How to Create a Killer Marketing Strategy
There is no such thing as overnight success, despite what all of the unicorn stories are positioned to sound like. Ultimately, what distinguishes a successful launch from a failure is based on two factors; 1) how well you solve your customer's problems; and 2) how visible you are to your customers in their time of need. What ultimately guarantees a successful launch is how well you maximize your marketing ROI.
Below are the key ingredients to crafting a marketing strategy that will launch your product to success.
1. Market Research
Market Research is essential for understanding the total market size, opportunity and product-market fit. This information will provide you with the full scope of how large or small the opportunity is and provide you with insight into other potential parallel areas that may be even more lucrative. Additionally, conducting Market Research will confirm that there is a demand for your product.
2. Competitor Analysis
Competitor Analysis is often overlooked, as some believe that they are disrupting a market and therefore, they don't have any competitors. However, this is often the case of "Founder's Fallacy", where you are so close to the product you are developing that you're not able to take the outsider's perspective. There will always be a competitor, as competitors are merely alternative products. For example, the competitor to the typewriter when it was first invested was pen and paper. It is important to maintain a humble view of who these competitors might be, as there will be key category cues that your customers will come to expect. These are attributes of your product that are not considered a Unique Selling Point, but rather, the basics that you product must have in order to be on par with competitors. For example, cell phones (specifically, smart phones) all have to offer apps, otherwise they are not meeting the basic needs that customers have now come to expect. Apps used to be a differentiator for Apple, however, it has now become the category norm. the iPhone can no longer merely claim "offering apps" as their Unique Selling Point.
3. Target Market
The Target Market is always a point of disagreement among founders vs. marketers. Many claim that "everybody" is their target market. However, casting such a wide net will more likely than not end up in having caught zero fish. This is because people want to be spoken to directly and they want to feel that this product was made especially for them. Furthermore, you need to have a clear idea of who that ideal customer is in order to gauge every new product development. By having this specific target market in mind, you will be able to reach that audience and contrary to popular belief, this will not result in excluding the others. You will still have other customers that are outside of your specific target market. It sounds counterintuitive, but it has been proven over and over again.
4. Customer Interviews
This is arguably the most important activity of all. You will need to speak to your customers to get to know their true pain points and desires. This is also not just a one time activity; rather, this will need to be done on a continual basis to truly be in touch with what your customers want and be able to provide them a solution they will buy. Conducting customer interviews is more than just sending out a quantitative market research survey. Customer interviews should be in-depth and use Design Thinking methodologies in order to uncover the key insights that will launch your product to success.
5. Customer Persona Profile
Marketers go as far as to create a fictional customer persona profile to humanize the target market. This could be seen as frivolous to non-marketers, however, it is an extremely important exercise. The reason is because you will need to always remember that one person you are speaking to in every method of communication and in further developing of your product offering. Without this one characterization clearly defined and in mind, your messaging and product development will risk netting zero fish.
6. Value Proposition
Your Value Proposition is equivalent to your Unique Selling Point or your Point of Differentiation. In other words, why would your customer choose your product over the alternative? What is unique that you bring to the table, that is above and beyond what is already expected in the category? Whittling it down to the one component that makes your product unique, will clarify the way you deliver this benefit to your customers.
7. Business Strategy
Before you can develop a thorough Brand Strategy, you must understand what your business goals are. Where do you envision the company to be next year, in 5 years, or in 10 years? Why does this company exist? What is the founding story? What does your company want to ultimately achieve? Another important consideration is the company's culture. Culture is often crafted from the tone from the top and therefore, leadership style becomes essential. You can read more about the top leadership qualities from a previous post, here. These fit into the company's mission and vision, which are the essential questions that need to be answered in order to craft your complete Business Strategy and ultimately, the brand that you want your company to be recognized as.
8. Brand Strategy
The Brand Strategy is the part where all of the above comes into alignment. Now that you know your company's ultimate Mission and Vision, who your specific target market is and who is your ideal customer, as well as what makes your product and company different from competitors and how that fits into the market, you will be able to develop the brand that your customers will identify with. Brand is much more than the aesthetics; brand is not just the logo and tagline. Brand is what your customers feel when they are in the presence of your product or company. A good brand is one that will make their customers feel better about themselves. Brand is more about the customers vs. the company it represents. It can be related to the common relationship saying, "She/He makes me a better person". This statement is clearly more about themselves rather than the person they are in a relationship with.
The messaging is intersection of product offering and customer demand. The sole purpose of being in business is to solve a customer's problem. Without effectively solving a problem that they have, you will not be able to keep your business going. However, the customer will not know how you truly can solve their painful problem until you are able to clearly communicate to them why they should buy your product. You may have established product-market fit, know the full scope of the opportunity that is at hand, know your customer's biggest pain points and know how you can solve them, but if you aren't able to convince them, they will not know about it.
10. Pricing, Placement & Promotion
We've already discussed Product ("the fourth 'P'"). What's left after understanding the complete picture is to put it all together in an actionable plan. Now that we know how we want to be represented to the outside world and what we will say to intrigue our ideal customer, we will need to know how much we want to price our product, where customers can find our product to purchase and what channels we will use to communicate that our product now exists.
Pricing is a science in and of itself. There are market research firms that solely perform pricing analysis. There is typically a breaking point, where the most amount of customers are willing to purchase at the highest price. If you price your product as more expensive than this sweet spot and you risk having a smaller pool of purchasers. If you price your product less expensive than this sweet spot and you could potentially be leaving money on the table, as your bottom line could have been higher without affecting total demand.
Placement is ensuring that your product is readily available to customers. Is it online? Is it at a grocery store? Is it at a mass consumer marketplace? Where does your product exist? The trick here is to know how much exclusivity you want to maintain in order to drive interest vs. how much visibility do you want to have in order to catch your customers wherever they will be? This will depend on many of the answers extracted from the above.
Promotion will be essential for getting in front of your customers so that they can know you exist. There are two types of promotion; 1) Long-term general brand building; and 2) Short-term demand generation campaigns. The first type is necessary for building your general brand presence and community. The second type is necessary for enticing spikes in purchases, frequently based on short-term discounted offers. Some examples of promotion channels are Social Media, Social Media Advertising, Google Advertising, Conferences & Events, Public Relations, Publications, or traditional marketing promotion such as TV Advertising, Billboards, Physical material handouts (for example, pamphlets or flyers), Branded Giveaways, etc.
11. Marketing Funnel & KPIs
To optimize purchasing, you must understand the journey that your customer will take from initial communication to the final purchasing and using of your product. This journey is converted into the Marketing Funnel, which is often depicted as an upside-down triangle. The aim of this exercise is to illustrate the process of which potential customers get converted to true customers. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essential in this process, as we will need to know what are our ultimate goals to measure success? Is it to increase website traffic? Monthly Active Users? Make their first purchase? Make a second purchase? There are many possibilities for which to measure success, and this will certainly change over time as your company grows.
The key to growth is often in strategic partnerships. These can be either in the form of an Advisory Board or even Corporate Partnerships.
13. Marketing N12M Budget and Forecast Plan
Now that you have a sense of what are the marketing activities that you want to pursue in order to market your product/company, you will need to implement these into a budget and forecast plan. This will be essential for predicting how much to invest on each activity as well as forecasting the return you expect. With this plan, you will be able to monitor all activities to maximize ROI.