01 Jun 22 Marketing Strategies for 2022
What does the phrase Marketing Strategy actually mean?
The term “Marketing Strategy” refers to the process involved in taking your business to market in a time- and cost- effective way: accessing potential consumers, communicating the value of your brand, and driving sales and profits. The word strategy, derived from the Greek stratos, meaning ‘army’, and agein, meaning ‘to lead’, has various components that are essential to consider if we are to grasp a full understanding. Firstly, ‘strategy’ refers to having a plan in place, with the Collins Dictionary defining it as ‘the art of planning the best way to gain advantage or achieve success.’ It also commonly refers to having a goal in place to define the outcome more specifically, and a degree of efficiency, with the Oxford English Dictionary defining it as ‘a plan that is intended to achieve a particular purpose’, and refers to this being executed ‘in a skilful way’. If you did not have to deliver a plan efficiently, then you would not really need a strategy because you could throw so much resource at the problem that it would simply be solved. To do so efficiently is to explain how a strategy underpins a plan of action to deliver a specific goal in a defined period of time.
It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that the word ‘strategy’ can also be defined as ‘the best use of scarce resource’, implying a careful and deliberate allocation of time and money to deliver the most effective outcome. This is an essential consideration when developing a marketing strategy, with the aim being to ensure maximum return for your effort.
In the case of marketing, these strategies fit into five key categories:
- Doing your groundwork – developing a foundation through research and planning.
- Building your profile – refining your brand identity by linking the creative to your strategy.
- Making yourself seen – directing traffic to your website through e.g. search engines.
- Spreading the word – creating more awareness for your brand through media.
- Keeping it up – investing in long-term and sustainable ways to retain existing customers.
Do your Groundwork
The first phase of marketing strategies consists of going through a clearly defined process to establish a robust foundation for future strategies (we have created a solution we call a Strategic Marketing Planning Process or SMPP for short). It is important to root these principles in your brand’s identity, values, and knowledge of the landscape in which you operate.
- Distil Your Brand Philosophy
This has three constituent dimensions in time: knowing where you are right now, knowing where you came from, and knowing where you want to go. The first step in developing a marketing strategy is to develop a deep understanding of the values, personality and character of your business, and ensure that it is representative of all your stakeholders, including shareholders, directors, management, staff and customers (new and existing) as well as partners, suppliers, contractors etc. Your corporate philosophy forms the basis of the business and ensures that the culture is integrated into your brand and your people. The second step is rooting this in an understanding of your past – having where you came from form a part of your identity, and learning from your origins and past mistakes. The third step is to understand what you want to achieve in the future, and what steps you may need to take to get there in the short, medium and long term.
- Identify your stakeholders
A key part of the groundwork needed to ensure an effective marketing strategy is to identify your stakeholders to understand who it will affect and how – and why this is important. The stakeholders of a business refer to anyone who is impacted in some way by it – so beyond the owners, investors and the customers, stakeholders can also include staff, stockists, suppliers, and, in some cases, the general public and the government (domestic and international). They therefore represent you internally, in terms of who comprises the core parts of the business, and externally, in relation to customer base and public perception. This will influence how you position your business in both commercial and creative terms, and how you tailor your platforms to access the relevant market segments.
Beyond knowing yourself and where you want to go – knowing your customers, competitors and options are essential next steps, with high quality research being the key to getting the best result. It is important to understand the demographic and psychographic nuances of your customer base, and understand what trends are driving behaviour right now. Because sales decisions are fundamentally about how people behave, you need to understand who all your key customer types are and what makes them tick to be able to communicate with each subset effectively, and ensure that the marketing strategies you deploy will resonate authentically and deliver effective outcomes in a cost-efficient way. It is also important to understand the landscape in which you are operating more broadly, particularly in relation to your competitors: What they are doing well that you could emulate, what you could be doing better, and also where you fit amongst them – as finding your niche is key to your commercial proposition. It is also important to understand what your options are in terms of marketing strategies, and which are best suited to your brand and budget.
