Imagine if you could create an effective marketing strategy to beat the competition and help your business grow regardless of its size? If so, you’re in the right place.

There are 9 steps you need to take.

Lucky for you, I’m not only going to explain you all the steps but also give you as many instructions, tips, how to’s, etc., as possible.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

What is marketing strategy?

Marketing strategy is a long-term, forward-looking approach to promote a product or service and grow business. It’s a game plan for reaching people and turning them into customers of the product or service that the business provides. The marketing strategy includes the value proposition, key marketing messages, definition of the target audience and buying personas, and other high-level elements.

Defining marketing strategy, part 1: Get to know your product

Get your first-hand experience about your product

Use your product in all major cases your users tend to use it. You can’t skip this part, there’s no better way to understand and feel the product you about to promote than make up your own honest opinion about its strong and weak sides. Write down your experience using the following template:

  1. What did you like while using the product?
  2. What did you hate while using the product?
  3. Was there anything that remains unclear about the product or its features?
  4. What was the most disturbing thing you encountered?
  5. Describe your overall experience of using the product.

marketing strategy product research

Ask people inside your company about the product

People inside your company might have valuable insights about the product. It’s also important to understand how your company perceives the real product value for the customers, common use cases and your competition. Eventually, you are probably going to find out that some of these insights are quite wrong. Sample questions to ask:

  1. Who do you think is the target audience of our product?
  2. Why do customers like (don’t like) our product?
  3. What are the most common use cases of our product?
  4. What are the most and the least important product features?
  5. What competitors do we have?
  6. What competitors do better (worse)?
  7. How would you describe our Unique Selling Proposition?
  8. Is there anything else that makes us unique?

interview your colleagues about the product you need to promote

Google what people say about your company and your product

Some people are quite into sharing their feedback about your product on Social Media, review sites, community forums, etc. These people are not necessarily correctly represent your average customer, still, their opinion and experience is very valuable and helps in shedding more light on how people perceive your product.

Depending on the industry you’re in, you might want to check the reviews on the following sites:

Customer review sites for b2c companies

Review websites for b2b companies

  • FinancesOnline, each reviewer is authenticated via LinkedIn to ensure all the users are real.
  • G2 Crowd, “a must” platform if you are into the software business.
  • TrustRadius, software, each reviewer must link their profile to LinkedIn so almost none fake reviews.
  • Salesforce AppExchange, if you have an app on the Salesforce AppExchange.

Customer review sites for both b2b & b2c companies

Other

Defining marketing strategy, part 2: Your target audience

Your company makes products for your customers, not yourself. It’s crucial for your marketing strategy to understand your customers, analyze the feedback you receive from them and learn about their use cases. You need to understand who these people are and what they do. You must know the reasons why they decided to try your product as well as the reasons why others chose to reject your product.

Start with the user research. There are two ways to conduct it: surveys and interviews.

User survey

A user survey is an effective and straightforward way of procuring user feedback. Standart practice is to make survey anonymous and online, so you can collect honest data and reach a large group of people in a short period of time. However, you need carefully establish the goals of the survey, think about its purpose. What kind of information are you trying to procure?

The goal of your survey should be validating (or invalidating) your most important assumptions about your customers’ needs, frustrations, and desired opportunities or product features.

What kinds of questions should you ask? Are there any rules or guidelines? Try and make your survey as simple as possible for your users (limit your questions to ten!) while still collecting usable data.

  • Keep personal information requests to a minimum. The more personal the requests, the fewer responses you’ll receive.
  • If you ask for an email address in the survey, assure the respondent that you won’t spam them.
  • Keep your questions interesting. These are humans taking your survey—don’t sound like a cold-hearted machine. Respondents will be more open and honest with someone who sounds human.
  • Keep instructional text to a minimum. If your survey requires lengthy instruction, it’s a good sign that your survey is too complex.
  • Only ask one question at a time—no double-barreled questions.
  • Ask positive questions. Negative questions can be confusing to respondents.
  • Avoid using industry jargon.
  • Don’t ask multiple, open-ended questions one after another. Put at least one closed question in between.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to distributing your survey is to distribute it to the right people.

Are you looking to launch a new line of products for women? Surveying customers from your men’s line aren’t going to be very useful. Try and limit the distribution of your survey to applicable respondents only.

Sometimes, however, you can’t limit who your survey is sent to, which means you’ll need to limit your respondents via another method. This is where qualifying questions come into play.

