In the previous blog, we looked at two pillars of a great marketing strategy - placing the customer at the centre, building campaigns across different markets and responding to trends influencing your customers.
Once you have the customer at the centre and understand how your campaigns will drive the results your team need to deliver, there are two more pillars of a great marketing strategy.
Pillar 3: Content
We know you are probably sick of hearing 'Content is King'. We are too - from two perspectives. Firstly, gender is a social construct, and we don't love the use of the masculine noun. Secondly, only good content is useful in executing a strategy. Any content, or rubbish content, or content for the sake of it, isn't king or queen.
We break down some content considerations for your strategy.
The right channel selection
Your channel selection, as part of your strategy development, is instrumental in determining the content you need to create to achieve your goals.
Identify and use channels based on your audience, personas, the stage of the customer lifecycle and, of course, your budget. Don't use a channel that your audience isn't engaged with, no matter how buzzy the buzz around it. Understand how to engage users within those channels with your content and your brand - spray and pray went out with Round-Up.
The power of automation
The channels you need to produce content for continue to proliferate as do the types and sizes, even following careful selection.
The data sets you now have access to, including from third-party sources, is diverse, voluminous and often overwhelming.
Marketing teams simply don't have time to parse the data and manually create campaigns, tactical executions and content for every channel. This is where automation comes to the fore, in both creating and serving content optimally and at scale.
Hyper-personalisation and contextual marketing
Your channel selection, the data available and the automation feeding it will, therefore, naturally allow you to explore personalisation, hyper-personalisation and contextual marketing.
Personalisation takes provided data and usually uses this data to build the appearance of 1:1 communication. Emails tokenise the use of my first name and company name regularly; display advertising positions ads of the products I have visited on a website but haven't yet purchased; offers from sporting organisations relate to the states I have attended events.
Hyper-personalisation uses real-time actions and Big Data to provide customised and target offers, content and customer experience. We both might be the same age, gender, and have similar interests, but based on detailed data-profiles, we may see different landing pages, content and product on the website of a retailer. These solutions aren't built manually; instead, they are crafted and displayed in real time.
Your marketing strategy should be representative of an audience's desire for relevant content. A single TVC pushed to all channels may get a lot of impressions, but not make it past that (mostly irrelevant) metric.
Build a content plan that allows you to segment and use content in a personalised way that doesn't just serve generic content. Personalisation is the absolute least you should be doing as a marketer. Ideally, your marketing strategy should harness the power of hyper-personalisation to increase engagement and outcomes.
Demonstrate thought leadership
Content can undoubtedly be short-term, click-baity, high sugar-low-nutrition pieces, focused on likes. Great content is built on the understanding that it moves people. And yes, sometimes, that does mean emotionally move, but really what a great marketing strategy understands is that content should move people:
- from unknown to known
- from known to participant
- from reader to consumer
- from one stage to the next
- from passive to active
Great content should demonstrate thought leadership - what is the high-ground you want to occupy? What space do you want to own in your customer's head? How do you plan on using content to grow their understanding of the brand and brand promise? How do you plan on using content to progress them towards your end goal, usually purchase and advocacy?
Which leads us to storytelling
Thought leadership and content creation collectively should take people on a journey. Your content strategy should be built around storytelling.
The story you tell is vital for your brand's success, and it needs to align with your customer and your organisation's vision and values. All great marketing is about telling a story. Your strategy should cover the brief, the big idea and the impact.
A brief is an action plan that clarifies who you're talking to, what they care about, and what you're trying to achieve.
The big idea is the one thing (yes, just the ONE thing) you want to stick with your audience.
- Know how you will create an impact.
- Make it personal: Personal stories resonate with us and move us as human beings.
- Get emotional: Sometimes, you have to be vulnerable, even as a brand.
- Use anecdote and reflection: Anecdotes are the "put you in the room" moments. Reflection is the part of the story where you help the audience make sense of what they just heard.
- Make it visual: Choose images to paint a picture for your audience. It will help your audience remember, relate to, and respond to your story.
- Include a call to action: What do you want people to do after hearing your story? Highlight this in your message and storytelling.
