by Rebecca MacLeod, B2Launch Founder & President
It often takes only a few great clients to get a business up and running. In the high-tech world in particular, it’s possible to find early-stage success without much of a marketing plan in place — relying on the buzz created by industry disruption. But, while effective PR is important for brand awareness (especially during times of high growth), the ability to create sustained growth and success for your organization comes from having a savvy marketing strategy and solid execution plan.
Before you invest your critical time and resources, take a step back and build a foundation for all future marketing and business development efforts — it can take less time and resources than you think, and it is well worth the effort and investment to set your business up for exponential growth and sustained success.
Outlined here are the steps that will help you lay the foundation for a successful marketing strategy and plan.
1. Go Through a “Discovery” Process
For business owners and non-marketing professionals, the idea of developing a marketing strategy can be daunting. Many organizations get stuck before they even start due to concern about the time and effort it will take.
When working with my clients, I find that they often have the majority of the information they need, but they may not have been asking the right questions. After all, you know your customers and your business objectives, and you also likely know where your business keeps stalling.
One of the most important steps in building a winning marketing strategy is the discovery phase — gathering information from key stakeholders on the executive team as well as those in customer facing roles. These conversations establish a deep understanding of the business. This higher-level knowledge of the organization facilitates the development of a strategy that supports the long-term goals of the team across all business lines.
2. Define Your Audience Personas
Time and time again, I’ve found that one of the key elements missing from most marketing plans is a set of robust audience personas (also known as buyer, customer or donor personas). While many companies have a brief description of who they believe their customers are, it is not enough. So why is this exercise so important?
We know that today’s marketing and sales environment isn’t about hard selling, it’s about having meaningful, ongoing conversations with your audiences. However, there’s no real basis for these conversations if you haven’t decided who you’re talking to and who you want to develop a relationship with. That’s why in-depth personas are a keystone for a successful marketing program — they create the ability to continuously engage, educate and influence the right audiences. Without customer personas, your team is left with a lot of guesswork and mindreading, and your customers may be confused about how your offerings are of value to them.
I provide an in-depth explanation of what audience personas are and why every organization needs them in my article, here.
3. Craft Your Value Proposition
With your audience personas in hand, you now have the ability to develop a meaningful value proposition — a strategically crafted statement that clearly articulates your unique selling point to your specific audiences.
The audience personas you’ve defined will provide the framing for your value proposition and ultimately provide the foundation for authentic and engaging conversations with customers and prospects. Keep in mind, a good value proposition is not a description of your product or service. It encompasses everything that sets your business apart from your competitors, and it helps guide your potential customers’ decision-making process.
A true value proposition is the definition of why your organization exists. Not what you offer, but why people should care. Another great benefit of a top-line value proposition is that it can create alignment throughout your organization. It’s a statement that every member of your organization can and should leverage (from your technical team to recruiting to business development).
As you craft your value proposition, it may become apparent that your company’s inherent value varies between audience personas. This isn’t a bad thing, but it may require a skilled wordsmith to get the statement just right.
4. Align Your Key Messaging
Aside from a solid value proposition, key messaging points should be developed for each of your audience personas. These messages will be the building blocks for the content on your website and in marketing collateral, newsletters, social media platforms, blog posts, articles and more.
Your value proposition and key audience messages should be leveraged at each customer touch-point, enabling you to have consistency across teams. They are the key to connecting with audiences in a way that’s relevant to them. If you’re a good match for your buyers and provide value, that will be clear and facilitate meaningful conversations.
Bear in mind that while messaging consistency is important, you shouldn’t consider your messaging exercise a “set it and forget it” process. An effective marketing team is always in service to business development efforts and open to feedback from those on the front line. This relationship should flow both ways to ensure the development team is armed with accurate information and the customer is always receiving a consistent message. It also allows the marketing and executive teams to execute effective customer-centric thought leadership programs – crucial for reaching the right audiences.
5. Customize: There’s No “One-Size-Fits-All”
Beyond working toward specific business goals, your marketing strategy should account for the abilities, resources and challenges of the company — this is why there are no one-size-fits-all strategies, or at least not any effective ones. (Beware of anyone who tells you differently). Whether you’re working with a large firm, individual consultant or internal marketing resource, actionable steps need to be designed that are specific to your company and take into consideration your budget, resources and size. For example, if there’s one person running the day-to-day marketing work, your strategy should account for that — all of these elements add up to “right-sized” marketing and it’s integral to reaching transformative success.
While ultimately it is a good idea to have a marketing professional develop your marketing strategy and tactical plan, it is you who are the expert about your business. A good marketing professional will ask the right questions up front and create a strategy that is tailor-made for your organization.
The steps above will help you build a solid foundation for all your future marketing efforts based on your unique strategic goals, value and audiences.
Your organization’s subject matter experts are already on your team. They have intimate relationships with your customers, a deep-rooted investment in the company’s success, and they’re the ones who will take your company where it needs to go.
I work with businesses to draw out the institutional knowledge that already exists, and – most importantly – to mold it into a customized strategy and actionable steps. If you’re ready to build a foundation for all future marketing efforts and transform your customer relationships, I would love to help!