  • Include two or three qualifying questions at the beginning of your survey to ensure the person answering is actually in your target audience.
  • Use a respondent’s answers to these questions to determine if their responses are viable. If many of your respondents don’t match the target audience, you might re-evaluate your assumptions about said audience.

Check this link for more information about tips for creating great qualitative surveys.

You can create a decent user survey using Google Forms, check this tutorial about how to do so.

How to create a survey with Google Forms (full tutorial)

If you need something more advanced, PCMAG tested and compared ten dedicated survey tools to help you to choose.

Surveys are a great way to reach a large group of users in a short period of time, but they’re not the best method when it comes to obtaining more in-depth, personalized information. For that, we’re going to look at another method of user testing —interviews.

One-on-one interview

Interviews are an amazingly useful tool for research because it allows you to speak directly to users, and get responses to specific questions that you have. If done well, it could also uncover nuances or directions that were previously unknown or unthought of.

Interviews allow you to:

  • Collect qualitative data
  • Confirm assumptions about your potential target audience
  • Test potential solutions

The first thing you will need while you’re setting up to an interview is a script. You need to have a system in place that will allow you to compare every answer you receive from your potential customers. Collecting extraneous information unrelated to specific goals or features will only leave you with an overwhelming amount of useless data. Write a script with relevant, consistent questions.

Example interview

Let’s say your client is a local coffee shop company and you want to learn more about their typical customers.

It would be awesome to stick with the structure below.

In the first place

Don’t forget to introduce yourself and share the purpose of your interview, so the user won’t feel confused and lost.

Hi Mary, thanks for coming down. My name is ______, and I’ll be conducting the interview today.
We’re doing some market research, so some of the questions might be a little personal, and will concern your lifestyle. If you feel uncomfortable answering any of the questions, just let me know and we can skip it. I can’t tell you much about what we do or the exact reason we’re doing this research now, because it might affect the way you answer the questions. But I can definitely tell you after the interview is over.


Do you have any questions so far? [pause for respondent’s reply]


If you don’t mind, I would record the audio for this interview; it will only be used internally, for the purposes of this research.

Next

Ask 3–5 generic questions that are related to the topic of your interview.

Describe your personal demographics (if appropriate, ask their age, whether they’re married, if they have children)””What’s your occupation / job? In which industry or industries does your company work?””What does a typical day look like?”“How often do you go to a coffee shop?

Next

Now it’s time to ask main questions. Remember to keep them open-ended and based on real experience in the past.

Tell me more about the last time you choose the coffee shop to meet with your friends, what details affect your choice?””Was it simple to make a choice or did you have difficulties and if yes, which sort of?””What did you like at that coffee shop besides coffee? Will you come back there?””Recall a time when you wanted to grab a coffee before work, but there is an enormous line in the nearest coffee shop. What did you think or feel?

Wrap up

At the end of the interview, you should give your respondent a sense of closure. Don’t forget to ask them if they have anything they’d like to add or ask. Finally, thank them for their time and contribution towards your research.

Use these tips and tricks while conducting an interview

Talk to people face-to-face
If you can, choose to meet your potential customers in person. A face-to-face interview will give you the opportunity to see their body language and make the interview process feel more natural.


Bring a friend along
Having someone else next to you during your interviews can help you stay objective with the answers you collect. It could be useful to have him or her record the information while you focus all your attention on interviewing the potential customer.


Relax
Your interviewees will only be able to relax if you, too, are relaxed. Explain to them the purpose of your interview and meet them in a place comfortable and familiar to them. Coffee shops and parks are good choices to keep the atmosphere relaxed and casual.


Set up a time and keep it consistent
Keep track of your time while running test interviews with friends and relatives. This will allow you to give your interviewees an estimate of how long the interview will take. This is also a good time to practice your questions and responses.


Keep track of the data you collect
Record everything said by the interviewee in a document or spreadsheet to ensure you don’t forget anything. You’ll be able to more easily compare their answers in a logical and practical manner.


How many people should you interview?
This depends on many factors. Your interviewee count is limited by the project budget. If you find, however, that additional interviewees aren’t resulting in any new information, you can stop the interview process early.

Also don’t forget to use a good motivation for your participants.

For example, if you offer them a discount or a free product at your coffee shop, they would be more interested to become a part of your research. Check more useful tips here.

Check Facebook Audience Insights

Facebook can give you some useful information about people who liked your Facebook page. Unfortunately, in early 2018 Facebook removed an option to analyze the custom audiences (e.g., collected with emails of your customers), however examining those who have already shown interest in your business by liking your page can give you some useful insights about your audience.

