How We Develop Marketing Strategies that Work

It’s important to have a plan in place before you begin: here’s how

The Marketing Canvas™ — Our Go-To Tool for Creating a Strategy that Works

Regardless of the size of a company, we walk them through the process of creating a marketing plan by using The Marketing Canvas™, a powerful tool we’ve developed that consistently produces excellent results for our clients.

Using a standard sequence of steps, we make sure we cover all the bases with each step building logically on the preceding steps. Even though it may seem a little overwhelming at first, we’ve managed to organize the workflow and format it into a single page summary, which makes it easy to take a step back and gain a big picture view of what needs to be done.

How Do You Simplify a Marketing Plan?

A really good, comprehensive marketing plan has a LOT of moving parts and if you neglect any one of them, you’ll pay the price down the line. The Marketing Canvas™ simplifies and organizes all the elements you need to keep in mind as you develop strategies for getting your brand message in front of your ideal customer.

How Does The Marketing Canvas™ Work?

Here’s a quick overview of how it all comes together.

Don’t be tempted to get carried away and skip any steps… Photo by David Wright on Unsplash

First, it’s critically important that you actually take the time to work through the process completely. Don’t skip a block thinking, “that doesn’t really apply to me,” or, “I’ll do that part later.” And, no matter how pressed for time you might feel, don’t be tempted to jump ahead.

Completing the steps thoroughly — and in order — is key to developing a successful marketing plan. We’ve been through this process countless times with companies of all sizes and in a wide range of sectors. What we know about The Marketing Canvas™ is this — it works.

The reason why it works is that the end result is a big, all-inclusive, cohesive strategy. There are no gaps, nothing you have to go back to, no holes to patch.

Why Are the Numbers in a Strange Order?

When you first look at the canvas, the way the numbers are laid out may not seem to be logical. You do actually complete the steps sequentially, starting with 1 and ending with 9, but on our overview worksheet, we’ve also built in some other important organizational considerations.

The Geography of The Marketing Canvas™

Let’s look a little closer and explore the geography of The Marketing Canvas™.

The canvas can be divided into top and bottom sections. The top of the canvas works through everything related to your brand, what you are to your customer, and how your brand shows up in the world.

The bottom part of the canvas is the execution area. By the time we get to the bottom section you are very clear on what your brand is all about and how it’s supposed to show up to the customers. The bottom section is where theory meets practice, where you activate your marketing plan in the real world.

You can also divide the canvas in half more or less down the middle. The left side of the canvas is the backstage area. This is where your internal work as a company happens. What are you doing behind the scenes to get ready operationally? And, once you have your product or services ready to go, what do you need to do to get all your marketing stuff prepared to go out to customers?

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

If the left side is backstage, then the right-hand side of the canvas is the stage. This is where and how interactions with your customers happen. Success on stage is how you find your way to growth and expansion.

Does The Marketing Canvas™ Really Work for All Types of Businesses?

We use marketing canvas on all new customers because we’ve found that the more solid the foundation, the faster — and more successfully — we can implement the marketing strategy. Even our clients generally have plenty of business experience, they often don’t approach us and ask for a big, all-inclusive marketing strategy. Often, that initial marketing engagement conversation begins when the client comes to us and says “we know what we want you to do. Build us a landing page.” Or, the client may say, “…we want you to handle our PPC marketing.”

When we question the client further, they often come back with objectives like these:

  • we want more leads
  • we need more engagement on social
  • we need to increase our brand awareness within our sector

Though the stated objective might be leads, engagement, or brand awareness or a request for a specific deliverable (like a new landing page), in fact the client’s underlying driving need is likely something quite different. A desire for increased revenue or a higher profit margin might actually be what’s driving the request for assistance.

To determine what the true, underlying need is for our customer, we ask lots of questions, digging deeper to fully understand the fundamental goal behind the goal.

In the example above, the client may either need to improve the quality of their traffic, improve their conversion rate, or increase the lifetime value of the leads they already have.

Because this piece of the process is so important, whenever we begin to work with a new client we take them through an on-boarding experience that includes The Marketing Canvas™ Sprint.

What is The Marketing Canvas™ Sprint?

As we mentioned earlier, The Marketing Canvas™ is a tool we developed that walks through the nine elements of a go-to marketing strategy. It’s comprehensive, efficient and universal and works for any business of any size in any sector.

This strategy covers the basics, the foundational pieces that you need for a marketing plan that will actually get results. But beyond that, this framework also includes stuff they don’t talk about in Marketing 101. From experience, we know that taking elements not included in standard marketing plans into consideration and then using this information to develop your marketing plan has a direct impact on outcomes and, ultimately, your ROI.

The Marketing Canvas™ lays out the nine elements logically and shows you graphically how each element contributes to the success of the overall plan.

Now that you have an overview of the big picture, let’s have a quick look at each block and what it contains. For a deeper dive into each area, have a look at the series of related blog posts focussing on each of the nine blocks.

