Strategy first • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Strategy first

Define ideal prospects, key points of differentiation before committing to specific marketing tactics

Troy Linker
Troy Linker

Marketing can feel like throwing a dart at a dartboard. You rarely hit a bull’s-eye, even a slight miss can dramatically impact your score, and too often, your throw misses the board entirely.

Implementing marketing tactics like social, email, ads, sponsorships, etc., that don’t support an overall marketing strategy feels like playing darts blindfolded. You don’t know which way to throw your dart, and even if you are lucky enough to hit something, you have no idea if you scored any points.

Strategy is often missing from marketing planning because it is confused with tactics, goals, missions and objectives. Tactics get the lion’s share of the attention with most marketing articles focusing their advice on ads, sponsorships, endorsements, email campaigns, media outreach, websites, testimonials, referrals and case studies.

Becoming an industry thought leader isn’t a strategy—it’s an objective. Serving customers with respect and integrity isn’t a strategy—it’s a mission. Growing sales in a new market isn’t a strategy—it’s a goal.

So what is a strategy? A marketing strategy defines your ideal prospect and identifies and communicates critical points of differentiation between you and your competitors. It is an explanation of your plan to reach your objectives. Your strategy is how you are going to get there, not what or where “there” is.

Decide who matters

Marketing pieces that don’t speak to their intended audience lack focus. Using an ideal prospect profile as the basis of your strategy helps ensure your marketing is targeted to your ideal prospect. Who is an ideal prospect? For existing businesses, start with your ideal customers. Sort your customers by most profitable, most sales or anything else that makes sense for your business. Look for customers who want and value your product/service. Use these customers as a model to create a profile of your ideal prospect. Each profile includes a simple paragraph or two that describes your prospect as if they are sitting across from you. Include a demographic description, an explanation of what they want, a description of their problem(s), an understanding of how they buy and the best way to communicate with them in each profile.

Be different

By default, most prospects think that your business is different from the other providers in your industry. An essential part of your marketing strategy is identifying and communicating a simple idea or position that makes your business different from the rest of the market in your ideal prospect’s mind. The difference needs to be in the way you sell your service, the way you package your product, the way you do business or your ability to transform the lives of your prospects.

Quality, excellent service and a fair price aren’t compelling differentiators—they are expectations. Being different for difference sake isn’t enough to separate you from your competitors. The only persuasive difference is one that is valued by your ideal prospects.

Without a blindfold and with a little practice, even inexperienced marketers can hit a few bull’s-eyes and win more than they lose.

Click here to read more from the June-July 2019 issue of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine.


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