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But Seriously, What Is A Marketing Strategy?

My co-worker, Kyle Brigham, wrote this great piece on how to start thinking about your marketing strategy. It was tear-jerkingly beautiful. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should. It’s called, “Start With a Goal, Then a Strategy: Easier Said Than Done.” It really got me to thinking, “how many times do businesses get into situations where they get too caught up in the wrong things?” The answer to that is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. I don’t even know what that number is called, but that isn’t the point. The point is, it’s a lot.

And we need to correct this issue. One way to start is by diving into the core architecture of a marketing strategy. Then, we can outline where the “doers” live, where the “thinkers” live, and the questions a business can ask themselves to find success in their strategy. Before any of that. I have one extremely important point to cover.

What Isn’t a Marketing Strategy?

In short, these things alone are not a marketing strategy:

  • Paid Search
  • Remarketing (Or any form of media placement, or email marketing)
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Content Marketing
  • A new website
  • Writing Content
  • Keywords
  • Onsite changes

None of these things are a strategy. These are facets of a strategy. In many cases they’re channels from which we will execute a strategy. If you ever ask, “What’s our strategy?” and someone responds with something like, “We get a blog, and we put content in it,” or they say, “Our strategy is to build out targeted keywords to landing pages on your site,” walk out of the room you’re in. That’s wasting time. You asked for a strategy, not the process by which you’ll execute a strategy. Everyone from the top down is accountable in the architecture of an appropriate marketing strategy.

What Is a Marketing Strategy?

Now that we know some things that aren’t a marketing strategy, we can start to architect what an actual strategy might look like.

Each level of your overall strategy should answer an important question as to how the process gets laid out. Digital marketing has created a significant problem in the nomenclature that we use to define things like a campaign, a strategy, and a channel. It’s important to understand that every strategy doesn’t require every campaign, and that every campaign doesn’t necessarily require every channel.

More times than not, I’ll find myself recommending a mix of channels to help execute a strategy which is outlined to achieve a goal. It’s also important to note that you don’t need just one goal. Sometimes, creating more micro level goals helps to construct smaller strategies that ultimately help other campaigns achieve a larger goal.

How Do We Build a Strategy?

Research, research, and more research. Every conclusion you make should be supported by data. As yourself any number of clarifying questions:

  • Why target an audience, a set of key terms, or a content theme?
  • How will those things help impact your goal?
  • Why combine various channels?
  • Will they play well together, how so?

Imagine user processes as you envision delivering a campaign to persons across many channels. What order do you want the exposure in? What’s the ideal multi-channel funnel path or a specific campaign? Some of these things can only be answered once a strategy is launched, but that’s what optimization is for! Strategists and operations can work together to optimize campaigns to achieve your goal.

Where Does Your Team Fall Into the Strategy?

It’s important to understand where your strategists and your operations teams fall into the organization of this strategy. There should be overlap, but certain layers have to have ownership.

Detailing your marketing strategy ahead of time creates accountability, references why certain decisions were made, and helps keep everyone on the same page. We need to keep taming the wild west by continuing to increase communication and accountability for all parties.

What Questions Should You Ask as the Business Leader/Client?

  • Are my strategies achieving my goal?
  • What sales information can I provide my team that can help their optimization?
  • Can I track attribution through my sales funnel?
  • Is my goal realistic based on my current website?
  • Am I accepting of new ideas to help improve user experience through my marketing strategy?

Happy strategizing everyone!

  • Digital Strategy

  • Digital Marketing

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About the author

Tom Kelly

Tom has worked in digital marketing since he started his career over a decade ago, working across the project and account side of the business.