Even the most fresh-faced entrepreneur will tell you that understanding marketing is one of the main keys to running a successful business.
In fact, many would argue it’s the main key for doing so.
No matter the industry, marketing is essential for:
- Building brand awareness
- Generating a buzz and increasing engagement among potential customers
- Bringing in highly-qualified leads and converting them into paying customers
Now, it’s not terribly difficult to achieve the bare minimum level of success with regard to the points mentioned above.
Even new marketers can get their brand “out there,” generate a small amount of buzz and even bring in a decent amount of leads if they don’t exactly know what they’re doing.
However, this minimal amount of success pales in comparison to that which experienced marketers achieve on a routine basis.
The main difference?
Successful marketers develop and follow a documented and strategic marketing plan.
The benefits of having such a plan in place are…well…quite significant. According to data collected by CoSchedule:
- Marketers who create and document a marketing strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t.
- Marketers who create, document, and follow a specific marketing process are 466% more likely to report success than those who don’t.
- Marketers who set specific goals for their marketing plans are 429% more likely to report success than those who don’t.
- Of those that set specific marketing goals, more than four of every five marketers achieve them.
With numbers like this, it’s rather odd, then, that more than one-third of marketers don’t have any kind of marketing plan in place. And, unfortunately, even among those that do, nearly 40% of them don’t believe their strategy is all that effective.
With all of this in mind, we’re going to take a deep dive into all that developing an effective marketing strategy entails. By the end of this article, you’ll understand:
- The importance of defining customer personas
- How and why to research your competition
- How to implement the Bullseye Framework to determine the right marketing channels to focus on
- The differences between Owned, Earned, and Paid marketing channels
- The meaning of AIDA and ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu
- Why setting SMART goals is essential to the success of your marketing strategy
We’ve got a lot to cover, here. Whenever you’re ready, take a deep breath – and dive in.
You’re not here for formalities, right?
I didn’t think so.
That said, let’s get right to it.
In order to develop an effective marketing plan – that is, one that attracts high-value customers – you need to know who these individuals are in the first place.
There’s no sugarcoating it:
This step is crucial to the success of all of your marketing initiatives.
Without a true understanding of who your target customers are, you’ll have little to no idea of how to reach them. In turn, you’ll likely end up employing the “spray and pray” method of marketing, in which you haphazardly try every tactic you’ve ever heard of until you experience even the slightest amount of success.
The problems with this method are numerous – and perhaps a bit obvious:
- You’ll waste a ton of time, money, and energy trying everything under the sun in an attempt to attract anyone at all to your brand
- You won’t have a true idea of what “success” really means – since any amount of success will be preferable to no success at all
- If you do experience some level of success, you likely won’t have any idea why the tactic actually worked
On the other hand, if you know your target customers like you know your best friend (or even better than that!), it’ll be almost downright easy to figure out how to market to them.
Now, the question is:
What, exactly, should you know about your target customers?
In short: everything.
At the very least, you want to know everything you can about them as pertaining to the value you hope to provide them. Ideally, though, you want to go beyond who these individuals are as consumers, and learn about who they are as people.
For starters, you’ll want to have a firm understanding of their demographic info. This includes your target customers:
- Marital status
- Income level and/or socioeconomic status
In addition to this, you’ll want to be able to nail down their geographic data, as well – from broad to specific. How specific you get, here, depends on the scope and reach of your organization. For example, if you provide products or services to the entire US, you’ll want to narrow down your target customers by region and state; if you only cater to a specific state, you’ll want to narrow this info down to specific counties, perhaps even towns.
(Essentially, you want to determine the level of specificity that will make a difference in terms of how you market to a certain persona. In the case of a country-wide company, there’s a major difference between marketing to a Californian and a New Yorker; for a company that operates solely in New York, there’s just as big a difference between marketing to a city-dweller and an upstater.)
