Your marketing strategy and internal processes can make or break how effectively you communicate with your customers. Having a well-established marketing plan can guide your marketing efforts, help you set effective goals, and turn your target market into loyal customers. But the lack of a thorough process can lead to lost sales, poor interactions with customers, and little to no guidance when executing marketing initiatives.
If you’re just starting out, it’s crucial that you create a marketing strategy early on. And if you’re an established business, it’s still not too late to improve your marketing processes. Doing so will help you minimize risk, understand your position in the market, and set actionable goals that you can measure and track.
What is a strategic marketing process?
Strategic marketing processes are the actionable tactics you use based on your larger marketing plan. Your plan lays out how you intend to go to market, the channels you intend to leverage, and the elements of your business that will be impacted by any marketing initiatives. The processes you establish turn your plan into a deliberate series of steps to help you identify and reach your marketing and sales goals.
How to develop essential marketing processes for your business
How you approach developing your marketing strategy should follow the same process as developing a business plan. The final result, your marketing plan, is part of it after all. You need to define goals and objectives, explore the market, understand your resources, and set actionable metrics that can help you define success.
That may sound like a lot upfront, so let’s dive into how you can build successful marketing processes for your business in just a few simple steps.
1. Develop a plan
Before diving into the specific channels, copy, and ads you want to run, you need to take a step back and build a plan for your marketing initiatives. If you’ve already developed a Lean Plan for your business, you’ve likely already touched on some core elements of your marketing plan. Specifically, your mission statement, your value proposition, and the goals and objectives you have for your business.
Your mission statement helps define the core principles of your brand. What you care about, the value you provide, how you communicate, company culture, etc. If you only briefly outlined a mission statement, now is the time to expand upon it. You may even want to develop a vision statement that works alongside it, so you can fully convey the aspirational purpose of your business.
Your value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and serves as the primary reason someone should purchase from you. You need to define the relevance of your solution, the specific benefits, as well as how it differs from competitors.
Elements of your value proposition may already be conveyed in your mission statement, but it’s important that you define it separately. This is because the value you think you provide is one of the most important things you can test in your marketing. Knowing why it’s valuable can help you adjust language, pricing, and key points that should be conveyed in your communications, without reiterating your mission all the time.
Goals and objectives
The last piece of your marketing plan is mapping out the goals and objectives of your business. Start broadly with your business milestones and establish key objectives for your marketing process to support them. You want these goals to be measurable and if you can, try to tie them to customer acquisition, lifetime value, or some other form of revenue generation for your business.
Additionally, your objectives must be clear and concise for your employees or hired consultants to easily understand and execute. If your objectives are too cumbersome, then it’s best to rework them to be as succinct as possible. One great way to do this is to share the objectives with your mentors, consultants, or employees. The brainstorming sessions that follow could be all you need to achieve greater clarity.
2. Conduct a market analysis
You can’t develop marketing processes in a vacuum. You need to understand your market to ensure that the value you provide and the goals you set are realistic. So, once you have your plan in place, it’s time to validate it with a market analysis. Here’s what you need to analyze and explore during this process.
Analyze your industry
Start by looking into the size of your industry, current market trends, and projected growth. This is a broad exploration that helps you understand how competitive the market is and if there are opportunities or barriers to entry. In short, it helps you understand the total addressable market that’s currently available.
Look into industry benchmarks and publicly available data from sources like the U.S. Census Bureau and Statista. Look up and utilize your industry designation for more specific insights, and if necessary expand your view to complimentary industries.
Define your target market
You can’t serve everyone in the market and need to define who your ideal customer to focus your marketing efforts. Start with market research to help define your target market, analyze the demographics they belong to, and understand their needs, wants, and lifestyle. Then test your findings by speaking directly with your target customer to test your findings and validate demand.
Define your market position
Now that you understand the broader market and have specific customers in mind, it’s time to analyze your competition to help you define your position in the market. This competitive analysis can be grouped into a SWOT analysis, where you define the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business.
Specifically, focus on your strengths and weaknesses compared to the competition, and how they can lead to opportunities or threats to business success.
3. Outline your marketing tactics
You have a plan. You’ve done the research. Now it’s time to define your actual marketing tactics. Known as your marketing mix, this is where you develop the product, price, place, and promotion of your business.
Product and branding
When deciding how to brand your product or service you’ll want to leverage the insights you found while conducting market research. You’ll want to be sure you have answers to questions like —What is it? What does the customer want from it? How will the customer use it? What problem will it solve?