Build content around your customer journey stages
A lot of marketers will build excellent advertising campaigns as part of their core strategy, focused on awareness and acquisition. A great marketing strategy, however, doesn't just focus on the front end of the customer journey; it includes content and activity for each stage of the customer journey.
Without active management, without focusing on the customer intensely and at every stage of the journey, your marketing strategy isn't delivering a whole-of-business solution, and it isn't building the organisational value.
Know what will drive value and progress at every stage of the customer journey and work cross-functionally to deliver this content and marketing value.
And perhaps most important is internal content
Employees play an invaluable role in influencing how the external market understands and interprets the brand. Employees are both 'readers' of the brand - reading and seeing the official brand construct crafted by the brand and marketing team - and also 'authors' of the brand, writing the brand afresh with every interaction they have with external stakeholders. Brand meaning and understanding develops through interactions and experiences with formal brand communications and management, certainly, but it is most deeply experienced through interplays with employees.
Misunderstandings in reading the brand, or a poor internally-communicated brand, can influence an employee's brand promise delivery, and therefore impact a customer's perception of the brand, and we all understand perception is reality.
When developing your marketing strategy, understand how you will engage and educate employees on the brand promise and proposition, on your marketing campaigns and the best-practice experience you want to deliver.
We talk every day in our team as we build and grow elements and campaigns. Taking the time to communicate these, and communicate them well, outside our team has a powerful impact on a successful marketing strategy.
How do people in your organisation like to consume their internal communication? Incorporating multiple channels into your communication, rather than a single channel, will help ensure maximum uptake of your message:
- Intranet banner and news article
- Resource update
- Instant messaging
- Old-fashioned phone calls from account managers and key contacts
Remember to include data, stats and details to make it more relevant to your audience.
Pillar 4: Support and tools
With a customer focus, the right campaigns aimed at delivering outcomes and a content strategy to support your customer journeys, your marketing strategy is robust.
Managing to deliver the strategy, however, requires support and tools.
Data and insights
Marketers should have moved past the 'gut instinct' response, or 'we've always done it this way' approach. Modern marketers should be making decisions based on data and insights - firstly when they develop their strategy and then continue as they deliver and refine the strategy.
Your team should have the visibility into this data to bring you wins and opportunities, they should be able to analyse, hypothesise, test and iterate and extrapolate impacts from this data.
If you don't have a central data warehouse or a single source of truth for your customer, your marketing strategy (and your budget) should lay out the plan for implementing one.
A single view of the customer
Leading into, and from, data and insights should be a single view of the customer. Your organisation probably has information on customers in four or five places - CRM, point-of-sale system, email or marketing automation database, Excel spreadsheets housed on someone's local drive (shudder), support and chat platforms ... the list continues.
Your priority as a marketer and the owner of the customer is to break down these siloes and build a single view of the customer.
It's only when you can see and measure every aspect of the customer in the journey that you can deliver a truly optimised marketing strategy.
A tech stack to support your strategy
It isn't just your data, reporting and view of the customer that needs to be in service of your strategy; it is your entire marketing technology (martech) stack.
Martech doesn't develop strategy; it executes it. Your stack is only as good as the strategy you have developed for it to support. Without a robust marketing strategy, crafted to deliver the business' goals, no amount of marketing technology can deliver the right results. Your strategy informs the categories of marketing technology you need to invest in.
Your CRM, DAM, MRM, marketing automation, content management and brand automation should all work seamlessly together to serve your strategy and allow you to operate efficiently and deliver powerful outcomes.
Branding automation management allows your teams to use the platform to create their collateral without the need to request anything of the central marketing team.
It is complementary to other martech categories like DAM and content marketing management because it can both draw down on the assets from your DAM and use them 'live' and create collateral for your content marketing platform - feeding the hungry content beast as it were.
Branding automation works best when it has datasets to ingest and apply to creative solutions, increasing production efficiency and personalisation.
These four pillars aren't the only pillars you can use in your strategy, but they are pivotal when developing a great marketing strategy and delivering results.
Make sure you know what success looks like and what success measures you will use to demonstrate the success of your strategy.
A strategy is only ever as good as its execution, so it is important to not just write, but execute your strategy. There is no try, after all, there is only do or do not.