Go to “Manage Ads” in the Facebook menu

facebook-ad-manager-login

 

Once you’re inside Facebook Ad Manager, head over to the hamburger menu on the top-left and click on “Audience Insights”

Facebook-locate-audience-insights

Ask Facebook to limit the scope with only your page followers.

facebook-audience-insights-scope

You can play with the rest of the filters as you wish but for the basic analysis, we’re all set.

Learn about your followers (read clients) Demographics,

hobbies, and interests.

 

Take a look at Google Analytics

Google Analytics is also capable of adding some useful information about your prospects and clients. Go to “Audience” section and analyze at least (one at a time) these two segments:

  • All Users (chosen by default)
  • Your customers (if you sell anything on your website)

For each segment, check at least the following reports:

  • Demographics → Age
  • Demographics → Gender
  • Interests → Affinity Categories
  • Interests → In-Market Segments
  • Interests → Other Categories

google analytics audience reports

Create your buyer personas

Ok, now it’s time to distill all that raw data you have and discover patterns and commonalities from the answers to your interviews, surveys, the info you gathered via Facebook Audience Insights and Google Analytics, and additional information you gathered from the reviews.

Buyer personas are created using a little imagination and a whole load of insight. You use them to visualize your customers, personalize your marketing strategy and tailor your message for each subset of customers.

You may picture them as your friends and imagine what they would like to do, how they would like it to do and when. You treat them like real people and every time you struggle with the decision to make, you should appeal with the question to them, imagining how they would behave in different situations.

The following questions and areas of discussion will help you construct a snapshot of your customers and your marketing strategy.

Personal

  • Location – Where do people from this persona live?
  • Age – What is the age range of this persona?
  • Gender – What is the gender of people in this persona?
  • Interests – What are the interests of people in this persona?
  • Education Level – What is the education level of this persona?
  • Relationship Status – What is the relationship status of this buyer persona?
  • Language – What languages do people in this persona speak?

Professional

  • Job Title – What field of work do your customer work in and what types of job titles do they carry?
  • Income Level – What is the income range of this buyer persona?
  • What kind of professional background do your potential users have?

Technical

  • Favorite Websites – Why type of websites do people in this persona frequent?
  • What technological devices do your potential customers employ on a regular basis?
  • Buying Motivation – What is this personas reasons for buying your product?
  • Buying Concerns – What is this personas concerns when buying your product?

How buyers persona description might look like

Creating buyer personas will give you an in-depth look at not only who your customers are, but what they want. By answering the questions above about different customer groups, you’ll gain a better understanding of what each target group may want out of your product or service. Don’t forget, that your business is for not just one person, but many. All these different customers will have different backgrounds, different personalities, and—most importantly—different needs. Buyer personas help to discover those needs and create a marketing strategy that is responding appropriately to as many as possible.

Defining marketing strategy, part 3: Competitive analysis

Competitive Overview

Competitive analysis is a crucial part of a strong marketing strategy because it gives you insights about what your competitors offer, which tactics they use and in what channels. You need this kind of information to reveal gaps and weak spots in their marketing strategy and eventually beat them. Understanding whom your competitors are and seeing where they stand will also help you with creating a Unique Selling Proposition and defining marketing goals.

A good competitor profile should begin with an overview that touches on three aspects—the competitor’s key objectives, their overall strategy, and their market advantage.

  • Key Objectives: A competitor’s core message, the way in which they present themselves, and how they claim to set themselves apart from the competition
  • Overall Strategy: A competitor’s business strategy, the way in which they attract customers, and how they position themselves against other companies in their industry
  • Market Advantage: What it is that makes a competitor better, faster, stronger, and/or more unique than the competition

Identify your competitors

If you don’t know who your competitors are, try this:

  1. Ask your colleagues about your competition (you already did that if you followed this guide step by step)
  2. Take a look at the results of the surveys and interviews you conducted with the customers. They might have revealed more competitors
  3. Google for the keywords consumers would use to find your business

Once you identified your competitors, it’s time to range them to reveal the top 5. It’s quite unlikely that you would have access to your competitor’s revenue report. Thus we need to come up with some indirect indicators that would suggest who has the most significant slice of a pie. On average, your strongest competitors have:

  • More traffic on their website
  • More online reviews
  • More media mentions

Test your competitor’s products by yourself

As was mentioned earlier, nothing can substitute the first-hand experience. Test your competitor’s products in all major cases related to your product, write down your experience and findings. Example checklist to follow:

  • Could this product be used in this particular use case?
  • If yes, what did you like about this product in this use case?
  • What didn’t you like about this product in this use case?
  • What was the competitor’s greatest asset?
  • Your overall experience, how would this product stand against yours in this use case?