Another very important factor to consider is the way in which your target customer acts as a consumer. Referred to as behavioral data, this information deals with an individual’s:
- Purchasing habits
- Product/service usage habits
- Spending habits
Analyzing behavioral data is much more involved than digging up “on-paper” information like demographics and geographics.
Finally, as we alluded to earlier, you’ll want to dig into the more intimate details of your target customers’ lives – their psychographic information. Psychographic information refers to an individual’s:
- Social class
As with behavioral data, understanding and digging into psychographics is an involved process that involves many different facets of the individual’s life.
It’s important to note that gathering all of this information on your target audience isn’t simply a matter of making an educated guess or using the power of suggestion to determine certain details about them.
(Reason being, it’s incredibly easy to make assumptions that seemingly make sense on your end – but simply aren’t accurate in terms of representing your customers. For example, the notion that all 22 year old men living in Long Beach, CA have a natural affinity for surfing might sound accurate – but it’s most likely not 100% true.)
At any rate, there are a number of ways you can gather this information in order to paint a reliably accurate picture of your target customer:
- Use any and all data you have on your current customers, looking at which provide the most value to your company
- Consult your website’s analytic data to determine where your visitors live, how they’re landing on your site, and what content they engage with when they get there
- Reach out to your current customers with surveys and questionnaires to gather the more in-depth information that couldn’t possibly be discovered by assessing “on paper” metrics
Again, the more you know about who you intend to market your brand to, the better you’ll be able to do so.
But, there’s one more step to take before you begin developing a marketing strategy.
Google “Sam Walton crawling” and you’ll find a number of anecdotes about the majorly-successful founder of Walmart literally crawling on the floor of competing department stores in order to measure the width of the aisles – in an attempt to optimize his own customer’s experience.
Regardless of whether or not the story is true, the lesson to take away is that you can learn a ton about how to market to your target audience simply by looking at what your competition is doing.
By doing research on your competition, you’ll be able to:
- Understand what they’re doing right – and what they’re doing wrong
- Discover what they aren’t doing, which may lead to marketing opportunities on your end
- Gain an understanding of their customers’ level of satisfaction – and potentially capitalize on those looking for a change
As far as how to conduct this research, you have a few different options.
Perhaps the easiest way to get started is to use technology to your advantage.
The most obvious tool, in this aspect, is Google: a quick search consisting of a competing company’s name will turn up a ton of results in which you can discover the multiple platforms and channels the company uses to market its brand.
Going a bit deeper, you can also use Google Alerts and Google Trends to discover trending topics and ideas within your industry that your competitors may be focused on within their marketing initiatives.
A search for “customer surveys” on Google Trends brings up the following results.
There are a number of other tools available to help you “spy” on your competitors in a number of way. Don’t worry – they’re not illegal, unethical, or anything of the sort. The information is “out there;” these tools just make it easy to dig it all up.
You also want to check out various social media platforms in order to gain an idea of how your competitors are marketing to their target audience members.
Of course, you’ll want to visit your competing companies’ social media pages, which will likely point you to a variety of media and other such content these brands have created in order to engage their target consumers.
But you’ll also want to consider looking at pages within these social media platforms that relate to your industry and similar topics. Not only do you stand to gain information on how your competitors attempt to utilize these third-party channels, but you also stand to gain info regarding how these attempts are received by others who use these channels, as well.
Searching for “customer experience” on Twitter brings up this post shared by Richard Branson.
In similar fashion, you also want to check out reports, conferences, and trade shows hosted by your competitors and third-party entities within your industry. Through these sources, you’ll be able to gain insight into marketing initiatives that worked/didn’t work in the recent past, as well as into the industry trends most companies in your niche will be focusing on moving forward.
(Attending conferences and events also gives you the opportunity to engage with both services providers and consumers within your industry – and gain a ton of information in the process.)
