Marketing Strategy

5 Building Blocks of a Successful FIRST Marketing Strategy

Relying on referrals to grow your small business is great—until that blessed little well dries up.

Suddenly, you're left standing with tons of rich experience and no one to buy from you.

What is a marketing strategy, really?

If we want to get a little caveman about it, a marketing strategy is where you commit to a set of activities for a given period of time with a desired outcome in mind. A marketing strategy doesn't have to be complicated. It should fit you, your customers, and your schedule.

Picture your favorite sport. Now imagine if the game was stripped of its rules. You might still have the same ball, bat, or racquet. But you won't know how to use them, what the end goal is, or how to call the winners and losers. Like a set of rules that makes any sport worth playing, a marketing strategy aligns activities towards a specific outcome.

A marketing strategy eases your business' dependency on referrals (which are still a fantastic business source!) and puts control back in your hands. Consistent marketing keeps the growth embers burning when you're not at your desk or busy with client projects. Your business is yours to grow.

The success of your first marketing strategy depends on consistency. Even if your efforts don't drive the results you hoped for, you'll benefit from knowing more about what didn't work so you can focus your efforts in a new direction. For large and small businesses alike, marketing is trial and error. The only failure is not sticking with a plan long enough to learn from your experience.

The 5 Core Elements of a Marketing Strategy

1. Your business goal

Business growth comes in all shapes and sizes. Great marketing strategies are tightly focused on moving the needle on a subset of growth areas—not all of them. If you're just beginning to think intentionally about your marketing, your business goal might be to get your name out there and increase brand awareness. Or perhaps you want to refine your audience so organic leads align better with your ideal customer. Focus your initial efforts on one or two pieces of the growth pie. And don't feel like you're wasting time if at first you 'get it wrong.' It's a net gain to have a plan, fail, and learn from it.

Image of a quote from Seth Godin "When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one." Highlights the importance of focusing on a single audience in your marketing.

2. Your audience

Think back to the clients who loved to work with you, and you with them. What problems do they have in common? Did they have a similar business size or structure? Look for the patterns. Focus your marketing on addressing this group's challenges and desires.

Not every new business has the luxury of a strong customer base. If you're new or aren't sure who your best customers are, focus inward. What problems do you feel confident solving for people? Who might face these challenges? Where do you think they go to learn more about the products or services you offer?

It can be really scary to narrow the playing field. But take it from these marketing wizards—connecting with customers starts with making an intentional choice between you are (and aren't) talking to.

3. Your talent

As a founder/small business owner/solopreneur, is there an aspect of marketing you've dabbled with in the past that you really loved? Where the minutes flew by without realizing because you were enjoying the work?

Maybe you like writing blogs, or coming up with vibrant instagram posts, or creating fun, inspirational reels. Lean into what you love, and more importantly, don't build a marketing plan focused on a tactic that drains you. Instead, lean into activities you'd be happy to do (mostly) every day. (Just be sure to show up where your customers are).

4. Your timeframe

Placing a timeframe on your marketing strategy lets you compare where you started with the results of your efforts. (And it keeps you from moving forward in the wrong direction for too long).

Based on my experience working with different businesses, I'd give every new marketing strategy at least 3 months to see results. It takes time to get into the rhythm of executing tactically. Stop too soon, and it all but guarantees you've wasted the time you've already invested in prep and planning. Three months is long enough (in most cases) to see some indication of whether a strategy is worth continuing, but not too long that you put your business at risk.

5. Your bandwidth

Decide how many hours each week you can realistically allocate to executing your new strategy.

Intentional marketing time is 10,000% more valuable than winging it, so don't stress if you only have an hour or two each week. (I'm a mom of two boys under 5, so believe me, I get it!) Commit to what you can. Also remember that a huge benefit of consistent marketing is becoming more efficient with time. Those first few weeks, it might be difficult to accomplish much, but stick with it. Those couple of hours will become increasingly valuable.

Your bandwidth for implementing a strategy should influence your strategy timeframe and business goal metrics. If you only have two hours a week to market your business, you might need longer than three months to measure any initial impact.

Make imperfect progress

A strategy is just a plan that allows you to work towards a specific goal. It's not meant to burden you. On the flip side, a solid marketing strategy gives you freedom from dramatic ebbs and flows in your business, and from toiling too long on tactics that won't drive growth.

About the author

Annie Obergefell is a messaging & brand voice strategist, copywriter, and founder of Copy Salt. Specialties include messaging, marketing strategy, and brand voice development for clients, advertising agencies, and consultancies.

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