How to Create a Complete Marketing Strategy

Feature image for How To Create a Digital Strategy

Actually, we kind of lied in this title.

The notion of a marketing strategy ever being “complete” is false.

Although you’ll want this working document to be well formatted and ready to show any internal stakeholder, the content of a marketing strategy is bound to change over time.

What we mean by a complete marketing strategy is a strategy that encompasses all the marketing activities your business carries out. These activities include digital marketing and any traditional marketing you might engage in.

Plus, it includes managerial-level information about your marketing, like your budget and team structure.

You might show a more “incomplete” version of this strategy to your team that includes the bare essentials like your marketing goals, marketing channels and activities.

What Is a Marketing Strategy?

We’ve already explained what a digital marketing strategy is in the previous session. A marketing strategy then is a broader version of this.

Most people interchange the phrases ‘marketing strategy’ and ‘marketing plan’ as this activity refers to the essential preparation that happens before any major campaign.

Some companies claim a plan and a strategy are different. At least in terms of marketing.

HubSpot says a strategy is about how you’re going to achieve a goal while a plan is a place to house several strategies, whether that be a social media, content or SEO strategy.

Basically, a marketing plan is more of an executive summary of your marketing department. This is the type of overarching document we’re talking about in this session, as opposed to a standalone content strategy (which we’ll move onto in our next session).

Infographic showing definition of what is a marketing strategy

Marketing Strategy Examples

Are you still feeling a little unsure about what a marketing strategy is?

Maybe looking at some real-life examples will help.

Before that, here’s a quick note about the 4 Ps.

As an established marketer, you’ll be well-versed with the 4P’s — product, price, place and promotion — so we won’t waste your time explaining them here.

But their existence as key marketing principles does help to visualise the content of a marketing plan that can be structured in this way.

To make a marketing strategy that will stand the test of time, you will need to consider these four factors carefully.

You might think a marketing strategy is simply the promotion section of the 4P’s yet you’d be wrong.

Product, price and place are crucial in understanding how to promote effectively.

So, a marketing strategy encompasses all of these. Thinking about price, product and place in terms of real-life marketing campaigns will make spotting and creating marketing strategies a little bit easier.

We have an entire page dedicated to digital marketing strategy examples, but for now, we’ll just share some of our favourites:

1. Gymshark

As an e-commerce store, Gymshark inevitably focuses on its website as a key digital marketing channel. This focus has a lot to do with GymShark’s product and its place, which is largely online.

However, a key part of the brand’s marketing strategy takes place away from its website — on social media. This has a little bit to do with Gymshark’s product, as clothing brands tend to thrive on platforms like Instagram. But most of it is to do with Gymshark’s price. As an affordable gym wear brand, Gymshark targets impulsive shoppers on social platforms who are impressionable and influenced by sponsored athletes.

Gymshark’s marketing strategy is so effective because it takes the 4P’s into account. Leaning on this concept, the brand wasn’t afraid to take influencer marketing to the next level where sponsorships are treated with more weight, as Gymshark begins to build a “family” online.

2. Apple

Apple’s marketing strategy is a huge topic to cover. In this section, we’ll only be able to skim the surface. So, let’s think back to Apple’s most compelling campaigns.

Despite being a brand that sells digital products, Apple has adopted a controversial method when it comes to place, as most of Apple’s high-level marketing is done offline — either on TV or on billboards.

This marketing has got a lot to do with Apple’s large price tag, which could be a key objection to the brand. In its marketing, Apple attempts to match the sheer size of its price with its promotion by creating enormous billboards and global campaigns like its ongoing “shot on iPhone” advertisement.

3. Exposure Ninja

There’s no other marketing strategy we know better than our own. We don’t sell products; rather we sell services, meaning a lot of our promotion is about information-giving. We need to show our audience we know our stuff with our marketing strategy.

We’re a company that has no place. Literally — we have zero office space. As such, the majority of our marketing is done on the web (minus the occasional event we attend).

When it comes to price, we know we’re targeting business leaders and marketing managers. That’s why we focus on channels that are convenient for these types of people like podcasts and YouTube, where people can multitask while listening.

How to Write Your Own Marketing Strategy Step-By-Step

Now you’ve seen a few examples, it’s time to write your marketing strategy using similar logic.

Step #1 — Review the 4P’s

Look at the 4P’s in the context of your business. More accurately, look at the first three P’s to inform the last P — promotion.

This is the stuff that you know for sure.

For example, you might know your product is dental services while your price is affordable and you’re placed in South West London. Suddenly, your promotional options just got a bit clearer.

If you pick PPC, you’ll want to bid on long-tail keywords like “affordable dental services in South West London” and if you choose influencer marketing, you’ll want to find people close to the city.