The Marketing Canvas™ Blocks

Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash

Step 1: Target Customer

The first step is figuring out who your target customer is in a very detailed way. Instead of stopping with general categories (women over 40), but rather, getting to know your ideal client avatar as well as you know your best friend. For more information on this process, CLICK HERE.

If you’re just starting out, you may need to define a target market and then do some testing. But one way or the other, you must get really clear on who the very specific target is (or you won’t really be able to target them).

It’s not enough to know your broad market, though it’s helpful to start there. What is the submarket that you’re playing in? Ideally, you want to know your niche within the submarket. You may be familiar with this concept expressed as red ocean versus blue ocean, but whatever metaphors you want to use, the underlying concept is the same: you can’t know your ideal customer too well.

Once you have identified your ideal target customer, you need to start digging and establish their core intrinsic needs.

Step 2: Customer Needs

What do we mean by core intrinsic needs?

As in our example above about our client who may come to us asking for a newly-designed landing page but who really needs to generate more revenue, sometimes it takes some probing to discover the true needs underlying the customer’s perceived needs.

What are a client’s true, underlying needs?

This second step is all about taking the time to fully understand what your customers really want. That’s not necessarily what they think they want, but what they actually need.

Step 3: The Value Vision

In a nutshell, the value vision is your brand’s why? Why should the customer choose your company? Why this particular product? Why now?

This step is often the place where companies struggle, sometimes spending a LOT of money on fancy brochures and information-laden websites extolling the virtues of the company’s value proposition.

Why this particular product? Why now?

It is essential in this stage to stop and think about how the ideal client’s needs align with the value proposition of your company’s product or service.

It can take some time, effort and re-thinking of your value proposition so it can be best presented to the customer in a way that exactly meets their needs.

Companies get so caught up in making sure they are creating a great product, providing excellent customer service and exceptional value for money they forget that’s all irrelevant to a client who doesn’t already know the product or service exists — or, in many cases, that you even exist at all.

Sure, the value proposition makes a lot of sense once you know the people behind the company, but to a customer with a problem that needs to be solved or a need that needs to be met, the fact you may actually be terrific isn’t really that useful.

Key Value Vision Questions

What is the outcome the company must achieve that will be proof that the company is meeting the customer needs? What must be true?

Step 4: Story/X Factor

Rather than thinking of putting the brand’s story front and center, we put the customer at the center of a story that’s meaningful to them. The customer is always the hero of the story, but your brand provides the narrative structure. In this stage, you create a hero-centered brand story. Everything you do that relates to the customer’s journey is wrapped around the hero — not the brand.

The products you design and offer (or the services you deliver), the messaging you create, the fulfillment process — everything you do as a company that touches the customer in any way keeps the hero/client at the center of the brand story. Like any good story, your hero exists within a context, faces a conflict (stemming from unfulfilled needs) and your company provides the solution that brings the hero story to a satisfying resolution.

Step 5: Message Architecture

Photo by Javier García on Unsplash

Once we understand who the customer is and what they need along with how the company can meet that need, when we’ve figured out how to put the customer at the center of a hero story in which your brand facilitates a satisfying ending, only then are we ready to identify the key messages we need to communicate to the customer.

Key Message Architecture Questions

What are the essential messages that speak to the customer’s needs? What are the messages that tie the hero’s story to the brand story?

Creating those messages is the thrust of this step.

Step 6: Strategic Leverage Points

With a solid understanding of steps 1–5, we can look strategically at what a company needs to do to move forward. Usually, the internal leverage points in a business relate to acquisition, retention, or growth. Most KPIs relate to one of these fundamental areas.

Once we have identified the leverage points, we turn our attention back to the customers.

Step 7: Marketing Channels

At this point, we need to know where the customers congregate, both online and off-line.

Key Question: Marketing Channels

Where are our target customers most concentrated and active?

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Once we’ve identified where our clients hang out, we know where to focus our marketing efforts. Accessing customers involves understanding what channels, vehicles, and platforms we have available to take our message out into the world so we can meet our heroes where they are.

Step 8: Workstream Tactics

If we know where the customers are, what they need, how to meet them, and what messages we need to create to share that hero-centric story, only then are we ready to develop specific, concrete, actionable implementation tactics.

In step 8 we get our hands dirty and figure out what specific work tasks need to be accomplished as you take your product to market.

Step 9: Target Results

At this point in the process, one critical piece remains: evaluating the outcome of your efforts.

Without measuring your progress, how do you know if you are successfully meeting your objectives and moving forward? Establishing key metrics that relate to the various canvas blocks is the only way to know what’s working and what is not, where efficiencies might be implemented, and where time, effort, and resources should be allocated to maximize your ROI.

Does All That Work Pay Off?

Diving into all nine steps may seem like a lot of effort, but what we’ve discovered is that by insisting each client proceeds through the sequence, in the end, we are able to develop and implement a comprehensive and effective marketing plan more quickly than if we try to skip ahead and take shortcuts.

In the final analysis, we wind up saving our clients time, money and aggravation which is why we insist that all our new clients use The Marketing Canvas™.

If you’d like a copy of the strategy to look over, CLICK here to download our free The Marketing CanvasQuick Start Guide

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