Another effective way of doing research on your competition is to act as a customer of theirs. Engage with them in a variety of ways – on social media, via telephone, on their website’s live chat service, and more. Think about how they approach you as a new lead, taking note on:
- The content they point you to when you ask for more information
- The level of service they provide you as you get closer to converting
- Any “tricks of the trade” they employ to keep you moving forward in your buyer’s journey
(Note: For the purpose of learning about your competitors’ marketing strategies, there’s no need to actually purchase their products or services. However, doing so can help you learn about many other areas of the overall experience they provide their customers.)
Lastly, you’ll again want to reach out to consumers within your industry – both your own customers as well as your competitors’.
(Again, surveys and questionnaires are a great way to streamline this outreach process.)
When engaging with your own customers, you’ll want to focus on your newer ones who had defected from a competing company. Essentially, you want to get to the bottom of why they switched over, and how your service differs (for better or worse) from your competition.
When engaging with your competitors’ customers, you’ll want to know why they are – or are not – satisfied with the level of service they’ve been provided. A great way to do this is to create Facebook ads that target individuals interested in the industry and topics your company (and your competitors) cover, and include a link to a survey requesting more information from then within the ad.
Once you’ve completely fleshed-out your target customer persona(s), and have dug up as much information on your competitors’ marketing strategies as you possibly can, you’ll be ready to start developing your own strategy.
Now, aside from knowing what kind of content you’ll want to create when marketing to your target audience, you’ll also need to know which is the most effective way distributing said content and reaching your target customers.
As far as marketing channels go, well…there are a lot to choose from. Case in point, SmartInsight has made available an ever-growing list of modern marketing channels that currently lists more than 120 possible avenues to utilize – and this is nowhere near a comprehensive list.
With that in mind, then, you’re going to want to systematically and strategically narrow down your options so that you can be absolutely certain that the marketing channels you utilize provide your company with the maximum amount of reach and exposure.
This is where the Bullseye Framework comes in handy.
As we alluded to, the Bullseye Framework allows you to determine which marketing channels you should focus on utilizing throughout your various marketing campaigns and initiatives.
Moreover, the framework enables you to do so in a way that’s quick and cost-effective, and minimizes any potential losses you may accrue along your path to discovery. As has been stated by many well-known and highly-successful marketers, the Bullseye Framework is to marketing what Lean is to product development.
Let’s take a look at each step of the process.
Your first order of business is to do a bit of brainstorming on two different fronts.
First, you want to make a list of all potential marketing channels that your company could utilize, in any capacity, that would lead to any amount of success from a marketing perspective. During this exercise, you’ll want to take into consideration everything you’ve learned so far about your target customers, your competitors, and your industry as a whole.
You’ll then want to think about how you can utilize each of these channels successfully. In other words, you’ll be brainstorming the type of content you’d potentially deliver via each marketing channel you came up with.
(Note: You should aim to come up with at least one potential use for each channel, here. However, this is not to say that if you can’t come up with an idea that you should toss the channel out; rather, this is to say that you need to take the time to come up with at least one idea for every channel you brainstormed, as this will provide an opportunity for you to flex your creative muscles, so to speak.)
Consider the answers to questions such as:
- How did (XYZ Company) reach (Customer Persona A)?
- How did customers respond to this outreach method?
- How could we use that same channel to reach that same customer in a different way?
- How could we use a different channel to reach that same customer in a similar way?
- Could we use that same channel to reach a different persona?
- Could we use a different channel to also reach Persona A?
Essentially, your goal at this stage is to consider any and every possible permutation of channel, persona, and content type/marketing initiative.
Furthermore, you want to keep an incredibly open mind at this stage of the process. It will be tempting to censor thoughts, throw out ideas, or focus on ideas that jump out as exciting and potentially lucrative; but you need to resist the urge to do so for now. Again – you want to think creatively here so that you don’t end up missing out on a hidden gem of an opportunity that your competition may have overlooked.
Once you’ve completed this stage of the process, it’s time to move inward.