Find reviews about your competitors

Conduct quick research about what people say about your competitors. Use these findings to extend your knowledge of your competitors market advantage.

Defining marketing strategy, part  4: Competitor’s marketing profile

Once you’ve completed your overview, you’ll want to find out as much as you can about a competitor’s marketing strategies.

You need to collect all the possible data about competitor’s marketing presence. Do they advertise online? What marketing channels they use to communicate with the prospects? Try to identify what tools and social networks they use, as well as what practices they have in place. If they have a blog, check what types of articles they write and where they focus their marketing efforts. If they run AdWords ads, check what ad copy and landing page they use. Find out if and how they use Facebook ads. Do they have a retargeting strategy?. We’re going to show you how to do it step by step.

Benchmark the competition traffic

Go to similarweb.com (no sign up needed), then put your competitor’s website into the search field and click on the magnifier icon.

Traffic overview shows an estimation of the traffic during the last 6 months.

Defining Marketing Strategy: SimilarWeb traffic overview for competitive research

 

Traffic sources show an estimation of the traffic spread between the default channels: Direct Referrals, both Organic and Paid Search, Social Media, Email, and Display advertising.

  • Direct – Traffic sent from users via URLs entered directly into a browser, saved bookmarks or any links from outside the browser without the UTM-tags (i.e. Microsoft Word), Popup ads, Autofill
  • Mail – Traffic sent from web-based mail clients (i.e. Gmail, Yahoo Mail)
  • Referrals – Traffic sent via links from other domains such as affiliates, partners, news coverage, review sites and direct media buying (not through ad networks)
  • Social – Traffic sent from social media sites (i.e. Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest or Reddit)
  • Organic Search – Traffic sent via the results on search engines (i.e. Google or Bing) that appear because of their relevance to the search terms
  • Paid Search – Traffic sent via the results on search engines (i.e. Google or Bing) that appear because of an advertisement
  • Display Ads – Traffic sent from other domains via a known ad-serving platforms (i.e. Google AdWords  Display Network, Doubleclick, Taboola)

Defining Marketing Strategy: SimilarWeb Traffic Sources

Check the “Social” section for estimation of the Social Media traffic spread between the most important social networks.

SimilarWeb Social Media

You would probably want to understand the impact each channel does on the core business metrics. We’re going to call them “conversions” and they might be: signups, purchases, add to carts, clicks on the banners, etc. What conversions are relevant to you is depending on your niche and product.

Collect the numbers SimilarWeb reveals for each of your top 5 competitors and put them into a spreadsheet similar to this (go to “File” -> “Make a copy” if you want to use this spreadsheet).similarweb traffic estimation spreadsheet

“Traffic Overall” and “% of each channel” is taken from SimilarWeb estimation. The conversion rate is depending on your niche, type of conversion and channel. Considering you share the same niche with your competition, taking your conversion rate per each channel as the default value is a good start.

When you know the conversion rate for each channel, it’s easy to estimate the number of conversions this channel gives to your competitor.

Dig into competitor’s referral traffic

Sign up with a free trial of SEMRush. Input your competitor’s website into the search box, then go to “Backlinks” on the left menu, then click on “Backlinks” tab in the center of your screen.Defining Marketing Strategy: SEMRush backlinks referral traffic report

Sort the table by the “PS” (Page Score) column and look through the list paying close attention to the “Anchor text” column. You’re interested in the anchors with explicit buying intent, e.g. “visit store”, “available here”, etc.semrush backlinks referral traffic

SEO traffic

Click on “Organic Reseach”  section on the left menu.semrush seo traffic

Sort the table by the “Traffic %” column. Now you see the list of the keywords that bring the most traffic to your competitor’s website plus an estimation of how many traffic each keyword is responsible for.semrush organic keywords

AdWords (Google Ads) Search Network

In SEMRush, go to “Domain Analytics” -> “Advertising Research” -> “Positions” to see which keywords your competitors target in Google AdWords (Google Ads).semrush paid advertising keywords report

It’s also useful to take a look at the ad copy of your competitors. Go to “Domain Analytics” -> “Advertising Research” -> “Ad Copies” to spy on the exact ad copy for both desktop and mobile provided with a link to a landing page. Btw, this landing pages might be unique and only being used with the AdWords (Google Ads) traffic.

semrush adwords ad copies report

AdWords (Google Ads) Display Network

In SEMRush, go to “Domain Analytics” -> “Display Advertising”.  Check competitors recent activity with the GDN ads as well as countries, devices and ad types report.

competitive report for marketing strategy - semrush display ads report

You can also reveal the majority of creatives and banners your competitor used (and is using at this very moment) as well as the top publishers within Google Display Network these creatives have been served on.

