging accurately.

  2. What is my personal initial state of mind? - his or her emotions and thoughts before starting the decision-making process?

  3. What are the different stages of his or her decision-making process until purchase?

6. Identify partners and potential collaborators

Identifying your potential partners or collaborations is a critical step of reaching your ideal customer. It may be that there are online communities that already exist where your customers hang out. It could be that you need to work with a distributor or get a marketing partner to help you reach them.

This is a critical point to consider before you execute your inbound marketing strategy. Sometimes finding and working with the right partner could give you access and help you achieve 10X the results. This could be through revenue sharing or an affiliate program. It could also be done by social networking at industry events or online conferences.

7. Decide on the messaging and creative of your brand

That’s what storytelling is about.

From now on, you have a critical job of guarding your brand’s values and strategy in the messaging and creative you’ll create and the different tactics you’ll use.

8. Define your marketing channels

Now that you have defined your value proposition, your partners, and your creative assets and messaging it's time to select the right marketing channels for your marketing mix. This is one of the most crucial steps of the process of creating your marketing strategy. Each digital marketing campaign will vary greatly based on the marketing channels that you'll pick. You need to select those marketing channels that fit your brand and your product.

Social media

Social media marketing is a vital part of any digital inbound marketing strategy and there are certainly a lot of things that you could do. Also keep in mind that successful social media campaigns can help you get more traffic from searching. Organic social media is used for the awareness stage, or the lead generation stage, of the marketing funnel while a Facebook ad is used for the last stage, or the conversion stage. There are a lot of various platforms and strategies you could use and it's important to pick the right channel for your product.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the best and most effective social media channels to use for different type of companies:

For visual eCommerce products - use Instagram and Pinterest, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter

For B2B companies - use LinkedIn, Instagram, ProductHunt, and Angellist

For B2C companies - use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest

For written content-heavy companies - use Medium, Quora, and Reddit

For GenZ-focused companies - focus on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok

Social advertising

Ads are becoming more and more popular on social media platforms because the recent algorithm changes continue to favor them and decrease organic reach. After all, that’s how the social platforms make their money so you have to use paid media to get anywhere these days.

Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram are the most popular platforms for advertising. For B2B you can use Quora, Reddit or LinkedIn.

Top Advertising Tips:
  • Create a lookalike audience on each platform and for each type of campaign that you're running

  • Organize your campaigns based on the marketing funnel (top, middle, and bottom)

  • Match your copy and designs to your target audience

  • Retarget your audience and site visitors on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google.

Paid Advertising

Social media advertising is just a subset of online advertising. Other digital advertising can include native advertising, Google ads, Google shopping, banner ads, and much more. Each ad requires thorough strategic planning to make sure that the messaging and creatives match your market segments to help attract new leads and retain current customers.

Email marketing

Top Email Marketing Tips:
  • Use UGC or earned media in your campaigns

  • Set up email campaigns and email flows (cart abandonment flow, welcome flow, sunset flow)

  • Create campaigns with educational content, don't just send constant product promotion

  • A/B tests different copy and formats based on your data to better match your campaigns with your audience

Push notifications

Push notifications are those messages you get on your browser on a desktop device or on your mobile screen. They work really well when combined with emails. You could send off the email in the morning for example, and then follow it with a push notification 30-60 minutes later, to remind the user to check out your deal of the day.

Chatbots and messaging

One of the quickest and most effective ways to communicate with customers is through text messages and this has become its own marketing channel. You can set up automated messages and flows that gets sent to a customer or even a chatbot that is able to bring them from product discovery all the way to purchase, without any human involvement. You can also use this channel to send people a product promotion, a cart abandonment flow, or a content promotion.

Search Engine Optimization

One of the most overlooked strategies is Search Engine Optimization, especially for eCommerce. It involves optimizing a site's content to make it easier for search engines to find it and display it. There are numerous new ways to get displayed on search engines than ever before - in the images section, as videos, quotes, products, how-to's, Q&A, and much more. SEO is a super effective marketing channel and can bring a lot of targeted and high-quality traffic to any site.

Top SEO tips:
  • Use Google Search Console data to find the keywords and searches that you get the most traffic from

  • Optimize your on-page content with a tool like Ahrefs or Moz

  • Build a comprehensive backlink strategy based on competitor data and best practices

Content Marketing

Last but not least, let's talk about your content marketing strategy. Content provides a way for users to find your product or service online. Use content to target your ideal buyer persona, acquire new customers, and delight and retain your existing customer base. In order to use content marketing successfully, brands have to create different content for each part of their marketing or sales funnel. For example, a company might put out educational content for the top of the funnel, for first-time visitors, and more promotional content for those shoppers that are ready to buy.

Top Content Marketing Tips:
  • Write long-form blog posts for organic search traffic

  • Publish comparison and shopping guides for the middle of the funnel visitors

  • Use UGC, video content, and longer descriptions on your social media posts to tell your story

Public Relations (PR)

Last but not least, there's PR. Public relations are one of the most effective growth strategies that can help solidify your brand images and expand your digital presence.

9. Select a strategy and budget for each channel

Identify your business goals

What are your goals? Pick a few strategic business goals or KPIs to focus on in the short-term. A really helpful rubric for this is what’s called SMART goals. Smart stands for:

Specific - describe clearly what you want to accomplish

Measurable - set goals that you could measure

Achievable - these goals have to be achievable and not way out of reach

Relevant - set goals that improve the specific aspects of your marketing, so no vanity metrics.

Time-bound - pick objectives that you can achieve within a certain time frame.

Conduct market research

Gather information about your market - the size, growth, social trends, search trends and demographics of your target market. Find out what is possible and feasible to accomplish and which channels, content types and media, are used to reach your target customer, and which you should add to your marketing mix.

Align your strategy with your ideal customer

Go back to the customer personas that you’ve created in the beginning of this process and make sure that your strategy aligns with your personas. Look at the trends, at the type of customers that you are going to be able to reach and tweak accordingly.

10. Analyze your results

This is one of the most crucial steps in anything you do in marketing. Once you test something you have to analyze the results and continue testing. Data is crucial in every aspect of marketing and the business data you get from testing marketing strategies is the best kind of data to have. Smart marketing managers use data to continue iterating and optimizing their growth strategies.

Once you have the results of your strategy you can then make the changes you need to make and A/B test various aspects to get even better results.

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