Shouting into the void: Marketing without a strategy


“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it's about deliberately choosing to be different.”  

— Michael Porter

Marketing isn't everyone's cup of tea. And as valid as this feeling is, it doesn’t take away from the fact that marketing is an essential part of doing business.

Maybe you're offering a new service, or maybe you want to bring in more clients who can't access what you’re offering without first knowing about you. Whatever the reason might be, at some point, marketing will come up.

Faced with demands and a huge amount of competing information online, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start.

You know other companies book radio ads, and that your competitor has an active Facebook page. So you start buying ads in the local paper. You create a Twitter account and post a couple of tweets here and there when you think of it. Maybe you branch out and update your website, adding a page or two with some more information.

A few months in you start to wonder, has anyone seen it? Are you getting results? Are they the results you actually want?

The well-known "Rule of Seven" in marketing is that your audience needs to hear or see your message at least seven times before they act.

With the introduction of the internet, social media, and smartphones, we are more connected than ever. There is more and more information flooding our senses every minute of every day, and we have to work to pick out what's relevant and what isn't all day, every day.

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”  

— Gertrude Stein

As a business, when you’re trying to market your services or products, you’re competing with the whole of the internet for your customers’ attention. Doing so effectively — that is, catching their eye seven times in interesting ways — simply requires you to be strategic.

Spending time and money on marketing without a strategy is akin to yelling into a void. You're just hoping that someone hears you (let alone listen to you), but chances are, all you’re getting back is the sound of your own echo.

A well-crafted, well-executed marketing strategy establishes awareness, recognition, and trust between you and your clients.

“Success is 20% skills and 80% strategy. You might know how to succeed, but more importantly, what’s your plan to succeed?”

 —  Jim Rohn

At Last Draft, we know that strategy is the key to success for our clients. This is what we’ve learned:

Set goals

Setting goals is an essential aspect of developing a strategy. It's hard to know how to get somewhere if you don't know where you're going, just as it's hard to tell if you're successful if you don't have anything to measure against.

The key to goal setting when developing a marketing strategy is to create SMART goals. SMART goals are:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant, and

  • Time-Bound

For example, having a goal to "increase Instagram followers" is a fine overarching target, but to make them SMART, you need to be more specific, assessable, realistic, applicable to your overall plan, while also laying out a timeline for success. A better goal would be to "increase the number of Instagram followers located in the southwestern Ontario region by 20% in the next two months."

Learn about your audience

Once you know where you want to go, it's important you know who you want to reach. This will determine what you say and where you say it.

Do some research on who your audience is and how you can best reach them. Look at your social media analytics, survey your current customers, read up on census data in your neighbourhood – do everything you can to narrow in on the specifics of who you’re talking to. Use that information to determine the best way to reach them. Are they millennials on Instagram? Baby boomers on Facebook? Commuters seeing billboards or bus ads? Knowing your audience will help you decide which channels to choose.

Develop key messaging

In order for your audience to see, identify, and, most importantly, remember your content, it's vital to develop consistent marketing.  

If your marketing focuses on one service or product, come up with a handful of variations to share that message. You don't want to be boring, but you want to stay on message!

“Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers.”

— Elizabeth Arden

Include easy to follow calls-to-action, such as "visit our website" or "buy your tickets today!" You’ve intrigued them with your messaging, now make it easier for them to know what to do next.

Create a plan

You have your goals. You have your key messaging. You know who your audience is… now what?

Put it all together in a strategic marketing plan. Do some research to determine what channels your audiences are using and how to best reach them. Figure out your budget and what marketing tools you can access within that limit. Determine the timeline for your plan. Attach each idea to a goal. Add in who will be responsible for what part of the marketing.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Most importantly, include a schedule. Having a plan is all well and good, but if you're not sure when or how you're going to execute it, it's never going to move forward.

Assess, assess, assess!

And last, but most definitely not least – build assessment into your plan. A strategy isn't complete unless you have a plan for evaluation. Assessing your marketing is also where setting SMART goals will come in handy. Did you meet the 20% increase in Instagram followers in the timeframe you set out? Did website visits increase? Did you meet your goals? Why or why not? Include an assessment of the marketing campaign and use that to improve future marketing practices!

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”  

— John Wanamaker

It's time to stop yelling into the abyss.

Work with Last Draft to develop a strategy that will lead to real, valuable conversation with both existing and potential clients.

Laura Thorne