Reveal competitors display banners and publishers with SEMRush

Learn what your competitors are doing with email

Email marketing is arguably one of the most tedious channels for competitive analysis. There are two ways to find out how your competitors utilize the power of email marketing.

  1. Manual Research
    Try to get involved in as much user scenarios as possible using different emails. This will help you to get into separate email lists and see which emails are being sent to each list. Quick tip: if you use Gmail, you can add a dot (“.”) in between any character in your email name (the part that goes before @gmail.com) since Gmail ignores special characters. E.g., your email is [email protected], and you need another “fresh” email address to sign up somewhere. Just use [email protected] (super dot email).
    Some possible scenarios you want to get involved into to reveal the emails your competitors send:

      • Sign up for newsletters on the website
      • Start a free trial of a competitor’s product
      • Abandon a cart after completing the step where you got asked about your email
      • etc
  2. Services that analyze your competitor’s emails
    Mailcharts aggregates emails from your competitors. In addition to grabbing subject lines, Mailcharts pulls data such as send frequency and compares it to your business’ campaigns to see where your emails stand.Additionally, the tool compares your campaigns to their massive library of marketing emails to ensure you’re in tune with best practices (think: timing, frequency, subject line length, etc).

    use mailcharts to reveal your competitor's email marketing strategy

    mailcharts

    Owletter automatically aggregates emails from competitors and organizes them into a simple, user-friendly dashboard. Owletter’s analytics spots changes in your competitors’ email frequency, and likewise picks up on trends to help you optimize when you should send your emails.

Analyze Social Media

We’re going to consider Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as your competitor’s primary social channels. Feel free to add any other Social Media platform (e.g., Pinterest) if it fits your niche.

Put the data you gather into this template.

Facebook Competitive Analysis

Start by doing a manual review of your competitor’s page. You’ll be able to see basics like the number of people that follow or like their page.

Follower count is nice to know, but that’s not where your competitive analysis should stop. Sign up with a free trial of sproutsocial.com, add your Facebook page then head over to “Reports”→ “Facebook Reports” → “Facebook Competitors”.

sproutsocial facebook competitive research

You can see how many messages your competitors send and receive, the types of content they’re posting (text, images or videos), engagement and much more.

Include all of this in your spreadsheet, as well as any additional metrics that are important to your brand.

Twitter Competitive Analysis

Again, start by doing a manual review of your competitor’s Twitter account. Use SproutSocial to get more data on influence, engagement, lost and gained followers, and mentions. Go to “Reports” → “Twitter Reports” → “Twitter Comparison”.

Once you’re done, don’t forget to add the data you gathered into your spreadsheet.

Instagram Competitive Analysis

Instagram doesn’t offer a lot of publicly available data about other users profiles. However, you can shed some light on your competitor’s profiles using Picalytics. You’ll be able to learn:

  • competitors profile followers demographics (age, gender)
  • competitors profile followers geography (distribution by country and city)
  • other useful information e.g. competitors profile followers reachability, ratio of bots to real followers, etc.

Sign up with a free trial and add an account of your competitor. Depending on the number of followers, you need to wait up to several hours while Picalytics collects the data.

picalytics instagram competitive research for strong marketing strategy

Track mentions of your competition with Google Alerts

A straightforward way to keep track of your competitors mentions is by taking advantage of Google Alerts. By monitoring the internet for activity around the keywords or topics you care about, you can receive real-time and actionable updates.

How To Set Up Google Alerts

Go to Google Alerts. In the search box, you can add in the alerts you want to receive. For example, write your competitor’s brand name.

google alerts for marketing strategy

That will show you a preview of what you’re going to receive once you set up this alert. If what you see is relevant then it is a good alert to follow.

