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7 Ways to Know You Need a Marketing Strategy

Ever have that nagging feeling you’ve forgotten something?

Your wallet’s there. So are your keys. You remembered to pay the electric bill… and your employees. You even remembered to water the poor, beleaguered office plant. So what could it be?

Could it be you’ve forgotten to develop a marketing strategy?

Merriam-Webster defines strategy as:


noun strat·e·gy \-jē\

1) a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time

2) the skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal

Marketing without a strategy is like going grocery shopping without a list. Sure, you might be able to cobble a respectable dish or two together from your random results. But you know the other nights you’ll be left staring confusedly into your refrigerator, wondering how the heck you’re supposed to cook dinner using chocolate syrup, frozen corn, and sour cream.

In other words, it’s one thing to be able to say, “yes, we grocery shopped!” and it’s another to actually generate high-quality results with those groceries. And the same goes for your marketing: posting on social platforms, building a few landing pages, or sending out emails to customers might make you feel like you’re really getting stuff done. But while checking off boxes on your marketing to-do may be satisfying, checking off boxes alone doesn’t automatically generate successful results.

Having a good strategy can help you with this.

A good marketing strategy connects the dots. A good marketing strategy gives meaning to tasks. A good marketing strategy provides you with a plan to fall back on. A good marketing strategy helps you find your way back when things take a wrong turn. A good marketing strategy takes the long view, allowing room for change and growth.

A good marketing strategy is much, much more than merely getting stuff done.

Not sure where your strategy stands? Here are a few good clues it still needs work:

You’re juggling one ball at a time.

Increasing newsletter signups. Boosting online sales. Deepening social engagement. These are great marketing goals (balls?) to have, but if you’re always setting one down to pick up the next, then you’re never really getting anywhere with them. A strategy can help you stop working in fits and starts and start getting all of the balls — er, goals — spinning triumphantly through the air at the same time.

Your messaging is inconsistent at best.

An unfortunate side effect of only focusing on one thing at a time, inconsistent messaging can range from using different tones/voices across various channels to promoting different key benefits from one piece of collateral to another. Whatever it is, it all adds up to a weak signal for your brand — and total confusion for your customers. And speaking of customers…

You couldn’t pick your customer persona out of a lineup.

A customer persona is a profile of your ideal target market, sometimes broken down further into subset personas. For example, if your primary audience is mothers aged 35-50, then your personas may consist of executive/career moms, stay-at-home moms, single moms, and so on. Each of these personas has unique needs, and if you aren’t speaking directly to them, they could very well stop listening to you altogether.

Take the time to sit down with your personas and really get to know them. This will help you be better informed about every part of your strategy moving forward.

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Your team is constantly putting out fires.

If everything is a 5-alarm blaze, then that means you’re paying attention to campaigns only when they need to be rescued from the brink of disaster. And while being short-staffed can definitely send you into 24/7 emergency mode, a strategy can still provide key guidance in what to prioritize before it becomes a priority.

You have no tracking in place…

Think websites, social engagement, landing page buttons, email links — any action taken on the part of your customer.  Tracking isn’t strategy per se but it’s an important tool to help guide and evolve your strategy over time. If you’re not tracking, you’re not collecting any data on your most important asset: your customer.

…and no way to analyze the data.

Unless you’re an Excel spreadsheet whiz — and major props if you are — you’re going to need some kind analytics assistance, most likely in the form of marketing software that can help you identify and make sense of data commonalities, discrepancies, and trends. Because otherwise all that juicy data you’re collecting is only going to sit around collecting dust.

You’re not conducting any research, testing, or feedback.

Where are you staying on track? Where are you straying? You may have some ideas, but you’ll never truly know unless you ask. Feedback of any kind is like a performance review for your brand, or at least a wellness check. From A/B testing of callout copy to customer round tables and surveys, make sure you’re giving your brand every opportunity to improve itself — and acting on it.

If any of the above sounds familiar to you, then it may be time to fix your strategy. But don’t worry — since your strategy acts as your brand compass, it’s an investment truly worth your time.

And if you need help sorting out where to get started, consider calling in a professional — we happen to know someone (ahem).

Happy strategizing!

Image credit: “Drawing the constellations” by Flickr user skinnyandy

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