While there’s no limit to how many potential channels you brainstormed in the first stage, we should mention that it should definitely be more than twelve or so.
This is because your next step is to narrow your list down to the top five or six opportunities in terms of potential effectiveness – and begin testing them.
Chances are, there will be one or two ideas that seem like incredible opportunities, and one or two that seem absolutely ridiculous in hindsight. Again: resist the urge to promote or demote an idea based on face value.
Rather, you now want to give each potential channel and idea equal attention, assessing the validity of each from a more enlightened standpoint.
You might consider ranking each idea according to three separate criteria:
- Highest potential for success
- Evidenced effectiveness (as in, other companies have experienced success through the channel)
- Exciting or creative opportunities
Of course, depending on a variety of factors, you’ll likely want to place more importance on one of these characteristics over the other. For example, while a traditional blogging campaign might not be all that new and exciting, it may be a highly-effective means of generating a following within your industry. On the other hand, a more creative venture – such as a Snapchat campaign – might not make sense for your company, since your target customers simply aren’t present on the channel in question.
At any rate, once you’ve chosen the top five or six channels to focus on, you’re going to begin testing out their effectiveness.
These tests are meant to be run through quickly, and should not break the bank by any standards. Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo and creator of the Bullseye Framework, explains that each test should take at most one month to complete, and cost less than $1,000 in total.
Your goals for these tests are to:
- Determine the probable cost of investing fully into each channel, as well as the average customer acquisition cost via said channels
- Determine the number of potential customers you’d be able to reach through each channel (both the maximum number and a more realistic estimate)
- Determine the quality of clientele within each channel, as evidenced by rates of engagement, response, and conversion)
One important thing to keep in mind, here, is that the purpose of these tests is to assess the validity of an opportunity – not to cash in on it (just yet, that is). That said, even if you end up seeing insane results from a given test, you shouldn’t ramp up your investment in that area until all tests have been completed.
Also, while there’s no need to run each test sequentially (i.e., one at a time), you also shouldn’t run them all at once, either. Since you’ll have narrowed the field down to at most six channels, even running two at a time will only cost you three months’ time; if you’re looking to get moving, of course, you could probably get away with running three at one time over the course of two months – as long as you have the bandwidth to monitor each equally.
Once you’ve completed each test within the Middle Ring, you’ll be ready to move to the Bullseye.
Now that you’ve narrowed your options to five or six marketing channels, and you’ve collected some preliminary data on each of these options, you should have a pretty clear-cut idea of which option provides your company with the best opportunity in terms of reaching your target audience.
At this point, you’re basically going to go all-in on this one specific channel, and put all others on the backburner for the time being.
Now, when we say “go all-in,” here, we’re not saying you should immediately throw your entire marketing budget at this initial campaign. Rather, you should focus all the money (and the time, effort, and other resources) you do spend on marketing squarely on this initiative. For the time being, all things marketing within your organization should be focused on this top-priority channel.
The main reason for narrowing your focus to one channel is that you’ll be able to truly optimize your campaigns through the channel you’ve determined to be most lucrative. By focusing on that single channel, you can test, tweak, and improve the content you deliver via said channel to near-perfection.
Think about it – what’s the point of knowing where your best opportunities lie if you aren’t prepared to take advantage of the situation?
In much the same way that you’d want to focus most of your energy on selling to your most valuable customers, it simply makes sense that you’d want to make your highest-quality content visible on your highest-value marketing channel.
Now, while this method of focusing on one channel and putting the rest on the shelf for a time probably makes a whole lot of sense on paper, it’s definitely a case of “easier said than done.” Put another way, it can be incredibly difficult to focus on one opportunity once you’ve realized the potential of a number of other options.
But, in addition to the benefits of focusing on your top-performing channel that we discussed above, focusing on optimizing more than one channel at a time can be hugely detrimental to your marketing initiatives on the whole.