While this may seem obvious, having an acute awareness of the key ‘scarce resource’, money, is central to determining the types of strategies you will be able to implement. It is important, therefore, to understand the ways that chosen strategies can be scaled up in the short, medium and long term, and the financial implications of this. Smaller budgets tend to lead to longer term strategies (e.g. SEO), larger ones to short time impact (e.g. PPC) and somewhere in the middle you can find activities like social media, content and PR.
- Develop a Marketing Plan
Having a clear vision for what you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term, and setting out the intermediary steps, is essential to bringing together the strategic brand proposition and the overall marketing strategy. Ensure that your goals follow on from one another – and be aware of the strategies you may need to implement in the short term to make long term goals more achievable.
Build Your Profile
This second phase of marketing strategies is really about honing your brand identity and anchoring it in the research executed in the previous step, to ensure that your brand is ready to go to market.
- Create your brand identity
This is achieved by developing a visual concept that is built on the insights, conclusions and recommendations laid out in your strategic marketing plan, what we often refer to as the blueprint for the future success of your organisation. This includes developing a basis for all creative outputs in future marketing strategies, including establishing a tone of voice tailored to all your customers, and establishing a style guide (with visual concepts, fonts, images and colours), to ensure consistency across your branding. If you have been diligent in your planning, everything that visually represents your brand will be tied in to the overall strategic marketing context.
- Define and Refine Your Touchpoints
To ensure the best user experience, before you can implement strategies to direct potential customers to your website, social media or physical stores, you need to make sure that they are ready for when they arrive. It is essential for the most effective and efficient outcome (what a strategy is all about) to ensure that you have the right brand identity established, that this is consistent across all points at which customers will interact with your brand, and that it is underpinned by a genuine internal culture that resonates at all touchpoints both internal and external. Online platforms in particular should be targeted to resonate with all your stakeholders, direct your customers to particular campaigns, and be ‘sticky’, keeping your customers on them for longer, which is essential for SEO (in terms of pages visited, time spent on site, relevance of keyword terms etc.).
Make yourself seen
An important third phase of your overall marketing strategy should be to improve your presence on Search Engines, so that you are able to access relevant potential customers and establish yourself as an authority in your field. Please note that whilst we are focusing here on the digital marketing space, that the same rules apply for those organisations who operate in whole or in part in the physical space. It is just that 90% of our clients prioritise digital marketing over physical marketing these days, because this tends to lead to better outcomes, regardless of budget or goal.
One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This involves making your website appear as ‘attractive’ and relevant to search engines as possible, so that it appears high on results pages (ideally on Page 1, in positions 1-3 if possible). Search engines work by using bots to scan your website for relevant content, scan other websites for relevant links to yours, and measure the average time that is spent on your website (amongst a hundred other factors), all of which are used to determine the value of it to people searching. The best way of getting quick gains through SEO is by focusing on low competition keywords that will cost-effectively and time-efficiently drive high-quality traffic to your website, making the meta-text of all of your pictures and headings accurate, and ensuring that your website is engaging enough to keep people on it. Although it is not immediate, and takes time to come into effect, it is much more cost effective than most other media for many brands, sustainable and long-lasting, and delivers results that are always more trusted than paid ads (by a factor of up to x10).
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising works by allowing you to bid for keywords, so that your website appears at the top of relevant search results as an ad. This can be done in a way that is immediate, and very targeted, as you can choose the times of day and location you want this to be applied to, so that the traffic you pay for is mostly high value, and worth the money spent on their clicks. However, some keywords can be very expensive, you are still charged for low-value traffic (such as competitors or spam), and some people have little trust in ads, preferring to scroll past them to the organic search results. As a result, you may find that PPC advertising will not make the best use of your scarce resource (aka money). That being said, it is very effective for many organisations, especially those with larger pockets. Google accounts for over 90% of search traffic in the UK, with Microsoft Advertising accounting for the majority of the rest. We recommend you copy and paste your Google PPC campaign onto Microsoft once you have got it working well (this process of ad optimisation normally takes three months to get to a point when you are ready to do so). We also recommend you test PPC campaigns in niche areas during the first three months and slowly push them out over time, rather than rolling them out everywhere at once.
