Stefano Maifreni is founder and director of business growth specialist Eggcelerate. In this guest post, he gives four easy-to-follow steps for crafting a solid marketing strategy and avoiding the pitfalls.
Giving birth to a new product can feel awesome. You’re full of pride as your idea comes to life, passes important tests and gets ready for the big wide world. But your product needs a partner, someone who will help your product to blossom. As a proud parent, you want the best. So when a flashy individual called marketing steps out from the shadows, you might have mixed feelings.
Love it or hate it, marketing is essential. It translates great products into great sales.
But few SMEs have a chief marketing officer. Often, it’s the owner or managing director who decides what approach to take – or maybe it’s the sales manager?
If you’re about to launch a new product, you’ve most likely set aside some funds for marketing. But maybe you’re not sure what to do next, and everyone wants your money. Some may even promise instant results.
It’s wise to be very cautious about what you spend – and how you spend it. Things can go horribly and expensively wrong, and the reputation of both your product and company are on the line.
Here are some helpful principles for getting it right.
Hold yourself back – think strategy first
In some ways, marketing has never been easier. Making announcements on Facebook and Twitter means you can start promoting your new product within seconds of reading this blog. You can send emails to a list of targets in moments. Then there’s pay-per-click, print advertising, trade shows, websites and much more.
No-one likes to curb enthusiasm. But don’t start marketing your product before you’ve developed your strategy and your ‘story’. Without this, you’ll waste budget, get poor results and your stress levels will rocket.
Good marketing is based on solid products, backed by promises that enhance your reputation.
I’d even go as far as to say that a marketing strategy is as important as a business plan. In fact, it’s the client-facing, flip-side of your business plan. You have to tell your story to clients, explaining why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. Work out the problems your product solves for clients.
This isn’t ‘fluffy’ stuff. Marketing is about aligning resources across your company (from sales to operations) to gain new clients, solving those clients’ issues and making them happier. Recognise the need for a strategy, and find someone to help who specialises in business growth and marketing for smaller companies.
Fine-tune your proposition
With your new product ready for market, you’ve probably got some good ideas about messaging, approaches and target clients. This is all helpful. But you may be so close to your product that you miss something obvious. Also, if your main job isn’t marketing, then there may be some tricks of the trade that you just don’t know about.
If you rush in, there’s a risk your marketing will be off-balance, miss the target and confuse the marketplace. You’ll be in a worse state than when you started.
A business growth specialist can help you assess your goals and business model, give you a snapshot of the industry you’re trying to disrupt, position you apart from your competitors, assess your current and future capabilities, and find the best marketing approach. They can also define your ideal clients, and show you how to segment and target your client base.
With a few simple guidelines, a specialist can help fine-tune the full marketing mix: your proposition, pricing, messaging and timescales.
Find the best way to execute your plan
Once you have your marketing message honed, how will you reach potential clients? Again, a business growth specialist can help you find answers to the questions you might face, such as:
- What sort of campaigns do you need?
- How can you position yourself in the minds of prospects?
- How can you deal with any obstacles or objections they raise?
- What marketing channels should you use?
This last question should provoke a discussion about your content strategy, which is more important than a social media strategy or any other marketing discipline. A content strategy looks at the big picture and establishes how your core messaging can stay consistent and undiluted as it cascades down into marketing channels, such as social media, websites, public relations, events, videos, blogs and more.
Get creative, make it happen
This is the fun bit. As CEO or senior manager of a start-up or a small business, you are an all-rounder and want to get involved. However, at some point, the workload will force you to delegate, so you need the right people for the job.
Successfully delivering a marketing strategy is like winning gold medals in several disciplines at the Olympics: it takes more than one individual. To deliver a great marketing strategy, you should find someone who can put together a team of gold medal winners.
In marketing, business growth specialists are usually available as freelancers. They need to be given some bandwidth to unleash their creativity, while staying tightly coordinated.
This is why it’s so important that your marketing plan and content strategy are in place first. Use them to brief your designer and copywriter so they stay on-message while adding their own creative ideas. This will save time, money, mistakes and stress. Let’s call it ‘structured creativity’.
So who’s going to manage your Olympic marketing team of freelancers while liaising with you and your colleagues? Who’s able to set clear responsibilities, deadlines and milestones, and report back on a weekly basis?
It could be someone within your team already who’s developing a passion for marketing, or it could be your helpful business growth specialist. By now they’ll understand your marketing goals inside out, and you can work with them when you need to, for a few days every week or month.
Find that person and you’ll have found your ‘chief marketing officer’ or whatever you decide to call them.
You’ll see new revenues coming in, and much more time and energy to run your business.
Eggcelerate helps small and medium-sized companies expand. It provides expertise in areas such as strategy, product marketing, business development, selling across Europe or accessing additional funding. The company is based in London and works across Europe. For more details or to arrange a meeting with no obligation on you, visit their website.