Not to mention the fact that it simply goes against the entire purpose of the Bullseye Framework in the first place.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Company A focuses on optimizing its efforts within a single channel. After the team has completely optimized its campaigns within this channel, it begins doing the same for the second-most valuable channel – while continuing to run the original optimized campaign. After six months, the team has optimized its efforts on both channels – but its first optimized campaign has been running at full capacity for three months.
- Company B works on optimizing its marketing efforts on two different channels simultaneously. After six months, the team has optimized its efforts on both channels – but it took the entire six months for the team to reach this level of optimization on both channels.
Needless to say, Company A wins out, here, as it has been running its most lucrative campaigns at full capacity for a full 180 days more than Company B had. Since the name of the game in marketing is exponential growth, Company A is going to be leaps and bounds ahead of its competitor by that 180-day mark (and will continue to be way ahead of Company B moving forward, as well).
At any rate, once you’ve hit the upper echelon of profitability within the top-performing marketing channel – that is, the point at which a larger investment of time, money, and effort isn’t worth it – you can then repeat the process within the second-most valuable channel from your “Middle Ring” tests.
The long-term goal of the Bullseye Framework, of course, is to reach the point at which your marketing campaigns are running on all cylinders on each of your top five or six channels. Of course, you’ll almost certainly need to tweak your approach to each channel as time goes on – but that simply comes with the territory as far as marketing goes.
As we alluded to a few times in the previous section, marketing of any kind comes with a number of inherent costs: money, time, energy – or all three.
So, in addition to determining which channels will provide your company with the most reach possible, you’ll also want to know which channels your company can afford to use in the first place.
With that in mind, let’s look at the pros and cons of using owned, earned, and paid marketing channels.
Owned marketing channels are, quite simply, the property of the company in question.
The most common examples of such channels are company-owned websites and blogs.
A brand’s social media pages can also be considered owned marketing channels, but there’s a bit of a technicality here that we’ll talk about in a moment.
Leveraging owned marketing channels has a number of advantages:
First of all, publishing content on your website or blog is the cheapest option of the three. Since you own the platform you’re publishing on, the only inherent costs are in creating the content in the first place, and in keeping the website running smoothly. But, of course, you don’t need to pay extra to actually publish the content or anything like that.
Secondly, creating content on your own marketing channel draws customers directly to where you want them to be (i.e., your website), and allows your target audience to engage with your company (and others within the community) first-hand.
Lastly, because you own the platform on which you publish your content, you have free rein to publish whatever content you believe your target audience wants to see. Not only can you create and publish any type of content on your own channels, but you can also discuss any topic you’d like, as well. The only exception (which we alluded to above) is social media, since you’ll need to be sure to follow the platform’s terms of service at all times – or risk being kicked off the channel completely.
Now, there are two inherent obstacles to overcome when utilizing earned marketing channels, too:
The main obstacle is that it’s rather tough to gain traction using owned marketing channels alone. While creating content and employing SEO and other inbound strategies can be incredibly effective in the long run (if done well, of course), you almost definitely won’t experience overnight success, here.
Additionally, though creating content on owned marketing channels is a great way to build trust among your target audience, gaining said trust in the first place is tough to do. Since all of the content you produce on these channels is, again, controlled by your company, your target audience may be a bit skeptical about whether the claims you make about your product or service are accurate or not.
Still, keeping in mind that content marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, there’s a lot to be gained by focusing on optimizing your owned marketing channels from the inception of your company.
Earned marketing channels refer to publicity – both good and bad – created by your customers based on their experiences with your brand.
Overall, the phrase “earned marketing channel” is essentially synonymous with “word of mouth,” in that your customers’ opinions of your brand become marketing content in and of itself.
Some of the most common examples of earned marketing are customer referrals and reviews, social media shares, and blog comments. Note that while your company can certainly work to elicit and promote such content, the fact that said content comes directly from your customers is what makes it “earned.”
