Why you need a marketing strategy (seriously)


Why you need a marketing strategy (seriously)

Marketers are doers by nature. We get it. You don’t want to sit around and talk about what you’re going to do – you want to jump right in and do it. 

But before you leap into action, you need a marketing strategy. It’ll cost you some work on the front end, but it will save you headaches and money in the long run. And it truly will lead to better results. 

First, let’s start with some definitions. We’re going to talk about marketing strategies and marketing plans, and while people tend to use those words interchangeably, they really are different. Think of it like this: 

A marketing plan is your what. What specific actions are you going to take to achieve your goals and objectives?

And a marketing strategy is the why behind your what. What kind of customer experience are you trying to create across all your products, channels and touchpoints, and how do you define who your customer is as part of that?

A marketing strategy is a long-term document, often used for several years or even longer. 


It starts with research

Each strategy will be different, but the process tends to start with some form of market research and competitor and customer analysis. Then, there are some traditional outputs, including customer personas, the buyer journey and brand voice, tone and standards. 

Customer personas and the buyer journey tell you what types of people make up your customer base. How do they think and where do they spend their time? These are especially important as employees cycle in and out of your organization, because you won’t lose any institutional knowledge of who your customers are and how you communicate with them. 

Brand voice, tone and standards tell you how your organization looks and sounds. Are you professional and buttoned-up or are you more laid back? Do you use stock photography or do you prefer action shots of your actual customers? It could be something as simple as whether you use contractions in advertising. 

“People tend not to think about these sorts of things,” said Oodle Partner Mark Hughes, “but it can cause real friction along the way when people aren’t on the same page.” 


The plan: turn-by-turn directions

Once you have your larger marketing strategy, you can create your marketing plan. Each plan will include objectives, goals, audience and KPIs. 

Objectives are at the top. Maybe you want to grow brand awareness, for example. 

Then, under each objective, you’ll list goals to help you get there. If your objective is to grow brand awareness, one of your goals might be to grow remarketing audiences over a 6-month campaign. Each objective can have multiple goals to back it up. 

From there, each goal has an audience – who are you talking to? – and broad-strokes KPIs for how you’ll measure success. It’s important to lay out the KPIs upfront so everyone has the same definitions of success and failure.  

“This is a document that, if you reference it often, can become your guiding principle that says whether you should do something or not,” Hughes said. “Does it satisfy this objective or one of these goals? And if the answer is no, you probably shouldn’t spend any effort on it.” 


Remember to be realistic.

It’s tempting to go all-out with a marketing strategy and plan – to aim as high as you possibly can – but remember to keep in mind the dynamics of your organization as a whole. 

“I can’t emphasize this enough,” Hughes said. “Part of your marketing strategy is being realistic about your organization’s willingness to adopt your strategy. If you have an organization that will not tolerate a multi-year website renovation – they just won’t – don’t plan for that. If you have an organization that is very risk-averse and isn’t willing to commit to 12-month results, I wouldn’t go super deep with a strategy that involves a whole lot of SEO.”

But remember, even if you can’t do everything you want, you should still do something. 

“Any strategy is better than no strategy,” said Oodle Partner Ryan Hughes. “If you just sit in a room for half an hour with the key constituents and write down on a piece of paper where you’re going and who you believe your personas are, that’s better than nothing.”


Learn more about marketing strategies by listening to Ep. 2 – WTF Is A Marketing Strategy.