12 questions to answer before writing your marketing strategy
Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist for her company Identify Marketing.
OPINION: Can you transform your business with a $37 Instagram course? Probably not, but it’s hard to resist!
I know I’m not immune to the pull of it myself. I love a great “Everything You’ll Need to Succeed” bundle for the magic price of $37. Sell it to me, and I’ll add it to the cart and get my lifetime access, right away.
Our lives have become quick fixes, hacks and easy wins. These resources can be invaluable and have a huge bank of information to help you perfect a handful of tactics for Instagram, Linkedin or TikTok. As long as you’ve already sorted out the basics.
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Before you jump into a course or dive into learning how to use social media, or even start a website, you need to start with an overall strategy. This will help you lay the groundwork for what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and why they need it.
If you don’t understand this, and how to define your core messages (the ones you’ll repeat over and over again), it will be difficult to make meaningful progress with your marketing. Chances are you need to come up with a marketing strategy.
One thing I’ve learned is that the phrase “marketing strategy” can cover a wide range of documents. If you are a small business owner and have come from a corporate position, your idea of a marketing strategy may be quite different from agile strategies for small businesses.
Unlike a large company that can spend days researching, testing and digging into focus groups and workshops, the life of a small business owner means that the investment of time and money has to be less and more focused on the resulting actions.
You’ll know you have a marketing strategy and action plan that fits your business if you can refer to it weekly. It should remind you why you’re marketing, what you’re saying, and who should pay attention. It should also be simple to follow.
I believe all businesses benefit from writing a marketing strategy and plan every year. It can be written with a strategist like us, or using a course like our online marketing strategy school, or simply with an online template and time with your own thoughts. Whatever works for you and your business, the key is to set aside time to write a plan.
Whether you’re going to do DIY or ask for help and support, it’s a good idea to gather information and thoughts to make the most of your time. We find business owners who come with their information ready and pre-work done to create a much more effective strategy.
This week on the MAP IT Marketing podcast, we covered the preparation you need to do, including the following 12 questions.
1. How would you describe your business today?
It should be a knee-jerk response, looking at where it came from, where it is and when and how you would describe it to yourself, your team/customers and the audience. Because small business owners are closely tied to sales and business vision, we ask this question and then compare your description to what we can see externally, such as messaging on the website.
2. Where do you want the business to be?
Is there anything you know that isn’t working or needs to be changed? Do you want to develop new lines or maintain the status quo. It may also relate to your own personal or family goals.
3. What are you selling?
Are you satisfied with what you offer? Do you like work? Is it profitable? Do you have the impression that certain offers are not within your competence? Are you developing something new? It’s also important to look at your core products or services. It’s much easier to market three to five core offerings, products, or brands well than it is to spread thin trying to market everything at once.
4. Where are you in the market?
Are you a premium product with a price to match? Or are you super cheap and targeting the masses? It doesn’t matter where you are, but it should be consistent with the quality of your product. If you say your cushions are a premium product but you sell them for twenty dollars, for example, there is a brand disconnect. If it’s a bottle of juice and it costs twenty dollars, that’s better.
5. What are your numbers?
It is common for business owners to have a clear idea of their business numbers. It is also extremely important to understand them. Overall revenue is a good place to start, but what we really need to know are profit margins, average customer value, average selling price, and other breakdowns. Sometimes it’s easy to fall for the sale of a product or service that has a very low profit margin or leads nowhere. Knowing your numbers before you start creating your marketing strategy can help shape a more profitable business.
6. Do you pay yourself?
We ask this question of every business owner we work with. It’s common for small business owners to fall into the trap of “reinvesting” their profits. Getting paid is a sign of a healthy business. Your price or offer may need to be adjusted, or it may be necessary to change costs or mindset. Sometimes a marketing strategy can lead to reshaping large parts of your business.
Marketing amplifies whatever is there. Asking this question helps ensure that paying yourself is one of the success factors you will measure
7. What are your favorite customer types?
Focusing on your best customers can help you attract more of them. Looking at common traits can help you determine how to grow a business that serves people who bring out the best in you. It’s not always about demographics like gender or income. If you have no idea, you can write down the attributes of a nightmare customer and then turn the negative into a positive.
8. What marketing do you already do?
Creating a list of what you’re already doing means you can check what’s working, what needs improvement, and what you might be missing. It’s a very good idea to put all of this in a document that you can refer to. I often find that I’m going to present a strategy and someone goes “Oh, and of course it will fit with our radio campaign” and that’s the first time they mention it!
Marketing strategies are all about linking all marketing activities together. You cannot create a marketing strategy for every silo.
9. What systems do you have in place?
Often, marketing can get stuck because your platforms and systems aren’t communicating with each other. So make a list of all the tools, platforms, and solutions you use. Write down any frustrations with them, and who “talk to each other”.
Sometimes a marketing strategy will need to address this issue to improve the flow of marketing messages.
10. What is your time and money capacity?
Think about the time and money you currently spend on marketing. Note this. If you want to grow your business, you may need to find a way to save more time. Although digital marketing is free (not including ads), you can often save time with apps and solutions that cost money. Your expenses to revenue often depend on the stage of your business. A start-up may have to spend a lot more proportionally than a business considered mature.
11. What are your identified strengths and weaknesses?
Again, we will often check your strengths against what you mention in your marketing. Do you highlight the parts of your business that you do best? Conversely, are you promoting areas of your business that you know are weaknesses? It can also help reduce risk by identifying problems that may get worse as you grow.
12. What do you know you don’t understand or need help with?
Although we don’t know what we don’t know, there are some areas of marketing you may need help with. Some of these questions may have highlighted some of them. Knowing where your knowledge gaps lie can help you access support, training, employ someone, or completely justify that $37 Instagram course you spied on this morning. You will be ready to make the most of it.
Rachel Klaver specializes in lead generation and content marketing.