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of generating positive word of mouth is that the modern consumer places an incredible amount of trust in such reviews, recommendations, and referrals. Contrasted with what we said earlier about content on owned marketing channels facing this “trust barrier,” recommendations from outside sources are much more trustworthy than claims made by the company itself.
Furthermore, earned marketing content has a pretty long shelf life, in that positive reviews and recommendations from years ago can aide a company’s current reputation – as long as the positive trend has been consistent. In other words, new customers that notice a brand has been in good standing in the eyes of its audience for seven straight years will almost certainly take this longevity into consideration when making a purchasing decision.
The major downside, here, is that earned marketing media needs to be…well…earned. And this doesn’t just mean creating an outstanding product or service (although this is, of course, a huge part of it). Unfortunately, the majority of satisfied customers simply don’t take it upon themselves to make positive recommendations about even their favorite brands. So, in addition to providing top-notch service to your customers, you’ll also need to put effort into getting them to spread the good word about your company.
Even more unfortunate is the fact that the opposite is true: Unhappy customers are much more likely to talk about their experiences with a brand than happy customers are. Worse yet, you have no control over what your customers say about your brand, either; your only option (not that this is a bad thing) when you gain negative publicity is to put in the effort to make things right – in turn showing your target audience that you truly care about helping them succeed.
Perhaps the most traditional form of marketing is paid advertising, in which companies pay third-party platforms with a large amount of reach to publish their content.
Examples of paid marketing channels include sponsored search results, social media ads, and influencer marketing.
The main draw of paid marketing is that, unlike owned and earned marketing, companies can gain immediate visibility on the platform of their choice. As long as you have the funds to invest in an advertising campaign, your ads will start being presented as soon as you pay up.
Along with this, you can also easily ramp up (or slow down) your ad campaigns depending on how successful they’ve been or how much revenue they’re generating – or for any other reason at all. Again, the changes you make will immediately go into play.
Another positive aspect of paid marketing is that, while you’ll inherently be publishing content on third-party sites, you’ll generally be given free rein to develop said content to your liking. Again, you’ll of course need to follow the guidelines set by the platform on which your content will appear, but these guidelines typically aren’t all that restrictive.
Now, there are two main downsides to paid advertising.
For one thing, the modern consumer, for the most part, does not trust paid ads. More accurately, the modern consumer doesn’t trust paid ads in which the brand simply toots its own horn. That said, even your paid ads need to provide value of some kind to your audience – and should avoid the “hard sell” as much as possible.
The other main problem with paid ads is that they can be incredibly costly – especially in saturated markets. Coupled with what we just said about lack of trust, paid ads can be somewhat of a gamble that may or may not end up being worth the initial investment.
So, which marketing channel is best?
Of course, there is no blanket answer. The method that springboards one company to massive success can end up decimating another.
As we discussed at length in the previous section on the Bullseye Framework, this is why testing out various channels before investing too much time, money, and energy into one venture is so important.
That said, your ultimate goal should be to eventually find the right combination of owned, earned, and paid marketing channels that works best for your company.
In doing so, you’ll not only avoid putting your eggs in one basket, but you’ll also be able to synergize your marketing efforts in a way that leads to exponential success for your company.
Essentially, the AIDA Curve (or AIDA Funnel) simplifies the buyer’s journey into four main stages:
- Attention (or Awareness)
- Desire (or Decision)
Let’s discuss each of these stages in a bit more detail.
At the initial stage of the AIDA Curve, the consumer becomes aware that they have a problem in the first place – and also becomes aware that a number of solutions to their problem exist.
As a provider of such a solution, it can be tempting to want to reach out to these individuals with a sales pitch right from the get-go, but consumers at this stage typically aren’t ready to open their wallets just yet.
Instead, you’ll want to provide preliminary information and value to these individuals in order to pique their interest. For example, if you run a health consulting company, you might want to develop blog posts such as “X Ways Your Poor Diet Is Doing More Harm Than You Think,” or “Is a Lack of Sleep Causing Your Major Health Problems?”
