A lot of people use the term “marketing strategy,” when what they’re really talking about is marketing tactics. Strategy is not just a Facebook post or a paid search campaign or blog posts. Those are the tactics you use to execute your strategy. But if you don’t have a larger strategy to guide you, then you’re just going to be guessing about what tactics you should be using as part of your marketing efforts.
Today, we’re going to look at what you need to do to put strategy first so that you can get intentional about your marketing approach.
Who Is Your Ideal Client?
Chance are that, today, you’re defining your ideal client too broadly. If you’re a tax preparer, your ideal customer is not just anyone who wants to do their taxes.
Sure, some of them are, but what makes a customer ideal for your specific type of work? If you charge a lot more than the national tax preparer, who opens up shop on the corner and charges $49.00 per return, then the people who would want to go with this cheap and easy option are not your ideal client. But maybe you have expertise that’s best suited to people with a specific tax need—like a high net worth individual who has lots of investments and philanthropic write-offs. Plus, they’re the ones who’d be willing to spend more to get the job done correctly.
Don’t guess about who your ideal client is. You are already working with some great people, so turn to your existing client base. Who are your most profitable clients? Who refers the most business to? What are the common characteristics that you find in those clients?
This doesn’t mean that this ideal client will ultimately be the only type of person you’re going to serve. But it does mean that all of your marketing messaging should be demonstrating that this is the type of person you can get the greatest results for.
What Is Your Core Message?
The first step to finding your core message is asking, “What problem does my brand solve? And what promise can my brand make to solve that problem?”
Let’s say you own a lawn care business. Your potential customers will automatically operate under the assumption that you know how to mow a lawn. But that doesn’t really address the problem the potential customer has.
For most homeowners, their biggest problem associated with a home care service is about something beyond the basic service the business provides. Homeowners hate having to wait around for the provider to arrive during their service window (and how often are those people actually on time?). When they hire someone to handle their landscaping, the team leaves behind a big mess of hedge trimmings and lawn clippings. Or it’s difficult to get payment to them because they only accept checks. These are the real problems your clients have.
So your core message is not, “We know how to care for your lawn”—of course you do! Instead, it’s “We show up on time, every time.” Or, “We leave your yard looking cleaner and better than when we arrived.”
This core message should be featured above the fold on the homepage of your website. It’s a key element of strategy because it is how you differentiate your business in a way that your customers care about that goes beyond your products or services.
How Do You Make Content the Voice of Strategy?
Customers don’t need a description of your product or service right up front. Sure, once they get further along in their journey and begin considering their purchasing options, they’ll want to know the nitty gritty details. But for now, they want to know how you’re there for them.
Back to the lawn care example: If the prospect is looking to create a better lawn, they may not have decided they need someone to do that for them. They may initially just be looking for advice and expertise, thinking this is a task they could tackle on their own.
The lawn care business, then, wants to establish themselves as that local source of expert advice. This is where hub pages come in. The lawn care business will publish “The Guide to the Perfect Lawn”—a hub page that consolidates all of their content around lawn care into one place.
This hub page will rank in Google results for someone looking for the perfect lawn in your local area. Now, you become their go-to source for guidance on lawn care. You develop a relationship with them, and they come to trust you. Some of these people will, of course, still opt to go it alone and handle their lawn themselves. But others will say, “It looks like these lawn care people have it all figured out. Why don’t I just hire them to do it?”
The hub pages are a way to draw people in who might not even be looking to make a purchase or become a customer. But then, your expertise is what builds trust and eventually convinces them that they do need the solution you offer.
Guiding People Through the Marketing Hourglass
Customers have buying questions and objectives, and these will change along the various stages of their journey with your business. It’s your job to guide customers through the marketing hourglass, taking them through the logical steps of getting to know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer your business.
To make sure you’re providing customers with what they need at each stage, start by asking questions. In the know phase, the essential question for a business owner to answer is, “If someone didn’t know about us, where would they go to find a business like ours?” For most businesses, the primary answer to that question is Google. But in the lawn care example, you also might have prospects that ask a neighbor for a referral, or see your truck around town or your signs on people’s lawns.
Once you’ve done that for the know phase, you move on to the other six stages of the hourglass. Once they find your website, what do they see when they get there? Do they see that other people know, like, and trust you?
How does someone try what your business is offering? If you’re the lawn care business, that might be getting a quote. But how exactly do they go about getting that quote? Is it a form on your website, or do they need to call or email you? How quickly do you respond? Is the response personalized, or does it feel like a boilerplate offer? These elements all become a part of the customer’s experience and journey with your business.
The buy, repeat, and refer stages are more internal. How do you onboard a new customer? What are your team’s checks to ensure that customers are getting the results that they want from your business? What makes a great experience that will bring them back for another purchase or encourage them to refer a friend? This is where you want to get into the buyer’s head to determine what they’ll expect out of you.
Once you understand what a customer wants from you at each stage in the journey, you need to make sure that your online assets address those needs.
You’ve now identified the ideal customer, you know the core message and promise, you know how content becomes the voice of strategy, and you know how your customers want to buy. Now, you can fill in the gaps to meet customers wherever they are. That is the heart of marketing strategy.
Now We Turn to Tactics
Tactics are what allow us to fill in those gaps to meet customers where they are. If your ideal customer finds businesses by searching the web, you need to create a hub page so you rank in those SERPs. You need testimonials on your website to build trust. You need to be on social platforms, so that you have information in lots of places that proves your legitimacy as a business. You need reviews on social media and review platforms so that others are vouching for you. These are the tactics that align with the larger strategy.
We have an engagement called Strategy First, where we do this entire process for our clients. As a part of this engagement we interview your existing customers and analyze your competitors. We build ideal client personas and establish a core message and promise that will speak to them. We map out your hub page and determine how to make content the voice of your strategy. And we go through the marketing hourglass exercise and identify the gaps in your current marketing approach. This gives you a firm foundation on which to build your tactics and move your marketing forward based on solid strategy.
Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation with us so we can talk about how to do this for your business.
Want to learn how to craft and implement an effective marketing strategy yourself? Check out our Certified Marketing Manager program. In this program, our consultant will be your strategic advisor while they help you develop the marketing skills and knowledge of your team.
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