Strategy First: A Guide to Creating and Building a Marketing Strategy

A business’s marketing tactics are only as strong as its marketing strategy. So what does it take to create—and build—the perfect marketing strategy for your business?

indispensable-marketing-guide-to-creating-marketing-strategyHaving the right marketing strategy means everything when it comes to small business marketing success. Do you feel like you’re trying to sell to anyone and everyone? Do you feel like your business is a commodity? Is price always and issue with your clients? Do you seem to be attracting the wrong types of clients? Are you struggling to stand out from your competitors?

There’s no question, developing the right marketing strategy is one of the hardest parts about small business marketing. But there’s also no question that it’s one of the most important. As the owner of the 5-year-old strategic marketing firm, I’ve had both great success in developing a marketing strategy and also made some mistakes along the way. And I know I’m not alone. Most of the business owners I have worked with, have experienced the same.

What I have learned is that nothing about building your marketing strategy should be haphazard. Marketing strategy should be considered as important a business practice as sales, and operations. It’s probably the most important  upon which your business is being built.

What follows here is a guide to creating and building a marketing strategy perfect for your business.

1. Ideal Customer

Don’t waste time marketing and selling to people who will never buy. Save time and energy by understanding your ideal customer.

Every day, 98% of the people responsible for the marketing strategy of organizations end up implementing tactics that FAIL for one simple reason: these tactics do not appeal to their ideal customer.

The secret to increasing your profitability isn’t more marketing—it’s targeting. Don’t squander your marketing budget and hundreds of hours generating leads that take your business nowhere. Find your profitable client from the outset, and everyone wins.

Think about whom your 10 best customers are and what you need to do to attract 10 more just like them!

Dive Deeper

From your client base above start looking at the characteristics of these successful accounts or best clients. You’re searching for any common characteristics that are shared by this client base.

Here’s what you are deep diving for:

  • Demographics – Business2Business (B2B) demographics could be the type of industry, the job title of that individual, the years that a company has been in business, and/or revenue levels. Business2Consumer (B2C) the demographics could be age, sex, illness, income, and a particular area of town.
  • Psychographics – Understand where do they hang out, what do they read, what do they listen to, what do they search online, what makes them tick, what triggers them to go looking for a solution? It’s also useful to identify any triggers caused by some type of life cycle change, calendar event, budget refresh, office relocation, etc. (Hint: focusing on identifying what these triggers are with your current clients is the best way to immediately grow share of awareness.)
  • Challenges or Problem – Marketing is about solving customer problems, whether those are problems customers are currently facing, or problems they will face as their marketplace evolves and their needs change.
  • Real Quotes – Include a few real quotes taken during your interviews that represent your persona well. This will make it easier for employees to relate to and understand your persona.

2. Unique Selling Proposition

After developing a profile of an ideal client it’s time to find a way to attract this group. In my experience the only sure-fire way to do this is by discovering or creating a unique selling proposition through your approach, market niche, product, service, message, delivery, or guarantee that clearly stands out in the mind of your customer.

In my opinion the best way to create a unique selling proposition that can’t be easily copied and stand out from the competition is to sit down with a handful of your best clients face to face or over the phone for about ten minutes and conduct a service improvement interview of sorts. Learn more about attract your ideal customer here.

Some other things to take into consideration:

  • create your own special way to treat customers,
  • create an experience that’s unique, or
  • create a totally new and convenient way for people to get a result.

Your company could be the one who always sends handwritten notes after a signed agreement. Your company could be the one who sends certificates after engaging a client thanking them for the completion of a program or project. These things are about being different, not being better.

If your business is receiving inquiries, and the first questions is, “How much does it cost?” there’s a strong possibility your difference strategy isn’t effective.

3. Statement to Action

The final step in the marketing strategy puzzle is to take what you’ve done previously – defining an ideal customer and creating a unique selling proposition – and turning it into action.

Strategy-first thinking forces you to push your core marketing strategy above into every marketing activity. I’ve developed a very powerful approach for building this kind of customer journey.

Our approach to the customer journey is a concept that asks you to create processes, offerings, and campaigns aimed at strategically moving prospects and customers through five stages – Awareness, Education, Sample, Purchase and Refer. By viewing each of these stages as a place to reinforce your USP as well as deliver key educational information, you create the kind of journey that leads to your profitable customers.


Awareness – This is the phase where sales, social media, content, networking, public relations will do well and even search, advertising and referrals start here.

  • Do your online and offline ads communicate the brand positioning? Do they target and offer to begin the relationship process with your ideal customers?
  • Do your social media outpost have consistent images and messages?
  • Are brand messages promoted on your website?
  • Are your networking or partner marketing efforts targeted towards your ideal customer?
  • Are your keywords consistent and focused on the phrases that actual prospects search for?
  • Do you have a formalize process to handle referrals that come in?

Education – This is the stage where once you attracted prospects to your website or location you have give them reasons to come back, reasons to relate and even reasons to like your team and also provide reviews, success stories and client testimonials.

  • Do your online and offline content assets include your message and brand identity?
  • Do your business email signatures and cards include your positioning?
  • Is your vision and unique differentiation documented on your website for your ideal customers to relate to?
  • Is your website showcasing reviews, success stories or testimonials?
  • Are your ongoing communication campaigns consistent with your website branding? Do these communication initiatives go out on a regular basis and include valuable content for your audience? Is there an opt-in incentive for your content?
  • Are your email campaigns consistent with your branding?
  • Do you follow a content creation system to establish your company as an expert on focused topics?
  • Do you regularly promote and monitor review sites?

Sample – Now that prospects are wondering how your solution might work for them it’s time to demonstrate to them with reports, eBooks, webinars and very detailed how to information. You might also have an assessment, audit, seminar, evaluation, trial version or low-cost offer here.

  • What is your offering for prospects to sample your expertise, product or service?
  • How do you encourage people to sign up for the offering?

Purchase – For this stage the focus is still on educating but from the standpoint of a new customer

  • Do your kits, contracts and invoices match your branding and communicate key information?
  • Do your new customer gain access to key personnel or content?
  • Do your new customer become part of an exclusive club?

Refer – The customer journey is ultimately about referrals

  • How do you encourage or motivate your current customers to refer?
  • Does your incentive for referrals connect with your culture in some way?

Without a strategy, you have too many “opportunities” coming at you with no way to filter what makes sense for your business. Or without a strategy the marketing services you’ve hired such as a website developer, print company, social media person, and advertising rep, 9 out 10 times, each of these experts will pull your business into a different direction. In either case, you will most likely waste time and money with little to show for it.

A marketing strategy will focus your efforts on attracting your target market and help you determine if you are going off track and what you need to do to reach your destination (or business goals).

For the greatest success, your marketing strategy must be holistic. Your ideal customer profile, messaging, differentiation, content and offline efforts can’t be just one aspect of your work; they need to be infused into every facet of your business.