You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Did You Forget the Ketchup in Your Marketing Strategy? Most business owners start their business without getting their marketing foundation in order first. Here's what you need to know to make your strategy more effective and efficient.

By Nicole Bernard

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Recently, my family and I headed down to the Columbia River to have a BBQ because summer equals hamburgers, am I right?

It was a beautiful summer day, and we were all excited because we all love hamburgers. We really don't eat them a ton, so when we do, we're excited. Anyway, we got everything together, got down to the beach and were hanging out before we started prepping for our sunset dinner.

That's when it happened.

I realized we forgot the ketchup. Cue the dramatic music. We managed to bring the mustard, but not the ketchup.

We ate our burgers, and they were okay. Not great, but okay. I mean, the ketchup is the star of this show and without it, it just wasn't the same.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

What does ketchup have to do with marketing?

It got me thinking about how this relates to marketing (stick with me here): You can have all the fixings like pickles (SEO), onions (social media), tomatoes (email marketing) and mustard (content strategy), but if you don't have the main event, ketchup, (your foundation), it's just going to be okay. It will never be great.

Many of us entrepreneurs are so excited to get started and share our products and services with the world that we forget to get our foundation in order first. It's understandable: We created a business to help people, so let's get helping already!

But if we're not reaching our people in a way that resonates with them, it will be extremely hard to grow.

As a marketing coach, I talk to a lot of business owners, and most are frustrated with their marketing efforts. They struggle to find the time to do the various marketing tasks; they're not getting any results and would love to hire someone, but they don't quite have the budget for it.

Sound familiar?

I completely get it. When my husband and I ran Acadian Farms & Brewery, I did all of the marketing because we didn't have a budget to hire anyone. There were a million and one things to do, and sometimes, even as someone with a degree in marketing, I felt stressed about keeping up with all of the marketing activities, and that was almost 10 years ago there are so many more now!

But what I did know were our goals, our ideal customers and our messaging. That made everything so much more effective and efficient! Similar to building a house, having a solid marketing foundation will allow you to spend time where your people are, connect with them and grow those relationships, which will ultimately grow your business.

Related: 9 Sales and Marketing Tips for Startups

What is your marketing foundation?

Your marketing foundation consists of your goals, your buyer persona, and your messaging and branding.

Let's start with goals. Do you have any? If not, grab a pen, a piece of paper and write them down.

Keep them S.M.A.R.T:

Specific: Be specific about what you want. For example, don't just write down, "I want more money," but something detailed like, "I want to increase sales by 80%."

Measurable: How are you going to measure your results? Sales? Conversions? Followers? Depending on what your specific goal is, figure out how you can measure it so you know if it's working.

Attainable: Be sure to set a goal that you can reach but not easily. Try to stretch yourself and your business!

Relevant: Does it help support and grow your business? Does it address a specific initiative or problem?

Timely: When will you hit this goal? Be sure to include a date so that you can stay on track.

Refer back to these often if you need to! They are there to guide you.

Related: 6 Instagram Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Who are your people?

Some call this your avatar or your ideal client, but it really just means who needs your product or services? What are they struggling with? What keeps them up at night? Where do they hang out online and off? What are their hobbies? How old are they? What does their financial situation look like? How do they like to consume content?

Really take some time to think through these details and create a "persona." You can even give the persona a name! Here is an example of one of mine:

Boutique Bonnie: Female, 40+, 0-2 kids, divorced and on her second marriage, owns a brick-and-mortar shop. She doesn't have the time or team members to execute an effective marketing strategy. She has used a marketing agency before, but did not see any results. She collected the content and sent it over, so she felt like she was doing most of the work. She feels a bit leery about hiring someone again, but knows she needs to and has a small budget to pay for someone. Small town shop. Hobbies include hiking, reading and traveling. Active on FB, IG and Pinterest. She listens to podcasts and her income is $50,000 to $75,000.

Let's take it a step further.

What is your messaging and branding?

If you had to tell someone in 30 seconds or less what your business does and who it serves, would you be able to?

Branding is all about your unique messaging. It's actually pretty simple, but so often overlooked. It's so much more than your logo. It's your vibe, how you want people to feel when they land on your site or social media. It's the images and colors you use to evoke emotion out of your potential customers.

They want to feel that connection, that belief in why you're doing it. Your job is to take them along for the ride!

Tying it all together

Knowing this information is the key to creating valuable content that people are searching for in the format they like to consume. It will drive your social-media strategy because you know where they are and what they engage with. You'll know which topics will attract them, which words will resonate with them and which images will move them.

And if you keep showing up consistently with the kind of content they like to consume and that resonates with them, you will start seeing results.

The even better news? This will allow you to create and execute an effective marketing strategy in less time.

So, don't forget the ketchup!

Nicole Bernard

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Marketing Strategist & Founder at nb. marketing

Nicole Bernard's career began with Microsoft over 15 years ago, and since that time, she has owned and operated two successful businesses as well as worked with other major brands including RE/MAX and Venus Williams. She also hosts a popular podcast.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Side Hustle

He Took His Side Hustle Full-Time After Being Laid Off From Meta in 2023 — Now He Earns About $200,000 a Year: 'Sweet, Sweet Irony'

When Scott Goodfriend moved from Los Angeles to New York City, he became "obsessed" with the city's culinary offerings — and saw a business opportunity.

Personal Finance

How to Get a Lifetime of Investing Experience in Only One Year

Plus, how day traders can learn a lesson from pilots.


94% of Customers Say a Bad Review Made Them Avoid Buying From a Brand. Try These 4 Techniques to Protect Your Brand Reputation.

Maintaining a good reputation is key for any business today. With so many people's lives and shopping happening online, what is said about a company on the internet can greatly influence its success.


Save on Business Travel with Matt's Flight's Premium, Only $80 for Life

This premium plan features customized flight deal alerts and one-on-one planning with Matt himself.

Science & Technology

Here's One Reason Urban Transportation Won't Look the Same in a Decade

Micro-EVs may very well be the future of city driving. Here's why, and how investors can get ahead of it.


I Got Over 225,000 Views in Just 3 Months With Short-Form Video — Here's Why It's the New Era of Marketing

Thanks to our new short-form video content strategy, we've amassed over 225,000 video views in just three months. Learn how to increase brand awareness through short-form video content.