Next click on the “Show options” button. That’ll give you a list of options for fine-tuning this alert. We suggest to pick the following filters:

  • How often: At most once a day
  • Sources: Automatic
  • How many: Only the best results
  • Deliver to: Your email address

How to monitor your competitors with Google Alerts

We suggest you monitor:

  • Positive feedback
  • Negative feedback
  • New links
  • New guest posts
  • New content

Find a few useful examples below (each line is a dedicated alert)

Site:[competitors url]
[competitor name]
“I think” [competitor  name]
“Has anyone tried” [competitor name]
“This guest post by” [competitor name]

Also, check this article with more advanced examples

Defining marketing strategy, part 5: Perform SWOT analysis to find out what differentiates you from your competition

Now when you have enough information about your product, target audience and competition, it’s time review all this data to figure out your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats it faces in the marketplace. In other words, you’ll conduct SWOT Profile.

The four letters of the acronym SWOT stand for “strengths,” “weaknesses,” “opportunities,” and “threats.”

Strengths and weaknesses are internal to the company (think: reputation, patents, location). You can change them over time but not without some work. Opportunities and threats are external (think: suppliers, competitors, prices)—they are out there in the market, happening whether you like it or not. You can’t change them.

 

Swot Analysis Template for marketing strategy defenition

Sample questions you might ask to create SWOT profile:

Strengths

  • What are you best at?
  • What’s making your product unique?
  • What financial resources do you have?
  • What resources of people do you have (their knowledge, background, education, credentials, network, reputation, or skills)?
  • What does your audience like about your product?
  • What advantages do you have over your competition?

Weaknesses

  • What are you worst at?
  • Do you have limited resources?
  • What areas need improvement to accomplish your objectives or compete with your strongest competitor?
  • What does your audience not like about your product?
  • What factors might cause your potential customer to choose a competitor’s product over yours?
  • What are your customer’s pain points you product can’t solve?
  • What are your customer’s pain points your product can solve, but you never addressed in your marketing communications?
  • What tech limitations may prevent you from achieving the goal?

Opportunities

  • What weaknesses of our competitors can we use to our advantage?
  • What are the vulnerable areas in your competitor’s marketing strategy?
  • What opportunities exist in your market or the environment that you can benefit from?
  • What new markets might be opening to us?
  • What content isn’t our competition publishing?
  • What are your prospects’ pain points none of your competitors talk about?
  • What does your prospect not like about your competitor’s products?
  • What problems of your prospects can’t be solved with the solutions your competitor’s offer?
  • What could you do to get 10x results with 10% of the work?

Threats

  • What factors beyond your control could place your business at risk?
  • What is our competition currently doing better than us?
  • What might our competitors be able to do to hurt us?

Turning Your SWOT Analysis into Actionable Strategies

Thinking through a list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is extremely helpful, but you’ll want to take this exercise one step further to identify insights to create a killing marketing strategy. How are going to do that?

Look at the strengths you identified, and then come up with ways to use those strengths to maximize the opportunities (these are strength-opportunity strategies). Then, look at how those same strengths can be used to minimize the threats you identified (these are strength-threats strategies).

Continuing this process, use the opportunities you identified to develop strategies that will minimize the weaknesses (weakness-opportunity strategies) or avoid the threats (weakness-threats strategies). Isn’t it a simple beauty?

Template for your SWOT analysis

You can use this template (or create your own).

swot spreadsheet

Follow these steps:

Step 1

Perform a SWOT analysis, recording your findings in the space provided.

Step 2

For each combination of internal and external environmental factors, consider how you can use them to create good strategic options:

  • Strengths and Opportunities (S-O Strategies)
  • Strengths and Threats (S-T Strategies)
  • Weaknesses and Opportunities (W-O Strategies)
  • Weaknesses and Threats (W-T Strategies)

Defining marketing strategy, part 6: Come up with Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

This section is based on the original article by Frank Bria of Scale to Success.

Your unique selling proposition is what makes your business stand out. SWOT analysis you just conducted should have put together everything you learned about your product, audience, and competition. Now it’s possible to define what makes you different and earns you a special place in the minds of your potential customers. USP is at the core of your marketing strategy and you’re going to use it in the majority of your marketing communications.

Each USP must be unique, that’s obvious. Thus any “how to write a unique selling proposition” article is kind of a trap since a lot of people already followed this article to create their USPs. However, there’s a formula for creating a decent USP to help you get started.

2-Part Formula to a Unique Selling Proposition

You need a way to create a unique selling proposition that your competition cannot repeat – at least with any credibility. It must be specific, meaningful, and backed up by your customers’ experiences.

Regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, you are basically selling to people – human beings. And people are pretty simple & consistent. People only care about just a few things deep down when they consider if a product is worth buying.

Big benefits people really care about:

  • Is it helping me to make money?
  • Is it helping me to save money?
  • Is it making my life safer? (e.g., staying out of regulatory or legal trouble)
  • Is it improves my life quality?

Second tier benefits like quality, speed, and trust are not important to people unless they eventually result in one of those things.

The trick is, having the main benefit like saving money is not enough. Why not? Anyone can get any of the benefits above with enough resources, e.g. time, money, significant efforts, sweat and tears, etc. So unless your product can spare your customers some of that, they don’t need it. They still have an option to do it “the hard way” without paying you. To show to your prospects that you can achieve that main benefit without doing it the “hard way,” you will need to show you can control one of these things:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Efforts
  • Quality
  • etc

Right now we understand:

  • What benefits our prospects really care about
  • Why controlling the process of getting them is so important

Now we can write a two-part statement we call the “Benefit-Control Formula” which is going to be a skeleton of our unique selling proposition. There are two steps we need to take:

1. Remember everything you learned about the product and identify one main benefit from the list of big benefits (see above).
2. Identify one thing you control. This control factor should be something offsetting.

An offsetting factor is something which runs contrary to the benefit you provide.

Example 1: “We help you make money while controlling costs”. Controlling costs sounds controversial to making money because people think they can make plenty of money if they just had money to spend. The fact that you reduce those expenses makes the benefit even more potent.

Example 2: “We provide you with custom furniture for your home in less than two weeks.” Here, we are controlling time. Obviously, anyone could produce custom furniture if they had enough time (and money). But here, we’re saying we can control one pesky factor that makes custom furniture difficult to get.

Add numbers top your USP

To make your USP truly unique, add numbers. Of course, your numbers must make sense so either take them from the data you already have or, if you have a new product, estimate the numbers using research.

Here are the examples of USPs created with this method:

  1. Our software helps you comply with the laws and regulations of the medical supplies industry while lowering your compliance expenses by 19%.
  2. We reduce your marketing costs by 18%, all while increasing the number of sales by 15%.
  3. We’re going to find you at least 2 job offers meeting your criteria within 14 days.

Defining marketing strategy, part  7: Come up with key marketing messaging

The core of your marketing strategy is a message that expresses the essence of why a customer buys. Once you conducted a SWOT analysis and came up with a USP you should have enough information to come up with some brilliant messages to address everything:

  1. Your product advantages
  2. Preferences and expectations of your target audience
  3. Weak spots in your competitors positioning

PICTURE

6 components of a great marketing messaging

    1. Marketing message must get to the point Great marketing messages immediately express what’s important.

      Bad message: “In today’s highly competitive business world, every company needs our software to run their production more efficiently.”

      Great message: “Our software cuts your production time by half.”


    1. They take the customer’s viewpoint. Great marketing messages address what’s relevant to the customer, bad messages are all about how the seller wants you to think about the product.

      Bad message: “Our world-class engineering team designed our product set to be both usable and flexible.”

      Great message: “It takes 10 minutes, tops, to learn our product.”


    1. They use familiar language. Great marketing messages use plain, simple words, without technical jargon and complicated sentences.

      Bad message: “Our sales enablement system creates an integrated computing framework for profitable customer interactions.”

      Great message: “We help your sales team close deals more quickly.”


    1. They feel informal. Great marketing messages sound natural and like off-the-cuff remarks.

      Bad message: “Our strongest form of communication is behavior that’s consistent with our vision for leadership.”

      Great message: “No surprises. Ever.”


    1. They say something original. Great marketing messages are one-of-a-kind and don’t sound as if they could belong to any product.

      Bad message: “Our award-winning product set decreases costs and increases revenue.”

      Great message: “You’ll save so much you’ll think you won the lottery.”


  1. They need no further explanation. Great marketing messages have immediate and unmistakable meaning, bad messages need a description before they start to make any sense

    Bad message: “We’re the double deuce in your multimedia deck.”

    Great message: “We win way more eyes for your ads.”

Check this article for more examples.