- Display Advertising
Display advertising consists of static or animated graphics, text and images, combined with a link to your website, hosted on other sites as ads. This is a dynamic and creative way of using search engines to drive relevant traffic to your website, allowing you to draw focus to particular campaigns, and, to an extent, target advertisements to relevant audience groups.
Remarketing works by capturing an IP address when someone visits your website, and creating ads to pop-up on other sites. This is effective as it can increase conversion rates, acting as a ‘reminder’ of your website, rather than attempting to generate awareness from scratch. It is also effective because you only pay when they click on the advertisement, so it is cheaper than PPC, and the clicks will usually have a higher return value, as those clicking are already aware of the brand. Note also that you can do remarketing via social media advertising on the likes of Meta (i.e. Facebook and Instagram plus others) too.
Spread the Word
Once your presence on search engines is established, the next phase of a marketing plan is to raise the profile of your brand. There is far more scope for creativity in these processes, and many will involve the development of strategic campaigns.
- Social Media Marketing
Harnessing social media is a key opportunity to deliver good quality outcomes, and leverage existing connections built between people on these platforms. Ads are dispersed throughout feeds and can be accurately matched with individuals’ algorithms to ensure high-value exposure. Advertising through Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok is relatively straightforward, often cheaper than conventional marketing media, and it offers direct access to potential customers through their smartphones too. It also allows for a degree of further targeting, as platforms are often geared towards particular audiences; for example LinkedIn connects you to a business audience, and TikTok to Gen Z, so you can tailor your content according to these biases.
If you are interested in finding out more, click to find our blogs on social media marketing strategies, as well as on Facebook and TikTok.
- Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a valuable way that social media marketing can be used to raise the profile of your brand. By having an influencer advocate for your products and/or services, you can leverage the relationship of trust that they have built up over time with their own followers, and quickly access large, relevant, and invested audiences. This can operate on different scales, targeting major influencers with a broad audience, or micro-influencers with a more tight-knit, localised audience, depending on your budget, product and desired reach.
For more information, find our blog on micro influencer marketing here.
- Employee Advocacy
This is a twist on influencer marketing, as rather than trying to engage with existing influencers, you are trying to become them, by giving your employees the opportunity and encouragement to act as brand ambassadors, and to advocate for your product or service. By doing this, you can firmly establish an internal culture and personality associated with your brand, as well as effectively communicate your identity and values.
- Viral Marketing
When executed well, viral marketing can be one of the most effective ways of raising the profile of your brand. It represents an attempt to either lean into, or create trends, in order to generate a buzz associated to a campaign concept, and, by association, with your brand. Although having the support of influencers and strong social media presence can increase the likelihood of it being effective, the success of viral campaigns are hugely dependent upon luck, and you could invest heavily in developing one only for it not to catch on.
- Event Marketing
Event marketing is an area that has shifted drastically during and in the aftermath of COVID-19. While many events are now conducted through online channels, and therefore have had to develop new ways of maintaining attendees’ attention, the novelty of in-person events post-pandemic could make this strategy particularly beneficial. They offer the opportunity to have potential customers’ full attention for a period of time, generate press coverage, and involve those with a strong social media presence to amplify your brand throughout the event. That being said, we feel that there will be no return to pre-pandemic levels of interest in physical events and that digital events – perhaps in the metaverse – are the way forward for many brands.
- Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing media, including Press, TV, and Magazine, tend to be costly, and their consumption has steadily been declining as digital channels become more and more prevalent. Opting for one of these strategies, therefore, must be well-researched to justify the expenditure, and to understand why it is necessary in terms of a return for it to be worthwhile. It is also very dependent upon audience. For example, if you are targeting an older audience, who are less engaged in the digital world and social media, reaching them through traditional channels may still be the most effective strategy for your business.
