While there are lots of great articles about each of the different stages of marketing, there aren't many about ALL of marketing, from concept to customer. I have yet to see posts or videos that clearly explain how to take you from marketing noob to marketing genius. That genius comes from aligning all of the steps of marketing into an easy-to-practice process. This article aims to explain how all of the pieces of the marketing puzzle fit together real snug.
This article leads you from marketing strategy (defining goals that you consider a victory), through tactics (how you will achieve those goals), to operations (the on-the-ground movements).
This article goes through the nine stages of an aligned marketing program:
- Prospect - Find the best customer needs
- Position - Differentiate from the competition
- Propose - Give them an offer they can't refuse
- Segment - Divide and nurture
- Funnel - Leading thirsty horses to water
- Campaign - Keeping the well full
- Brand - So good they make an unboxing video
- Promote - Tell everyone, everywhere and everywhen
- Present - Ta da!
These are the nine stages or steps we'll discuss. You MUST do these in this order. If you go out of order, whenever you make a change (for instance changing your messaging that may drive away some segments), you'll have to go back and re-tool every step afterwards.
But first, the difference and relationship between strategy, tactics, and operations
One of the easiest ways to separate these is based on time-frames. Strategies are long-term, tactics are mid-term while operations are short-term activities.
Defining what kind of business you run is a long-term activity. We can contrast that with the short-term day-to-day operations such as sending mail and email. In the middle we may find tweaking content calendars or changing CRM providers that we perform weekly.
Another way to think about this in larger corporations is by headcount. You have one Chief Marketing Officer, a few marketing managers for different products and brands. Then you have a lot more graphic designers, media buying aficionados and social-media mavens.
While it's important to know the difference between them, it's just as important to realize how they interact. It's in their interaction and alignment that makes them potent. When your tactics and operations align with your strategy, you're more likely to achieve your victory of increased market share.
Let's cover the three stages, which are themselves broken into three phases apiece, giving us nine steps.
Marketing Strategy: Prospect, Position & Propose
Marketing strategy defines the business, the brand, and the products and services that they sell. The three main things we do at this level are prospect for customers that buy, position what we're offering in their minds, then offer them something that makes their mouth water.
1- Prospect - Find the best customer needs
While most people would consider prospecting a part of the sales process, it's still super critical to marketing. Why? Because if you can't find someone to actually buy what you're selling, then all of your marketing will be unsuccessful. So prospecting, finding actual customers, comes first. Afterwards, you can figure out what these folks need in common and build out marketing to inform and entice other people to buy what you're selling.
Just like a prospector looking for gold, you don't want a random nugget or a little silt. What you want is a mine filled with lots of gold that's relatively easy for you to access. To find 'the mother lode' you need to grow your business, you have to find and talk to many people. Once you get to know whether they need and want what you offer, you can start talking to them about how your products and services are better than the competitions, i.e. position your offering in their minds.
2- Position - Differentiate from the competition
I have a friend that's a self-proclaimed "Subaru head". My wife only likes to drive SUVs. If I were to talk to either of them about a new Audi coupe, neither of them would care much. My friend would compare everything to his beloved Subarus. And my wife would think it doesn't have enough room to spread out our kids. So, talking about the best features of the Audi wouldn't have any of them want to buy it.
While a lot of articles talk about positioning 'in the market', what's really important in marketing is the positioning of your products 'in the mind' of the people that may want to buy your products. How do your prospects, the people that want a wagon for instance, view your product in comparison to the other options? If they want a van or a sportscar, talking to them wouldn't work. But, if they're open to considering a wagon, then you can talk to them about the benefits of what you're selling. And once they seem interested in hearing more, then you can talk to them about how easily and cheaply you can get them into this once-in-a-lifetime deal, as you offer and propose to sell this to them.
It's your job to highlight the one, two, or three essential things that make your products the superior choice. Rosser Reeves created the famed Unique Selling Proposition that many people use to help them identify just what makes their products better than anyone elses.
3- Propose - Give them an offer they can't refuse
Maybe you don't have to make them the deal of a lifetime for them to buy what you and your business sells. But, you do have to offer prospective customers some compelling benefits for them to say to themselves something like "I'm going to get this one and not any of the other options". They'll also have to think "this gives me more than enough of what I want for the price they're asking".
You don't have to knock someone's socks off to buy bread. And you don't have to have anyone think you're the best [insert one of your skills here] for them to sign up for your newsletter. You only have to make what you're selling interesting and different enough that they prefer what you're selling.
While bread and newsletter signups happen all of the time, you only have to demonstrate that you're slightly better than the competition along the important things your buyers are looking for. I like big pieces of bread so my kids aren't hungry after sandwiches. And I don't like thin and soft bread because they tear apart from the natural peanut butter I put on them. I'll pay a dollar or two more for bread that keeps my kids full and doesn't fall apart. The key to offers someone can't refuse is finding what they'll pay a little bit more for, and then charging them less than that dollar or two more.
