In the previous post in this series about how to be more strategic, we talked about how you need to understand your market (including your competitors), customers (including using buyer personas and understanding the triggers behind decision making). We also looked at how you also need to conduct a thorough analysis of your organisation. Today we will spend a bit more time thinking about your business, and then go over the main channels that you can use to take your message to the marketplace.
Vision, strategy and objectives
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses following a SWOT analysis is all very well, but you need to go a bit further than that. When running any kind of business, it is important to have a clear vision. Who do you want to be? What is your top priority? Where do you want to go? Your vision will inform your strategy, which is a more pragmatic approach to what you are aiming for. What problems do you solve? What products or service do you offer?
Next, establish your goals. What is it that you want to achieve? You need to be as specific as possible. The goals will help you determine whether your strategy has been successful. And they don’t have to be written on stone: it may be that after the first three months you decide to change them because they are unrealistic after all, or the opposite, they do not present a significant challenge.
Marketing strategy and integrated tactics
Now that you have done some thinking, it’s time to get down and dirty with the actual tactics. In a world where online and offline often mix, you have to make sure that your tactics are integrated. In other words, you must have a unified brand, message and look and feel for all your channels, regardless of whether your clients come into contact with your business on the internet or in the real world.
For example, let’s suppose a potential client meets you at a conference, then accepts your invitation to connect on LinkedIn, then reads an article on your blog via a link on your social profile, then bumps into you again at a networking event. Their perception of who you are as an individual and a representative of your business should be seamless, regardless of how they have interacted with you.
At the same time, understand that the internet has substantially changed how people buy, and that online is increasing in importance. For example, regarding the customer journey, clients are likely to contact you much further down the funnel. A few years ago, clients got in touch after discovering that they had a problem. These days, the majority will send you an enquiry after doing some research, meaning that they are much savvier by the time you speak to them, and you need to be prepared for this.
The other side of the coin is that, when clients contact you, they most of the time they already know who you are and have looked you up online. All in all, a powerful incentive to make you revise your online presence and how it ties in with your personal brand.
Types of channels
When it comes to taking your message to the marketplace, there are three main types of channels that you can use to connect with your potential audience: paid, owned and earned.
Owned channels the ones that a brand directly controls, such as its website, blog or social media accounts. Their role is to build long-term relationships with existing and potential customers and in media, and they can be cost-efficient to run, as well as offering longevity and versatility. However, it can take time to build them, and they offer no guarantees, and moreover, they are not necessarily trusted by target audiences.
Paid (or bought) channels
Paid channels are the ones that brands use in exchange for payment. Typical examples are advertising, paid search or sponsorships, and their role is to amplify the brands’ message to support the owned channels and ideally influence earned channels positively. They offer immediacy, control and the possibility to scale, but they offer declining response rates as audiences perceive them as clutter. They also have poor credibility with buyers.
Earned channels are often the result of well-executed and coordinated campaigns using owned and paid channels. They happen when customers become the channel, and typically involve word of mouth and even viral responses. Earned channels are the most credible and are seen as transparent, and typically have a role of some description in most sales. For brands, the minus side of earned channels is that they have no control over it, it can be negative and get out of hand, and it’s hard to measure.
Next time we will look at the more practical aspects of using bought, paid and earned channels. Until then, happy marketing!