Out-of-home (OOH) marketing is another ‘traditional’ marketing technique, comprising of billboards and advertising in public spaces, for example on the tube or sides of buses. Although this can be an expensive media, it often has the benefit of having a captive audience, particularly in large cities. It can also have an interactive dimension, which creates an immediate engagement between consumer and brand, and can form a foundation for digital campaigns.
- Affiliate Marketing
This is a performance-based marketing strategy which rewards third-party publishers for supporting your brand. This is measured through leads or web traffic, and the commission paid to the affiliates incentivises them to promote your company. This can come with side benefits, as links from other websites to yours also improve your SEO, and, if potential customers find you through a source they trust, they are more likely to trust you by extension. Plus, you only pay for results, so it is the ultimate win-win.
PR is an effective way for start-ups and SMEs to gain traction and exposure quickly, particularly when a campaign or project is particularly emotive or disruptive in character. It can help to shape public perception of your brand as set out in your brand values and philosophy. PR is probably the best way in many respects for many small businesses to gain traction quickly. It is also easier said than done, so it is really important to think about why certain activities are good strategies for your business, rather than taking a formulaic approach that rapidly eats up lots of resource without delivering the goals you are after (such as press releases – these sound good, but they only work if they are well-thought out and form part of a more holistic publicity strategy).
Keep It Up
Although continually raising the profile of your brand and its campaigns is important, the final phase of an effective marketing plan is to maximise customer lifetime value. This is achieved through investing in long-term marketing strategies to ensure consistency and retention.
If done well, email marketing is arguably the most effective way of building and maintaining a direct relationship with your customers. By incentivising people to subscribe to mailing lists, requiring a small investment from them, you can continually direct traffic back to your website, from a pool of existing customers who already have some relationship to the brand. Email can also be used to reinforce both short and long-term goals, by directing attention to particular offers and campaigns in the short term, develop a positive relationship through customer-specific offers and bonuses, and in communicating a brand story and identity over a period of time. We highly recommend an investment in an integrated email marketing strategy using appropriate CRM software.
- Content marketing
Creating relevant content, such as blogs, videos, and audio, helps drive positive engagement with your brand, and establishes your authority in the field- a factor used by search engines to determine your relevance and value to potential customers. It can be used both to communicate a brand story and to establish a relationship of trust through being a ‘helping hand’ and a knowledgeable source for your customers to lean on. There are two core types of content – evergreen content and reactive content, each with their own benefits and relevancies to different brands. Evergreen content offers longevity, so that if you are not updating constantly, the content will not seem out of date, whereas reactive content responds to current trends and talking points, helping to drive new traffic to the website, and keeping the brand appear to be up-to-date and relevant. We suggest using a mix of the two to ensure a comprehensive and engaging content marketing plan.
Marketing strategy = commercial proposition + brand philosophy
With strategy being such a multi-faceted term, referring to a plan, a purpose, a goal and a skill required to achieve it, the definition of ‘marketing strategy’ is much broader than traditionally considered. It encompasses the groundwork that is often considered to be a precursor to marketing strategies, rather than being integral strategies within themselves. The best overall marketing strategies are firmly rooted in an understanding of your brand’s commercial proposition and its brand philosophy, fed by meaningful insights that allow you to make informed decisions that minimise risk and maximise outcome. While all of the above strategies could form part of a cohesive marketing plan for your organisation, the plan should be inherently dynamic in nature – constantly under review, and with space for adaptation throughout the implementation process. The most effective strategy is one which can adapt to shifts in the echo chamber in which you operate.
Strategic marketing planning process (SMPP)
If you are looking to enhance your existing marketing strategy, or do not yet have one in place, why not give us a call? We work with businesses to develop tailored plans using our proprietary SMPP framework, designed to make the best use of scarce resource (time and money) to achieve a desired outcome. Please get in touch at email@example.com to set up a free consultation and discuss how Abacus Marketing can help you to achieve the goals you are after.