Defining marketing strategy, part 8: Come up with marketing communications strategy

You already did a great job and successfully created a foundation for your marketing strategy. Just a quick recall of everything we accomplished so far:

  1. Learned everything about the pros and cons of your product
  2. Understood your target audience really well. Created buyer personas.
  3. Understood where we stand against the competition
  4. Used all this information to perform SWOT analysis and revealed insights on how to maximize your product pros and minimize its cons.
  5. Came up with a unique selling proposition.
  6. Created strong marketing messages.

In other words, we already know what to say to your customers to persuade them to buy your product. Now it’s time to define WHERE you’re going to communicate with your prospects. You need to discover the marketing channels that are relevant to your audience and focus solely on them.

Marketing channels

According to this list, there are 106 (!) marketing channels. You obviously don’t need them all.

How to identify the relevant marketing channels

  1. Take a look at the data you gathered while researching your target audience. The answers you collected during the interviews and surveys must have revealed shopping behavior of your customers and prospects, their favorite media and social networks, apps they use, etc.
  2. The competitive research you conducted has a lot of data about both the channels your competitors get the most traffic from and the channels they use to communicate with their potential customers.
  3. Review performance of the marketing channels you currently use

Channels relevant for most business in 2018

Once you identified the list of relevant channels, you need to decide which channels to use for what purposes. In 2018 you are probably going to consider at least these channels:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Content marketing
  3. Referral Marketing
  4. Events
  5. Content Marketing
  6. Public relations (PR)
  7. Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising
  8. Retargeting
  9. Media buying
  10. Email marketing
  11. Influencer marketing
  12. Social Media Marketing
  13. Affiliate marketing
  14. Community building
  15. Customer success (support)

communications strategy mind map example

We’re going to get into more details about marketing channels in the article “How to create a marketing plan“.

Defining marketing strategy, part 9: Define marketing goals

At this point, your marketing strategy is almost done, and you already understand what needs to be done. The last thing you need to figure out is how to measure the success of every effort you or your team are putting in.

SMART marketing objectives

Marketing goals should fit into and support your overall business goals. You need to find out what metrics are needed to track them. The best practice for setting marketing objectives is to apply the widely used SMART mnemonic.

A SMART objective is always: 

  • Specific – Can the detail in the information sufficient to pinpoint problems or opportunities? Is the objective sufficiently detailed to measure real-world problems and opportunities?
  • Measurable – Can a quantitative or qualitative attribute be applied to create a metric?
  • Achievable – Can the information be used to improve performance? If the objective doesn’t change behavior in staff to help them improve performance, there is little point in it!
  • Realistic – Can the information be applied to the specific problem faced by the marketer?
  • Time-bound – Can objectives be set for different time periods as targets to review against?

Poorly-Defined Marketing Goal Examples

Here are some marketing goal examples that are unspecific and need more work:

  • I want more website visitors (What is “more” here? Three times more? Ten times more?)
  • I want to generate a larger email list. (Would you be fine if you had a list of 10 emails and managed to increase it to 15 emails, which is +50% btw)
  • I want to rank number one on Google (For which term?)

Well-Defined Marketing Goal Examples

Below are the same goals turned into well-defined marketing goals. (These marketing goals are based on the overall goals of the business.)

  • We need 50,000 visitors, 500 leads, and 12 customers within the next 12-months from AdWords (Google Ads) in order to achieve our revenue goal of $600,000.
  • We would like to generate 5 customers from our current client list using email marketing. We would also like to add all qualified leads to our mailing list, allowing us to keep these leads warm for future sales.
  • We want to rank number one for the keyword term “project management software,” since we estimate that it will generate 30,000 visitors to our website per month.

Adjust your marketing goals regularly

You’re done with the first iteration of your journey to creating an effective marketing strategy. Each day you will receive more information about everything we’ve covered in this article: your audience, competition, the results of your marketing efforts, etc. It’s essential to put this new information into a good use and adjust your marketing goals and strategy. Adjusting goals (whether you overshot or undershot) shouldn’t be perceived as negative – it’s something that’s completely necessary in order to keep moving forward.

Infographic on how to create a marketing strategy

I’ve prepared a summary of this article and put it into an infographic available by the link below. Feel free to use and share it.

Infographic on how to create marketing strategy

Now it’s Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed this marketing strategy guide.

Now I want to hear from you:

  • Which step do you find the most difficult?
  • Which step was the easiest one?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment.

Thanks!

 

Check our other articles
9 Steps Guide On Creating A Great Marketing StrategyHow to create a powerful marketing plan
Marketing tools for competitive research11 free digital marketing and growth tools. Part #2
Digital marketing tools. Part #1