The objective of marketing is to increase awareness and sales for your product. Pretty simple, right?
Well the problem is that marketing without a clear cut strategy is like fishing without bait. You might catch something, but the results are iffy at best.
To effectively market your product or service, you need to clearly define a strategy. This includes answering questions like:
- Who is your target market?
- What are their pain points or issues they are trying to solve?
- How can you product or service meet their needs?
- Where do you find them in the real world and online?
For any strategy to be effective, you need to align marketing and sales. In an inbound marketing context, this can include how you nurture your prospect through your lead funnel and when to turn a prospect over from marketing to your sales team.
As you develop your marketing strategy, it's important to keep several elements of your approach in mind.
Here's a breakdown of each step you need to follow as you develop a marketing strategy so you can align sales and marketing and drive sales growth in an efficient way.
First, Understand Your Customer
The first step towards developing any marketing strategy is understanding your buyer – who they are, why your product is the perfect solution for their problem or pain point, and where they go to seek the information they need to address their problem.
To better identify your ideal customer, here are some simple steps to follow:
1. Start Researching Customers, Leads, and Prospects.
You to begin by collecting relevant information about your customers. There are plenty of ways to dig up information on your current customers and prospects.
For current customers:
- Conduct surveys regularly to measure what customers think about your products or services.
- Provide incentives and interview customers so you can have in-depth conversations with people using your products or services.
For prospects and leads:
- Using the data you already have on leads and prospects, reach out with targeted, relevant questions they can answer.
- Research their social media profiles, including LinkedIn and Twitter, and dive deeper on their company's online presence as well.
As you can see, interviewing people plays a big part in your research process. During each interview, make sure you ask questions about the following:
- Their personal background
- Their job role and responsibilities
- Their company
- Their goals and challenges
- Their preferences for shopping
- Their favorite resources for information
2. List the Benefits Your Products or Services Deliver.
Customer's don't buy products; they buy solutions. This is why you need to fully understand your product or services from the perspective of your buyers.
Make a list of the benefits your customer will receive by purchasing your product or signing up for your services. This list should include tangible benefits, like improving workplace productivity, and intangible benefits, like feeling a sense of peace of mind.
Remember, you're marketing and selling to humans, so accounting for both these kinds of benefits matters. There's a tangible component that buyers enjoy, but there's also that emotional aspect that matters too. In fact, when you create content for marketing purposes, you should make content that elicits emotional reactions from your target audience.
3. Clearly Identify Your Ideal Customer's Problems.
What problem does your potential customer have that you can solve? If you've identified your ideal customer correctly, they will pay you to solve their problem! Sometimes their problems are obvious; sometimes they are unclear. This is why it's important to dig deep in your research.
The more closely you can identify your ideal customer, the easier it is to target your message, your delivery channel, and your solution for their problem. Understanding your customer and their needs can help you build accurate buyer personas.
4. Use Your Research to Create Buyer Personas.
Buyer personas are semi-fictional archetypes you create based on your actual customer data. They are your ideal customer, the person most likely to buy your product.
As you build these out, make sure you're specific. Provide concrete details for every aspect.
How old are they? Male or female? Where do they live? What is their job title? Where do they search for information?. This will help you to better target your marketing strategy.
HubSpot provides an awesome Make My Persona Tool that walks you through every step of the process. You cover the following areas:
- Personal demographics, including:
- Highest level of education
- Social networks
- Organization size
- Preferred method of communication
- Tools they need to do their job
- Job responsibilities
- How their job is measured
- How they gain information
- Who they report to
- Goals or objectives
- Biggest challenges
- A story capturing their personal and professional qualities
Then, Define Your Competitive Advantage and Messaging
Once you know exactly who you're targeting with your marketing strategy, you can start exploring what helps your company stand out from the crowd. In other words, you need to find your competitive advantage.
5. Explain Your Competitive Advantage to Yourself.
As you do this, you need to focus on three aspects:
- The price you charge
- The products or services you offer
- The overall customer experience
When you're writing about your competitive advantage, make sure you're doing enough research. This is where competitor analysis comes in handy.
Review your competitors' features of their products or services, and list out their prices and even customer reviews if possible. Keep your competitor analysis in a spreadsheet so you can build on it as more competitors enter your space.
Also, update your analysis regularly to keep your eyes on how your competitors are pivoting and evolving their products or services.
The clearer you are in defining your competitive advantage, the easier it will be to craft your messaging for your marketing strategy. What are the specific benefits, results, or outcomes that a potential customer will receive by purchasing your product or service that they would not receive from your competitor? Focus on the benefits.
To make your life easier down the road, you should also invest in the right tools to dive deeper into how your competitors develop and execute their marketing strategies too. When you're ready to create your own strategy, you can identify opportunities to take advantage of, like creating content to outrank competitors on relevant keywords and search queries.
6. Map Your Content Marketing Strategy to Your Audience.
Today you have more delivery channels than ever before. While newspaper and radio advertising are in decline, they may still be viable options for delivering your message.
But more likely, inbound marketing will be a more powerful option. By understanding your customer and where they seek information, you can target your message and deliver it through the channel where they are most likely to see it and act on it.
Content marketing will play a significant role in your inbound marketing approach because marketing is no longer strictly a sales oriented medium – it's an information sharing one.
In today's digital world, customer purchases begin online. To increase sales today is less about the hard sell; it's more about building relationships and trust through social engagement and information sharing.
To best educate your audience, you need to know what content deliver, when, and where. This is where content mapping comes in handy.
One size does not fit all in terms of content marketing. A content map is your best tool for planning how to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. When you build your map, you need to consider the following:
- Your reader's characteristics, which is where your buyer personas come in handy.
- Where your reader is in the buyer's journey (in other words, what lifecycle stage are they in?)
The content map helps you plan content ideas tailored to each buyer persona, at each stage of their lifecycle (awareness, consideration, and decision).
7. Determine a Social Media Strategy to Drive Traffic.
Nurturing a client from discovery through a sale requires a process. If you understand your market (buyer personas) and define your product, social media engagement is the perfect delivery method.
Content marketing gives you better access to qualified leads, more channels to sell your product, and a lower cost to acquire customers.
By engaging with potential customers on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, you can drive potential customers to your website where your blog can provide information that will answer their questions, address their pain points, and offer solutions while building trust and fostering relationships that result in more sales.
Find groups and discussions to join in social media to provide value where your audience likely hangs out.
Stick to Personalization In Sales and Marketing
Today, increasing sales requires personalizing your approach at every customer touchpoint. That means marketing, sales, and service all need to work together to better understand who customers and prospects are and how to best help them at every step of the way.
When you're creating your marketing strategies to drive sales results, you need to be empathetic at every step mentioned above. Step into your ideal buyer's shoes to better understand their perspective of your company so you can perfect your messaging and meet them where they hang out the most.
By focusing your strategies on your customer's needs and delivering value in a targeted way, you can increase sales and develop relationships that will last a lifetime.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2017. It was updated in November 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.