How to Design a Marketing Strategy
The business world may be complex, but your marketing strategy doesn't have to be. Use the answers to these seven questions to create an effective action plan.
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In their book Guerrilla Marketing Field Guide, the founder of guerrilla marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson, and his wife and business partner, Jeannie Levinson, offer a step-by-step guide to launching a marketing attack that's primed for success. In this edited excerpt, the authors reveal the seven simple things you need to include to make your marketing strategy a success.
Marketing has changed dramatically since the first print ad was published. That ad was probably run in a local newspaper. More than likely, a farmer told the publisher he had an extra cow and wanted to sell it. The publisher said, "Hey! I've got a good idea. Let me mention that cow for sale next time I publish my paper." The copy probably read: "Cow for sale. $50. Contact Farmer Tom." The ad was run, the cow was sold, and marketing started.
It's not quite so simple these days. But two things remain the same. The first is that you need a good idea of what you're selling and why and who would be interested in buying.
You also need a marketing strategy. Farmer Tom's strategy was very simple: Sell one cow by having potential buyers come see him -- and the cow. The benefit offered was a healthy cow at a fair price. The secondary benefit was that a local person was doing the selling. The target audience was other farmers in the community. The marketing weapon used was one ad in one newspaper. The niche the farmer occupied was that of a local farmer with an honest offer. The identity of the advertiser was straightforward and no-nonsense. And his marketing budget was most likely zero. Armed with that strategy, Farmer Tom sold his cow.
Related: The Five Broad Strokes of Marketing
Today, our world is much more complex than Farmer Tom's, so it may seem like you need a complex marketing strategy. But in reality, your strategy doesn't have to be complex. In fact, such a strategy needs only seven simple sentences:
- The first sentence tells the physical act your marketing should motivate.
- The second sentence spells out the prime benefit you offer.
- The third sentence states your target audience or audiences.
- The fourth sentence states what marketing weapons you plan to use.
- In your fifth sentence, you define your niche or what you stand for: economy, service, quality, price, uniqueness, anything.
- The sixth sentence states the personality of your company.
- The seventh sentence states your marketing budget, expressed as a percentage of your projected gross sales.
- Keep your strategy brief.
A brief marketing strategy forces you to focus on the people targeted by your marketing. Always start with the people and then work backward to the offering. Such a strategy zeros in on the results you want to achieve, the way you plan to obtain those results, and the specific action you want your target audience to take. It provides you with a guide for judging all your marketing efforts for the next 10 or 20 years.
The strategy must be expressed in writing, and it should not contain headlines, theme lines or copy. The strategy is devoid of specific marketing copy because it must be solid, yet flexible. Specific words and phrases pin you down. A strategy should be developed as your guide, not as your master.
After you've written all seven steps, read it a couple of times, then put it away for 24 hours. It's just too important to be accepted -- or rejected -- hastily. Look at your strategy from a fresh perspective on a different day. See if you still love it and believe in it.
When is the best time to change that strategy? The first time you see it -- before you've invested any money in it. After you've finalized it, don't change it again for at least six months; then do a review and see if you need to tweak your strategy. If you have it right, you may not need to make any changes for several years.
Your approved strategy should be pinned up on bulletin boards and emblazoned in the minds of everyone who creates marketing for you. Keep the strategy handy in a drawer, on your desktop, or in an accessible file so you can reach for it the moment anyone presents even a tiny opportunity for marketing to you . . . or when you have a killer idea yourself.
Now that you know what we mean by marketing strategy, it's time for you to create one for yourself.
Ask yourself these questions so you can create your seven-sentence marketing strategy:
- What physical act do I want people to take after being exposed to my marketing (click here, call a phone number, complete this coupon, or look for my product next time they're at the store)?
- What prime benefit do I offer? What competitive advantage do I want to stress?
- Who is my target audience?
- What marketing weapons will I use?
- What will my market niche be?
- What identity do I want my business to have
- My marketing budget will be _______% of our projected gross sales.