The only three things you need for marketing strategy

Founders and new marketers have the same challenges when it comes to strategic marketing. This is where to start.

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

“I’ve been promoted within my organization and am finding myself tasked with interpreting and now writing strategy plans — and I’m drowning a bit. How did you go from a tactical worker bee to a strategic dynamo?”

Someone posted this in a professional group chat recently.

There were lots of replies. “Fake it till you make it!” one person yelled out in support. “Take a course online” suggested another. One person recommended books by Joe Pulizzi and Seth Godin. Someone else said to go back to school part time to get a certificate in business communications.

But there are really only three things you need to do basic marketing strategy.

The biggest lesson I have learned in strategy is that it’s much more effective if you have data to work with. Before every marketing strategy session we have with clients, I make sure to have customer research, brand guidelines, and competitive analysis in front of me. If I don’t have those three things, then the plan instantly becomes to build them. Until you have perspective, you cannot make a strong marketing and communications plan. You can have some sort of plan, but you’re at a much higher risk of spinning your wheels, failing to get the metrics you need, and being unable to back up your strategic decisions.

Strategy is about taking a step back and thinking big picture, being logical and systematic in your approach, and communicating your logic effectively. It’s hard to do that without data. So, data are what we you need first.

1. Voice of Customer documentation for marketing strategy

Talk to your customers. If your new job is strategy, that’s the first thing you have to do. You should talk to them, and then you should organize the data so that you can make sense of it.

How do you talk to customers? We use surveys and interviews. We survey all customers, and we interview the top ten. If you can imagine your favourite customers — the ones that make you feel good when you talk to them, the ones that tell others about how great your product is, the ones that give you great reviews and return again and again to buy from you — those are the customers you want to speak with about strategy.

Ok, you don’t want to talk to them about strategy exactly, because they won’t be able to tell you what to you. But, they can tell you about their experiences. You want to find out about their intentions and motivations…

  1. when they decided to look for something like your product,
  2. when they found out about you,
  3. when they chose you over your competitors,
  4. when they became sure your product was the right choice for them and
  5. when their lives changed for the better when they became a regular customer of yours.

This data will give you insights into what motivates and converts your customers. Put it all together and you have a solid voice of customer booklet. Every sentence in the voice of customer booklet will give you a new idea for where to communicate, what to communicate, and how to communicate. Helpful, right?

2. Brand guidelines for marketing strategy

Brand guidelines help you make decisions you can defend. A healthy set of brand guidelines are an agreed-upon series of goals, values, and brand characteristics that your company has come up with together. You cannot have brand guidelines that one person just makes up and dictates, because others won’t have a stake in them. Brand guidelines are collective conceptions of your company and its mission. They should be a team effort.

You use brand guidelines when you’re paring down the ideas you get from your voice of customer booklet. Your voice of customer can give you countless ways to market your product. Which ones best align with how your company chooses to show up in the marketplace? Your brand guidelines are your North Star when you’re strategizing what to work on, who to partner with, and how to talk about the company, your product, and your team.

We don’t do anything crazy when it comes to brand guidelines. In fact, we just run a Google Ventures 3 hour brand guidelines session. We learned that from Georgiana Laudi and Claire Suellentrop. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us and it’s probably good enough for you.

3. Competitive analysis for marketing strategy

Who are your competitors? Well, the most obvious ones offer the same kind of product offering as you. But there are also products that do the same job as what your product does… and they might not look anything like your product.

For a good overview of that second type of competition, we use Jobs to be Done, a research epistemology that positions your product within a larger, more accurate competitive landscape. To understand JTBD, we recommend reading When Coffee and Kale Compete. It’s full of how you can use competitive analysis to better position your product in the marketplace.

How to put together a marketing strategy

Once you have these three things in front of you, you can put together a strategy.

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you want to be in one year’s time?
  3. How are you going to get there?

Your competitive analysis answers the first question. Your brand guidelines answer the second. And, your voice of customer gives you a strong roadmap to answer the third.

If you need more info, want to check out examples, or just want to talk marketing strategy, we’re here to help. And, congratulations on getting promoted.