Marketing Strategy Story time…We were just two friends who hadn’t seen each other, or even really had a meaningful conversation in months, getting together for coffee. There was no agenda, other than to try to hit all the important stuff—family, health, hysterical anecdotes too good to share through text—in the little time we had.
But work strong-armed its way to the front of the line—we’re both in marketing—and we suddenly found ourselves commiserating over nitpicking clients.
His work, as of late, fell into one of two categories: Clients who expected him to deliver a paradigm shift for pennies on the dollar and those who questioned his every move. After years of working for large publishers and marketing firms, he broke off on his own. He’d written tons of content for every kind of medium over the course of his career and written it well, but it was becoming obvious to him (and me) that he wasn’t as well-versed in how to deploy it.
“What’s your strategy?” he eventually asked me. And I knew right then that despite his intentions, his foundation was faulty.
Defining your marketing strategy
In his defense, he’s not alone. Most small businesses, whether they’re trying to handle their marketing themselves or they’ve hired a consultant like my friend, tend to view the content as the hardest part of the formula.
Selling the value of a blog isn’t difficult these days. Anyone who spends 10 minutes skimming the internet can see that it’s a traffic magnet. But committing to writing one every few days presents a much more daunting challenge.
Honestly, the writing is why small businesses hire marketing consultants more often than not. Beyond that, marketing’s just a series of tasks and performance metrics, right? Blog? Check. Facebook? Check. Instagram? Check. Twitter? Check. Unique page views and likes trending up? Check.
But does all of that really mean anything? In short, no. In fact, without a clearly defined strategy, it all becomes a bit of a rabbit hole.
Defining a marketing strategy begins with a clear understanding of the business. Essentially, you need to be able to make an honest evaluation of where it stands and set a practical expectation of what you want to achieve. Only in seeing your Point A and your Point B can you start to plan a path between them.
Staying the course
For all of its interconnected pieces and constant motion, a marketing strategy requires patience as much as consistency. It describes not only the actions that need to be accomplished but also the stuff you shouldn’t be doing.
The morning we met, my friend was running short on patience, and understandably so. After a short grace period to rollout his plans, a number of his clients had begun to revolt, questioning, for example, why he was continuing to divide his attention between Instagram and Facebook when clearly Instagram was drawing all the attention. Or, couldn’t he try shorter, more frequent blog posts because who’s going to read a 750-word post?
He ran out of answers after a while, mostly because he never thought his strategies all the way through. And, really, it was only a single strategy slightly modified for each client. He figured the content would be all the customization he’d need to do. But in the process, he neglected to ask himself and them a fundamental question: What’s the point of all this?
And when there’s no destination in mind, every off-ramp becomes a more enticing alternative. A marketing strategy is what gets you through those difficult stretches where there’s no appreciable return. It keeps you focused and feeling like you’re achieving something, even when your goal’s still out of sight.