In short, your Marketing Strategy (or Market Strategy) is the combination of your overall business goal, along with the path you intend to take to achieve that goal. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a strategy is “A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim”. Therefore, a marketing strategy is simply the ultimate plan of action to achieve your marketing goal.
It is important that you don’t get bogged down by having too many goals. When you try to succeed at everything, you end up achieving nothing. Since at least 50% of your marketing effort should be focused on building your online brand awareness we will focus on an example of an online marketing strategy, as well as the marketing tactics that will support it.
A typical online marketing strategy might be, as mentioned above, to enhance online brand awareness. By “brand”, we don’t mean letting people know what kind of athletic shoes you sell. We’re talking here about the “brand” that is your business. This is the individual personality, the quirks, foibles, and UVP (unique value proposition) that can only be found at your business. Brand building is a very basic function of internet marketing, and this one strategy alone will not get you very much results, if any at all. Unfortunately, it is the only thing most small business owners try to do, and then they lament that internet marketing doesn’t work. We’ll address other market strategies later on in the article, though, so you can have an idea of where you should go with your online business marketing efforts.
In order to enhance a business’ brand awareness on the internet, we can devise specific action steps, or tactics, that will contribute to that overall goal. A tactic is, according to Oxford, “an action… carefully planned to achieve a specific end.” Notice the focus on “action” in the definition, as opposed to “goal”. Your goal should be set in stone. Your tactics should be fluid and changeable, especially in today’s world of instant analytics, metrics, and split testing. Your overall strategy is to build a successful business. How you do that is through a series of tactical decisions, based upon immediately observable results.
If our goal is to “enhance brand awareness”, then our tactics should probably include the following elements:
- A well designed website that reflects the professionalism and style of our actual business. If your business is a cell phone store, you want your website to reflect the modern, clean lines of your show room. If you planning on marketing a comedy nightclub, a dark website with spotlights of information might be your best choice. Make the website reflect both the “feel” of your business, and also reflect the personality of the people involved.
- Social Media is a great way to connect with your customer base, and your prospective customer base as well. When you create your Facebook Fan page, or LinkedIn profile, you should take care to make all the imagery you choose for the profile pics and banners match your website. Then, engage with your customers, personally. Avoid “hiring out’ your social media work as long as you can, because your voice simply cannot be duplicated until you have had the chance to establish it. Post LOTS of pictures of yourself and your staff doing what they do best. Let people get to know your business, just as if they were walking in the front door. Companies that do this have vastly outperformed those that try to maintain a level of anonymity. All we have to do is look at Dover Saddlery to see how that works. Dover is a rapidly growing online seller of horse-related tack and equipment, and they take great pains to make sure that their employees are displayed all over their website, Social Media and catalog. L.L. Bean used their employees as models, but Dover has taken it one step further, highlighting their employees’ actual involvement with horses. When you buy from Dover, you are buying from people who truly understand the product.
- Multi-Media is an excellent tool for building and fine-tuning your online brand. Writing a thousand word blog post just won’t carry the same weight as a well-crafted video of yourself explaining what you do, and perhaps more importantly, why you do it. Video lets you tell the real story about why your customers’ satisfaction is so important to you, or why seeing everyone have your product in their home would make the world a better place. When you put together a video about your business, or a product you carry, you can accomplish more in those few minutes than you could in almost any other way. Besides, there’s a little known secret about online video. YouTube is owned by Google. If you want to get some seriously fast results for your business, the best place to advertise it would be on the website of the company doing the searches, don’t you think?
There are a few things that I would ask you to consider carefully. Consistent feel across all the online marketing tactics you employ is absolutely mandatory. Don’t have a calm, serene, “froofy” look to your website, but have your video be harsh, choppy or hectic. If you have a logo and color scheme, duplicate that as best as you can in your social media profiles, as well as in the intro to your videos. Taking care to plan this out in advance will save you hours of “remedial” work later on when you are trying to remember how to update your profile on Twitter.
There is an emotional upside to carefully delineating between your strategy and your tactics. Often, when we muddle them up, we feel like our overall plan is failing because something we tried to do to build our business failed. This is nonsense. It is far more likely that one of your tactics for achieving your goal has failed, and all that means is that you’ve learned one way you can’t succeed. It doesn’t mean you won’t succeed. It just means you’ve learned that a new tactic is required if you are going to make your business a success.