No matter your industry, there are some key pillars around which to build a great marketing strategy. These pillars evolve as marketing and strategy trends evolve - 5 years ago digital transformation would have been a large pillar - but with most enterprises now having robust digital ecosystems, the focus in our marketing strategies has rightly developed.
Each organisation will flavour these pillars differently, and some may not be relevant to you at all, but collectively across the organisations we work with, we see the same themes emerge.
Pillar 1: The customer at the centre
Increasingly in your decision making around strategy and execution, the customer will have a prominent role.
Putting the customer first may seem obvious to marketing teams, but it is often a challenge across the broader business where shareholder value or cost control are dominant concerns. To truly deliver upon a marketing strategy, the whole business needs to be aligned and putting the customer first. When marketing is increasingly responsible for driving results more into the customer journey, influencing more of the sales outcomes and delivering enterprise value growth, customer first is the only way forward.
Persona development and refactoring
Most enterprises have personas they use to craft messaging and journeys. Consider your personas in terms of purchasers and influencers. Your primary personas are those who purchase your product or service directly, but sitting around these people are influencers. For example, your purchasing persona for an undergraduate degree may be the school leaver, but influencing their decision will be school guidance counsellors and parents.
It is crucial to understand how your personas overlap and drive engagement and purchase behaviours both individually and collectively.
Putting the customer at the centre means constantly revisiting personas against new data sets, expanded purchasing information and new third-party data.
Has the market fragmented more, throwing up new niche markets? Has a new competitor shifted the market's pricing strategy? Have new people moved into your location? Are there new influencing circles to consider?
Set aside time each year when developing your marketing strategy to review your personas to ensure they remain relevant.
Understanding your path to purchase against each persona is a key component in developing a great marketing strategy, knowing how you can move the various branding levers to influence your target market.
Developed from in-depth customer conversations - usually, a mix of focus groups and one-to-one interviews - journey mapping cross-references the channels and needs of the customer at each point of the customer journey.
Map the full journey from awareness to purchase and through to advocacy to understand the touch points and the opportunity to influence. The journey map highlights the areas where your organisation does not meet the information needs of each persona.
As marketing increasingly works as the Voice of the Customer across the business, and as a cross-functional orchestrator between portfolios, a service blueprinting project should be a priority component of your marketing strategy.
As well as mapping and tracking how service is delivered to your customers from awareness through to advocacy, service blueprinting allows you to make incremental or radical changes to your service delivery to positively impact the outcome.
Service blueprinting is an incredibly in-depth study (not to be taken lightly) that maps every customer interaction point and stage with the service deliverers in your organisation; from the marketing team creating the ads to the customer service and sales teams to teachers or installers and through to post-sales support and advocacy.
The service blueprint gives your team visibility across the whole of the customer lifecycle, and it is vital your strategy then address lifecycle management.
If your organisation still puts 'baby in a corner' ... aka hasn't yet understood the power of marketing across the whole organisation, not just at the point of awareness and the colour of the logo, there are some essential strategic conversations you should be having at the C-suite level.
Lifecycle management should be led by marketing, across the whole of the organisation. As the marketing lead, you have a front-row seat for all business agility, speed to market, customer-centric and intelligence-sharing actions.
Investments in organisation-wide (rather than siloed) lifecycle management of customer satisfaction, customer experience and customer networks creates significant enterprise value and marketing should be the lead as the brand steward and voice of the customer.
At each point of the customer lifecycle, your marketing strategy needs to lay out how you will work cross-functionally, which branding levers you will move and how you will deliver a best-in-class outcome for the customer, and therefore the business.
Pillar 2: Campaigns and trends
The more traditional space of the marketing team, you will need to lay out your strategy around campaigns and harnessing trends, and also how you plan to operationalise these across the business.
One way to lay out your strategy is according to four campaign domains and one trend domain:
Domestic and international campaigns
Depending on your regions and locations, you may only need to build a strategy for domestic campaigns, rather than both domestic and international.
Your enterprise probably has an 'always-on' campaign, and seasonal and targeted campaigns will supplement this. The campaigns could drive sales of particular product ranges, drive enrolments at peak times or drive sign-ups every month.
Your campaigns need to work across the whole customer lifecycle and not just be isolated to awareness and lead acquisition. Your strategy should reflect personas, lifecycle, channels and messaging.
Your campaign strategy should anniversarise those campaigns that worked last year, evolve those that are tired or didn't deliver and introduce new campaigns and promotions for new audiences, product or locations.
When crafting your strategy, it is an excellent opportunity to align your expenditure with the targeted results. If your business allows 5% for marketing as a general rule, look at spending 5% of the forecast sales for that time. If your campaign has to spend more than that to drive sales, the strategy and outcomes are misaligned. Your dollars should work hard and should over-index, rather than under-index against forecast sales.
Another way to look at it is if the sales for the period account for 15% of the yearly sales forecast, do you have to spend more or less than 15% of your total marketing budget to drive those sales?
Opening a new market or a new audience, for example, may cost you more in the short- to mid-term, but if your strategy isn't showing a recovery of costs and reduced expenditure in the mid- to long-term, you can make a case that the business strategy isn't sustainable. Know what the scorecard is and how success will be measured before you commit to your marketing strategy in response to a strategic business objective.
Increasingly, brands move customers through a 'pull' mechanism, rather than a 'push' mechanism. Traditionally, marketing was about pushing your message at your audience in enough volume to be recognised and drown out your customer, to ramp up the 'noise'.
In this new era, with customers able to effectively block you, with customers having more choice than ever before, with customer loyalty increasingly fragile, it is vital your strategy moves to 'pull' your audience to your brand and brand promise.
To this end, your strategy should include experiential campaigns that are omnichannel, and allow your audience to experience your brand across all channels, including physically. We don't recommend flashmobs (although, if it is right for you and your audience, do it!), but understand how you can meet people where they are and deliver a campaign that helps them experience the outcome of your product and service.
Marketing is drawn to the buzzwords, the cutting edge and the new and shiny. There are inevitably dozens of trends each year that a marketer could chase down.
For experienced marketers like you, you will understand only if a trend is relevant to your market will you need to build into your strategy. For example, if your market has the characteristic of early adoption of tech, you will need to be implementing new tech experiences into your marketing strategy.
For most marketers, there are two significant trends we are keeping an eye on, or already implementing:
- Voice/digital personal assistants (Siri, Alexa, Google Home)
- Augmented reality
Voice-enabled personal assistants are increasingly present in peoples' lives and will increasingly be used to research and make purchases. Brands and their marketing strategies will increasingly need to interpret customers' voice search intent and behaviour to be able to capitalise on this trend. The next step for marketers will be to place voice ads on a smart voice assistant but to understand how to do this in the right way for your brand; your marketing strategy needs to explore this trend now.
Virtual reality was a big buzz several years ago, but has been replaced with the much more useful, and easier to produce, augmented reality (AR). As artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced, so has the case for augmented reality. Marketers and brands are already using AR in smart ways to showcase their products.
For example, L'Oreal has purchased Modiface, a company that helps users visualise makeup and hairstyles on themselves.
Use your strategy to outline how AR can be incorporated into your brand experience, to increase stickiness, engagement and purchases.
In the next blog, we look at the content and the tools that need to be part of your marketing strategy.