If you were ever exploring the idea of partnering with a marketing agency to help take your business to the next level, I’m sure you have some pretty amazing pitches and promises of success that seem too good to be true. This is an ugly stain on the marketing community. All too often, marketers over-promise and under-deliver for their clients to the point where trust breaks down and clients get burned by their marketing partners.
These types of sales tactics are bad for everyone and make it more difficult for businesses to evaluate their options for supplemental marketing services. Working for a marketing firm, I have had enough experience with clients who’ve been burned that it must be addressed.
I will start at the beginning, with what it actually takes to craft a marketing strategy for a new client. If you are in the process of evaluating marketing agencies, start with how those agencies begin their strategy. This is a great metric to judge whether or not they can deliver on their promises to you.
This is our Director of New Business, Daniel. He ensures no shady sales practices happen here!
When beginning a new working relationship with a client, we structure our marketing strategy in what we call a “roadmap.” This is a scrum/agile-based process that establishes a hierarchy of tasks to accomplish our client’s marketing goals.
The “roadmap” is the foundation of the marketing strategy and how we build out campaigns for our clients. You will want to look for some kind of structure when evaluating marketing agencies because this is paramount for a successful marketing plan.
See, as I already mentioned, most over-promise and under-deliver in the sense of they tell you “they already have it all figured out”. But that’s impossible. Your business is unique. You have unique goals and objectives. You have unique challenges. You have unique customers.
All of our roadmaps start with a blank wall. All roadmaps are 100% unique!
Our roadmap is designed in a way that we dive into those things before ever making a suggestion. It’s the same way a doctor has to understand your current situation and also take into account historical factors like family history and risk factors, in addition to what you are hoping to accomplish. Once they understand everything thoroughly, they can write a prescription.
We can’t prescribe any marketing tactics or strategies until we understand you. This is the main difference. Most claim to have your company “all figured out” and may give you some broad, blanket-based approaches, while we’ve integrated a process to give you an accurate prescription that aligns with your goals and objectives.
We start the process by understanding and outlining 4 things:
- The client’s business, their goals and objectives
- Any risks or open issues
- Any critical behaviors that need to happen on either side of the relationship.
So now we know to look for a system or structure that a marketing agency needs to implement in order to be successful in strategizing your marketing plan. What’s necessary to actually begin to build the marketing plan on that system? The next steps in this process are crucial and what many marketing agencies skip or neglect.
The concept is simple. In order to be a successful marketer, you must have an intimate relationship with the audience you are trying to reach. Here are a few key methods to building a relationship with your audience that your marketing agency should be doing before starting your marketing strategy.
Start with the Competition
Before starting to craft a marketing plan it’s good to dive into what is currently happening in the market. Identifying three to five competitors and reviewing their marketing activities will show you what works and what doesn’t work. This type of evaluation will also reveal holes in the market that you can fill, giving you an edge over your competitors.
Alex hard at work on roadmap prep!
Doing your due diligence and reviewing all activities including keyword research, website audits, advertising audits that include Google, Facebook, and other social media platforms, advanced content creation like e-books, guides, and infographics, video marketing activities, and SEO ranking will give you a comprehensive understanding of how your competition is performing and how you can beat them.
You should organize and document your findings in one place so that you can reference this information while building your marketing plan. If you are dealing with an agency that doesn’t prioritize competitor research, take this a red flag.
Craft Buyer Personas
The next step before building a marketing strategy is to identify who the target audience is through crafting buyer personas.
Buyer personas: Semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers
Buyer personas are extremely important for a successful marketing campaign because they inform marketers what your potential customers want, need, fear, and how they like to buy. These buyer personas are representations of your target audience and thus become the standard with which marketers evaluate campaign strategies, messaging, and promotional vehicles. Without proper buyer persona research and development, marketers are essentially just guessing. You don’t want to waste your time or money on a guess.
To build a buyer persona you need to interact with customers who have already bought your product or service and hear them speak about their experiences. You will need to identify their industry, project needs, pain points, decision criteria, evaluation process, buying style, and what constitutes success for them. Take a deep dive into building buyer personas here.
Look in the Mirror
The last step before crafting marketing strategy is to reflect on what you or your business is currently doing. You must identify what currently works for you and what doesn’t work. You need to look at your current marketing activities, your website, social media platforms, sales process, and customer service strategies.
When hiring a marketing agency, they should be adamant about diving as deeply as possible into your business context to understand how to position you for the future and for success.
Filling out an in-depth questionnaire and having a business context meeting is usually a good starting point. You will want to share information about your sales cycle and process, the value of a new customer, your customer services processes, your financial and abstract business goals, and what budgets you can work with.
This is what a finalized roadmap looks like!
The next step is to conduct a thorough analysis of your business in a similar fashion as the competitor research above. You want to get a full understanding of your past and current marketing activities, your website, your advertising campaigns, SEO activities, email marketing, and your sales process. This will identify holes in your marketing that you can focus on fixing as well as where you are successful.
In summary before crafting a new marketing strategy you will need to do the following:
- Complete competitor research to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competition and find holes in the market that you can target.
- Understand your buyers buy creating buyer personas. Through buyer persona research you will be able to craft marketing strategies and messages that your target audience wants and needs to hear. This will produce better results and focus your efforts on the things your customer wants or needs.
- Reflect and understand your business and your goals. Audit your own business and marketing practices along with setting goals for your marketing strategy. This will help you to find your weaknesses and strengths so that you can build a marketing plan that takes into consideration what you lack and where you’re strong. This will also help you to fine tune your goals so that they are measurable and you can set realistic KPIs.
If you are speaking with marketing agencies, make sure they are ready to conduct around 100 hours of in-depth research that covers all of the angles we discussed above. If not, they might be guessing and you don’t want to bet on that with your business.