In today’s digitally accessible, technologically advanced, ridiculously complicated age, the number of possible marketing strategies and advertising outlets is virtually limitless. Most online marketing strategies can feed into one another, resulting in countless varieties of hybrid strategies and unique approaches. While a purely organic search engine optimization (SEO) strategy might work well for one company, another might be better suited with a content/social strategy that happens to peripherally result in higher ranks.
Despite all this available diversity, marketing still boils down to a handful of simple, important principles. All the bells and whistles of the latest, greatest technology won’t be able to help you achieve your goals if you ignore those principles, or don’t understand them. It’s easy to lose sight of the fundamentals, especially with the excitement of everything new, but there are no guarantees or magic formulas for success. Instead, all successful marketing campaigns start with well thought-out answers to five important questions.
Before launching any marketing campaign, online or offline, ask yourself these five questions, and use your answers to direct your strategic choices:
The longer you think about this question, the harder it gets to answer. It starts out with a quick, knee-jerk response: get more sales. Of course. But how many sales? And what kind of sales? Where are you really lacking? For large organizations, this is a demanding question. Think about where your current process could be improved, and use that as a starting point. For example, are you getting lots of leads but few leads of quality? Your goal could be further refining your online audience to only the most relevant demographics. Are you getting a high conversion rate, but suffering from a lack of traffic? Increasing web traffic should be your main concern. With any marketing strategy, a singular goal should be your bottom line, and the more specific you are, the better. Do your research and know what to expect from whichever strategies you end up pursuing.
I’ll get you started: the only wrong answer is “everybody.” Most novice marketers start out thinking the best audience to target is the largest audience possible. However, this is almost never the case. Even if your products can be useful to almost anyone, it’s better if you start out focusing on a specific niche within those broad demographics. Targeting a niche will allow you to find more effective, specific communications channels, hone your messaging to its most convincing, and better understand the overall psychology of your buyers to craft and fine-tune your strategy over time. If you have multiple demographics, start out with one and focus on them. Use market research and buyer personas to dig deep into your customers’ psychological profiles, and only start building your campaign once you’ve done so.
You can only answer this question once you know who your audience is and what your goals are. Otherwise, your answer might change. For example, let’s say you’re a manufacturer of a product that makes refrigerators more efficient. If your target market is homeowners and your goal is to become established as an authority in the industry, your core message might revolve around raw information, or the mechanics of energy efficiency. If your target market is college students and your goal is more transactions on your e-commerce platform, your core message might resolve around utility, or the fact that your device helps beer stay colder for longer. This core message, whatever it is, should permeate all the messaging you produce throughout the entirety of your campaign.
There are lots of companies like yours out there already. What makes yours unique? In the imaginary refrigerator efficiency product scenario, let’s say you have multiple similar competitors. What makes your product any different? Is it more efficient? Is it more cost-effective? Does it offer some other function? Is your brand more approachable? Identifying this key, unique differentiator will give your campaign a better competitive edge, and better focus in your design and messaging. Your unique value proposition and your “core” demographic-oriented message should work together to underline all your smaller initiatives.
Chances are, you already have a marketing channel or campaign picked out. But what happens if it doesn’t work out? Do you have a plan to scale back your budget and experiment within the same strategy, or do you have another outlet where you can use the same materials? This is less of a philosophical marketing question and more of a practical one, but it’s vitally important to ask before you start a campaign. The more potential options you have in case of a crisis or dead-end, the better.
These five questions aren’t the only ones you’ll need to ask, but they are some of the most important and most influential. If you can reasonably answer these five questions, you’ll have a good grasp on the core of your marketing campaign, and the remainder of your work will be filling in the details. As you start measuring and analyzing the results of your first line of effort, you may find your answers in need of adjustment; don’t be afraid to adjust them. Marketing is an evolving, give-and-take process that requires revision as you gather more data, but it all starts with a singular vision and a comprehensive goal to drive the remainder of your work.