Marketing is often the elusive piece of a business or company strategy. New media, communications, messaging and sales tools are constantly evolving, and it can be daunting navigating through the clutter. Yes, the building blocks for a successful marketing strategy can be overwhelming, but with the right resources and insight, you can build an effective plan that addresses short and long-term goals. We’ll take you through some best practices that can help jumpstart your programs.
Step 1: Sales Cycle & Customer Analysis
A marketing plan is useless if it’s not strategically aligned with the sales cycle. What is the process from initial contact with the customer to when he or she signs a contract? How long does it take to close a deal? Who is involved in the decision-making process (e.g., what departments need “convincing”)?
The details are necessary to know when and how to build your marketing campaign. Longer sales cycles typically require more data and research, while a shorter sales cycle will likely respond better to something that needs immediate action.
Do keep in mind though, that this is just a generalization and all sales cycles are different. Equally important is knowing where your customer is in the sales cycle. Is this a long-term relationship, or are you fostering new leads? Your interactions will be dramatically different.
Step 2: Brand Intelligence
As sales and marketing executives, it’s your job to not only understand your brand, but to embrace and infuse it into every aspect of your campaign or pitch. It’s as critical as knowing your product roadmap.
Your brand team will concept ideas and personalize your company to mass audiences, but it can’t do all the legwork. It’s up to you to translate that brand to your customer. Otherwise, you risk losing credibility.
If you don’t take the time to understand your brand and what it means to you and your audience (including shareholders and competitors), your marketing strategy is nothing more than a bag full of kitschy sales tricks. Ensure that there is transparency and open communication with your brand team.
It is likely that you are the one who has the most direct contact with customers, stakeholders, and competitors, which gives you real insights into how your company is perceived. Your brand team is looking at things from a 360-degree view and therefore might have valuable intelligence.
True knowledge of your brand and open dialogue with the group who brings it to life will allow for a smarter, more intuitive, and more connected marketing campaign.
Step 3: Social Media
It wasn’t that long ago when the only ways to directly connect with customers or the media were through press releases and company websites. Social media changed the way brands communicate almost overnight! Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook allow companies to connect with their audiences on a personal level that was otherwise unattainable.
It’s an efficient and relatively low-cost way to promote your brand. In addition, you can gain real insight into your customer mindsight, as well as what’s happening in the market by analyzing the interaction component (e.g., comments, likes). Social media, however, can be a slippery slope if not done correctly.
First, understand how to use the channels. LinkedIn is great for your business profile, while Instagram is better to highlight the more informal, personable aspect of your brand. Twitter is ideal for quick bursts of information that are better communicated in real-time, and Facebook keeps your customers loyal. Of course, the best social media plan will equally balance the specific needs of your marketing strategy.
Step 4: Press, Media & Analyst Relations
While press, media, and analyst relations have different functions, they often work together as part of a corporate communications strategy.
First, do your homework. Find the right channels that fit your target audience. Press releases (or press activity) should be used sparingly, and only for newsworthy and relevant information such as product launches, company mergers, or new business deals. Media outlets, particularly independent or non-profits, can build credibility and trust over time, especially with a hybrid approach of traditional (e.g., industry magazine) and current (e.g., influencers) activities. Analyst relations, which are more typical for B2B tech, help companies better position themselves in the market and evaluate financial data to track industry growth.
Whether working with media, analysts, or the press, you are dealing with true experts who are in high demand, so it’s important to do your research, know what you want, and maintain those relationships.
Step 5: Digital
Your digital footprint is one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy. “Digital” is extremely broad and can encompass many different activities, so let’s focus on the critical components, number one being your website. It’s imperative to have an engaging, streamlined, and informative user interface (UI). Otherwise, your website will fall flat.
People won’t spend time on your page unless you give them a reason, so it’s highly recommended to hire an agency or web developer to build your site. We’ve already covered social media, but also as important, is email outreach.
Monthly newsletters keep your audience informed without being too intrusive; less frequent email campaigns about a specific activity – product launch or seasonal promotion – will provide the necessary support to your larger communications plan. Lastly, you should consider integrating webinars into your marketing approach, especially in the B2B space, to help educate and inform your audience.
Step 6: Partnerships
You can significantly increase brand awareness and breadth of your audience by leveraging business relationships. By partnering with complementary (but not competitive) companies, you’re adding another dimension to your marketing strategy.
Research and identify partners in your immediate eyesight and see if there are commonalities that can strengthen your business case or expand to broader, more diverse audiences. Once you find the parallels, build those into your marketing strategy. From co-marketing campaigns to joint B2B use cases to sports sponsorships and co-speaking opportunities, there is an array of options at your fingertips.
Step 7: Sales Tools
After the marketing plan is established, you need to equip your sales team with the necessary resources to drive revenue, which includes everything from branded templates to your elevator pitch to infographics. The specific tools required will vary by industry, but at the core of every new business deal, is the relationship. It’s even more applicable internally. A good sales and marketing relationship is often intuitive, each working together to achieve both revenue goals and positive market perception.