More than likely, you can answer these questions using your mission statement and value proposition. But how do you convey that message with your branding? Consider how you would sell your business value with a tweet. With just 280 characters, what would you say? What type of personality would your brand have? Use this exercise to develop a voice and tone guide for your business.
You’ll also need to consider how that verbal personality will translate to elements like colors, fonts, images, and even your logo. Eventually, you’ll need to develop brand guidelines that you and the rest of your team can reference for any marketing communications. For now, start by building the rough aspects of your brand and work to solidify specific elements as you test and prove their viability.
Set initial pricing and sales estimates
You’ll need to define your pricing structure and forecast initial sales to fully define how much of the market you think you can feasibly acquire. You want to fully incorporate the research you’ve conducted here to decide on pricing and how it will help you compete. You may need to charge more and position yourself as a premium option or undercut the competition by charging less. Maybe you even have a tiered pricing structure depending on usage.
However, you decide to price your products or services, leverage your sales forecast to ensure that it will be sustainable. Keep your volume estimates realistic based on the market you’ve defined, and test different price points to verify if you’ll be profitable.
One of the most important aspects of your marketing mix is knowing where you plan to advertise and promote your product or business. You can’t feasibly be everywhere, and you really don’t want to be. Instead, you need to focus on where your customers are and meet their expectations and needs.
The other side of this is making sure that whatever channels you leverage can communicate with each other and share the same message. As much as you need to be where your customers expect, you can’t overextend your team and expect top-tier customer experience to remain intact. This is where your voice and tone guide comes in handy, as well as internal communications that make customer handoffs between platforms a seamless experience.
Copy and visuals
At this point, you hopefully have everything you need to develop taglines and imagery for any marketing communications. The important thing is that you don’t choose one variation and leave it there. You need to be willing to test different options and make adjustments when they aren’t resonating with your customer base.
At a minimum, you need to optimize your copy and brand images for each marketing channel. From there, it’s up to you to determine how much time and effort you want to put into testing. Generally, you’ll want to look at optimizing specific metrics such as your conversion rates and customer acquisition costs. If you’re running social ads, you can even run multiple variations at the same time to determine which format, copy, or visuals are working and which ones should be cut.
4. Run, analyze, revise and repeat
After you’ve built a marketing plan, established milestones, and specific tactics to reach those goals you’ll launch it. But the process isn’t complete. Set a deadline for yourself to look back at your efforts and analyze their return on investment. If your analysis and appraisal have a positive outcome, then you should give yourself a pat on the back and reinforce the working strategy.
With a negative analysis and appraisal, however, you’ll need to review and hone your business and marketing plans. Again, especially for startups, don’t wait a year to assess your progress. Review it regularly, and make minor adjustments as you go, so that you don’t look back and regret a huge investment of time and money on the wrong strategy. You must continually reevaluate your strategy to meet your objectives and respond to changing market dynamics and business opportunities.
Common problems to avoid when developing marketing processes
As you develop your marketing strategy, there are some common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid, including:
Not doing enough research
You can’t skimp on doing research upfront. Without understanding your market, defining your target audience, and knowing what your competition is doing, you can easily go down a path that won’t resonate with anyone.
Even more importantly, you’ll want to keep doing research regularly. Not just the broad market research you did to start, but first-hand customer reviews to determine satisfaction. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to make strategic decisions.
Overcomplicating your marketing tactics
Developing a marketing process can be a lengthy endeavor, making it easy to overcomplicate your efforts. Try to keep things lean and simple. Start with just a few marketing channels, define your brand guidelines early on, and establish a budget that will keep your spending in check.
Not reviewing and revising your marketing efforts
We mentioned it before, but you need to keep reviewing and revising your efforts. Customer’s interest change, competitors adapt and even the channels you’re using make adjustments that can be either positive or negative for your business. Try to embed a review process into specific marketing initiatives and be sure that you establish a regular review cadence for your broader strategy upfront.
Establish your marketing strategy sooner rather than later
Having an effective marketing strategy is vital to the success of your business. It will help you better communicate with customers, avoid needless spending and establish guidelines for your team. That’s why the earlier you develop it in the life of your business, the better off you’ll be.
If you’re a business that’s just starting out, incorporate this process into your initial business planning efforts. If your business is already up and running, just walk through the process in this article and look for opportunities to add it to your regular business management practices. It’s never too late to adapt your marketing efforts.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated for 2021.