Reviewing the 4P’s adds some necessary structure to your marketing strategy and offers up some initial ideas. Think of this first step as a spider diagram or a brainstorming board.

Step #2 — Think of Your Customer

Once you have four or five key marketing ideas in the air, you’ll want to vet these against your ideal customer.

Would an online personality influence your ideal customer? Do they look at ads in the tube station? How likely is it they’ll impulse purchase your product? Or do they often purposefully look for your services by typing them into search?

At this stage, you’ll dismiss bad ideas and suitable ideas can be popped into an imaginary “maybe” pile.

If you’re struggling to answer some of your questions about your customer, you might want to draft a quick customer persona in HubSpot’s “Make My Persona.”

Screenshot of Hubspot's Buyer Persona Tool

Step #3 — Consider the Competition

There’s a good reason why we positioned the research module before the strategy sessions. You’ll need the results of your competitor analysis to reference before you make any solid marketing plans.

Consider all of these scenarios:

  • You miss out on a key marketing activity that all of your competitors are doing
  • You run the risk of doing exactly the same thing as your main competitor
  • You neglect opportunities to do something different that no one else has

Outperforming your competition relies on all of these factors. So, make sure you don’t get FOMO, look like a total sheep or fail to differentiate.

Step #4 — Claim Your USP

Leading on from the last step, you’ll want to steal the opportunity to be different than your rivals.

If you provide the same thing for less cost, give superior service or a hidden benefit, make this the mainstay in your marketing plan.

A strategy is supposed to be stealthy yet simple so that it oozes success. To do this, you’ll need to hone in on your competitive advantage.

Step #5 — Get Back to Reality

We can imagine you’re getting pretty excited about all of the tailored, differentiated marketing opportunities you’re coming up with.

Well, it’s time to get a healthy dose of realism.

This is the part where you’ll need to consider your budget and figure out what you can actually afford to do.

While you might want to communicate your USP by coordinating some extravagant flash mob or even hammer home your key message in a pricey PPC campaign, you’ll need to respect your budget first.

Step #6 — Decide Your Marketing Channels

We’ve already talked about how to choose a digital marketing channel. Put simply, you’ll need to consider your market, customer, competitor and cost. Basically, every piece of information you’ve collected in the last five steps.

Your marketing channels are the final piece of the puzzle. Once you have these, you can create tasks, assign workload and get moving.

How to Tweak a Written Marketing Strategy

Not so fast.

While your marketing strategy will be up to scratch for the time being, like most things in marketing, you’ll need to make sure it remains flexible and open to change.

It’s crucial to tweak your strategy regularly to make sure it stays relevant.

Most importantly, your marketing strategy is a plan that every person in your department works from, meaning if this is outdated, so is pretty much every activity your team is currently working on.

To tweak your marketing strategy, make sure you:

  • Review every quarter — As a general rule, you should review your marketing strategy every quarter and give it a full refresh. Sometimes marketers will create a short-term standalone plan for each quarter that feeds into the bigger picture. We do this as part of our campaign check-up and let every individual working on the campaign pitch in.
  • Make data-led decisions — If you’re thinking about changing something in your strategy, make sure you have the data to justify your decision. You should only remove something if it’s not working and add something if it seems logical to do so. Since a marketing strategy informs everything else your department will do, it’s important not to treat the creation of this document as a guessing game.
  • Periodically do research — Research is crucial in creating a marketing strategy, but it’s also important in maintaining it. Over time, your market, customer and even your competitors might change. Just before you review your strategy each quarter, it’s best practice to do some analysis and research. This will tell you if your customer’s behaviour is changing and whether there’s a new threat on the scene.
  • Look at activities, not goals — Your business goals aren’t likely to change regularly. So, make revisions easier by focusing on standalone activities. Ask yourself questions like, should I still be dedicating as much time to my blog? Is this retargeting campaign working?

Things You’ll Want to Consider When Writing a Marketing Strategy

Finally, there are a few miscellaneous items we haven’t touched on so far that will determine the outcome of your marketing strategy.

While these might not be absolute game-changers, these items are worth bearing in mind.

  • Skills Gaps — Do you have the specialisms and skills within your team to carry out the planned activities? If not, you might need to think about outsourcing, hiring and training.
  • KPIs — Have you thought about how to measure performance? You’ll need to delegate responsibility to different people and make sure you can hold them accountable for individual parts of the strategy.
  • Corporate Responsibility — Our business goals naturally dominate marketing campaigns. However, it’s now more important than ever that transparency and corporate responsibility feature on our agenda. Make a note somewhere of how you’ll communicate your company’s values within your marketing campaign.
  • External Factors — When planning for the next quarter, you’ll need to take into account any seasonal changes, major holidays, product launches and known stumbling blocks. Marketing strategies aren’t built to be conceptual. They should be practical and relative to their timeframe.

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