Marketing Tactics: Segment, Funnel & Campaign
Marketing tactics solves a different problem than strategy. Strategy answers why you're doing what you're doing, while tactics answers where and when you're going to do it. We can say that operations answers who and how you're going to do something, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
4- Segment - Divide and Nurture
Not everyone that buys your product will need it the same. Some people buy it because it fits with a few other things they have. Others buy because they're just getting started and what you shown them is as good a place as any to get started. Still others may love what you have and intend to purchase again and again.
When you think about who wants what you have on offer, think primarily about who really needs it like they need their next breath.
1. people that need it regularly
2. people that need it occasionally
3. people that need it once
The hard part is figuring out which is which.
5- Funnel - Lead Thirsty Horses To Water
As I said in my post comparing them to waterslides, marketing funnels are the pieces of content that lead someone from having a problem to enjoying their life after buying your solution. The marketing funnel breaks down the steps you take, and the content you make.
At the top of the funnel (ToFu) you create ads and social media posts that piques the interest of customers. In the middle of the funnel you give them the information and motivation they need to buy. And at the bottom of the funnel (BoFu) you present an opportunity to buy the great things you're selling.
You build a funnel for each product you have, based on the needs of the different segments of customers you serve. While you eventually build multiple funnels, it's important to build one funnel at a time to reduce the overwhelm you have in getting up to speed with your marketing skills. Once you've identified the segments you're serving, and the steps of the funnel that lead them from interested to raving fan, then you can focus on creating each part of your funnel.
6- Campaign - Keeping The Well Full
What's the point of leading a horse to water if the well is empty? That makes you frustrated and the thirsty horse mad, right! The campaign step in these 9 steps of marketing concerns building out the actual campaign structure. This means you should plan, publish, and promote content to your email marketing software, social media sites, blogs, etc on a regular basis.
You don't have to be fanatical about posting every 3 hours or anything like that. You do, however, have to be fanatical about keeping the content coming regularly. When marketers say you have to be 'top of mind', half of that comes from having the best options and the other half comes from your clients having heard from you or read something from/about you recently.
Content calendars move to the front-and-center of the stage here. Use them to help you plan out what you're going to write, edit, publish, and promote for the next few weeks, months, and quarters. They help you fill each piece of your funnel when you plan to add new segments to market to, promotions and discounts to run, and talk to folks about special events and occasions to keep them aware of your offerings in case they're in the mood to buy!
Now, we use segments, funnels, and campaigns as the tactics to structure our marketing efforts. We ask and answer questions like where are our best customers paying attention, and how do we get our offerings in front of them. When we figure that out, we can move to the day-to-day activities of building out the content they see. And that, my friend, is the world of marketing operations.
Marketing Operations: Package, Promote & Present
There's a old quote about the rise of TV that goes "the medium is the message". For our purposes, we can skip the mystery around this and say that tactics are the medium while operations are the message. You can introduce yourself or break up with someone via in-person, email, vidchat and text. While we discusses choosing a medium in the last section, we're going to talk about the actual messages in this section.
7- Package - So good they want to make an unboxing video
Here we have the graphic design of your branding. While many marketers understand that branding encompasses a customer's whole experience with a company or brand, a lot of that boils down to what the brand look, feels, and sounds like. Expensive and high-end products come in curated packaging. Think of the difference between buying a box of cereal vs buying the discount brand that comes in the super-sized bag, or even the bulk cereals you can get at some stores. Very different experiences at the store and at home, even if none of them taste much different from one another (compared to, say, eating pancakes).
We ask: what exactly are our future customers going to see, hear, and feel from us? This is where the colors and layout of your flyers, website, infographics, ads, blog, and even the wrapping of your packages comes into play. What colors, fonts and textures do you use to make a coherent presence across each of these things, and how different are they from the competition.
When I say different, they don't have to be cutting edge, just different. Think of cereal boxes. You don't need to have the best looking cereal box. You only need a box that looks different enough that in that long aisle of boxes, someone can pick out yours in a line-up. And while colors are important, one of the most recognizable cereal boxes is mostly brown (Honey Nut Cheerios).
8- Promote - Tell Everyone, Everywhere and Everywhen
Crafting a special message specifically targeted to excite your ideal customers is a waste of time if only one person sees it. When you promote your content, you go on a street corner and start telling people all about what it is that you wrote, shot, and recorded, just for them.
Now is the time to get on the horn with your mom so she can brag about it at bingo night. Here's where you spam the last 50 people that sent you an email with a counter-offer. Call your ex-friends, and their ex-friends too. You spent all of this time researching and brewing the perfect message. Now tell everyone about it!
What do they get when they open and unbox their present? What kind of message are you sending? Is it about you? Is it about them? Is it about their problems? Is it about the life they'll have after you work together to solve their problems?