Strategy: Is it long? Is it complicated? Is it boring? Is it a specialist skill? Is it really necessary?
Let's be honest, unless you're a bit of a marketing geek like I am, then who really wants to write a marketing strategy?
What is a marketing strategy anyway?
Firstly, it doesn't have to be long, but it does have to be done.
If a 4-page Word document works for you, then make it a 4-page document. If you prefer to have something written on paper, then write it on paper. If you prefer to have an Excel document and write a section per tab, get on Excel.
Even if it starts as an A3 doodle, better you do it your own way and use it, than do it somebody else's way and never bother to look at it again.
But let me tell you one thing, I promise you if you do not take even one or two hours to write a strategy, you will be missing a trick. Writing a strategy is golden 'thinking time'. It forces you to sit and consider what's going on around you, how you can stand out and how you can reach the right consumers.
A goal that is not written down is merely a wish, after all. Same thing with strategy. You might think you know where you're going, but how often does an idea or picture in your head translate into concrete action and achievements without writing it down?
So, what are you supposed to write in a marketing strategy?
Imagine you are going on holiday and planning what to do and see. If you're a planner like me, you'll look up articles or get a guidebook with information on various topics. Your marketing strategy is your guidebook.
Your guidebook tells you all the essential things you need to know in sections, with the choice to read more under headings.
All your strategy needs to do is tell you: this is what you want to do; this is what your world looks like; this is how you can fit into that world; therefore these are the activities you need to do.
Breaking that down a little further...
What you want to do. AKA: Mission, vision, elevator pitch and goals
This is a short and straight-forward explanation of what you do and what you want to achieve.
Keep goals simple and keep them to a small number, otherwise there's too much to track and it's not great for your morale.
Create an over-arching 12-month goal, which you can break down into quarterly goals. It's easier to keep on top of what's going on on and how you're progressing if you're working to a goal no more than three months ahead.
What your world looks like AKA: Market research
As a minimum, this includes a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, competitor analysis and an outline of your target audience and any segments within that.
How you can fit into that world AKA: Product, Price, Place and Brand
Following your market research, you should then be able to establish a clear vision of your place within the market.
How your product / service stands out with a unique selling point (USP), how you are priced in comparison, where you will sell i.e. which distribution channels, and what your brand is - how people think and feel about your business.
Activities you need to do AKA Marketing channels and campaigns
Depending on what your world looks like, who you're targeting and through which sales, channels, you'll want to create your own 'itinerary' for marketing. One that works for you.
Don't confuse campaigns with strategy. A campaign is a shorter-term hook to lead people to you.
Don't forget to review your trip. AKA Measurement
Another yawn. But once again, this doesn't have to be too time consuming. You just have to know if you've reached goals or not and therefore are closer to your businesses' mission and vision.
Take the time to go over your strategy once a quarter to check whether it still feels right, given what you have learnt over the previous three months. Again, it doesn't have to take long, but it is worth doing.
Your marketing plan is your map.
A marketing plan should be an easy to follow, single-page document that holds all of the what and when. The plan is all about the doing!
Within your plan, you should be able to view all marketing channels with actions you will take and when underneath these.
You should also include a handy timeline of important dates within your plan to make sure you don't miss an opportunity e.g. World Chocolate Day, BBC Good Food Show, National Farmer's Day. At the very least, this is a good idea for content inspiration if ever you're stuck.
If you're interested to know more about building a marketing strategy, take a look at my strategy planning services.