To be able to successfully create this content, you’ll need to:
- Learn as much about your target customers’ problems as you can
- Create content that helps your target audience become aware of the problem, as well as become aware of what they’re missing out on by not solving the problem
- Present this content on the channels your target audience is active on
At this stage, you’ll essentially be able to determine whether or not to consider an individual a qualified lead – and prepare to move them forward in their buyer’s journey.
Piggybacking off of that last statement, your focus during the Interest stage is to get individuals to become invested in solving their problem, and to dig deeper into the solutions you offer that suit their needs.
At this point, you may have forged a direct line of communication with the individual (perhaps through a mailing list signup, or a comment thread on one of your blog posts). You’ll want to use this line of communication to continue providing valuable content to them in a way that shows them that solving their problem is possible, and can lead to great things in their life. Using our health consultant example, you might create a blog post titled “X Benefits of Sticking to a Healthier Diet,” or “X Reasons to Get More Sleep at Night.”
The process of developing this content is similar to the process for doing so in the Attention stage. The main difference is this content should be a bit more hands-on and applicable to specific problems your target customers have. By creating such content, you stand a good chance of your ideal customer thinking “This feels like it was written just for me!” – in turn getting them to move on to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
At this point, your target consumer will have moved on from having a passive interest in solving their problem (and spending money in order to do so), to actively wanting to solve it – and potentially using your product or service to do so.
Still, though: this isn’t yet the time to start singing your own praises to potential customers. Instead, you’ll want to work on priming them so that they’re ready to use your services successfully in the very near future.
So, for individuals at this stage of their journey, you’ll want to provide extra-valuable content, such as ebooks and whitepapers, that gives in-depth information about what all goes into the process of solving their problem – and hints at how your solution will help them.
Once an individual has reached this stage of the process (and engaged with your content such as mentioned above), you can be almost positive that they’re going to purchase a solution from someone. Of course, you want to make sure they choose you.
Needless to say, this final stage is a critical point in the buyer’s journey – both for your potential customers and for your company.
Your goal during this stage, as alluded to above, is to convince your leads that your product or service will allow them to solve their problem more effectively than any other solution on the market.
In other words, now it’s time to sing your praises. To do so, you’ll want to have a variety of content at the ready, such as:
- Case studies
- Positive reviews
- Demonstration videos
- Product comparisons and detailed specifications
As noted earlier, this combination of owned and earned media can be exactly what a lead needs to pull the trigger and convert into a paying customer.
Along with the AIDA Curve, ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu (Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel) refers to positions within a company’s sales funnel that, for the most part, align with the stages of the buyer’s journey.
Individuals at the top of a sales funnel are those who have engaged with a brand to the point that the company considers them a lead. In terms of AIDA, these individuals are somewhere in between “Awareness” and “Interest,” in that they’ve engaged with the content provided by a company – but haven’t actively engaged with the company just yet. At this point, companies should be providing preliminary content to help keep potential customers engaged and diving deeper into what their brand has to offer.
Those in the middle of a sales funnel are somewhere between the “Interest” and “Decision” stage of the buyer’s journey. They’re becoming more engaged with the content provided by the company, and they’ve likely committed to an active relationship with the brand (such as signing up for the company’s mailing list). At this stage, companies should be looking to begin differentiating themselves from their competitors by providing high-quality, educational content to their followers.
Individuals at the bottom of the sales funnel are between the “Decision” and “Action” stages of their buyer’s journey. As mentioned in our discussion on AIDA, these individuals are almost certainly going to make a purchase – but haven’t yet decided which solution will work best for them. At this stage in the game, the company will have established a direct line of communication with the individual – and should be prepared to provide content that’s all but tailored to the specific consumer’s needs.
As we discussed all the way back in the introduction to this guide, setting goals is essential to the success of your marketing strategy.
In order for these goals to actually mean something, though, they need to follow a framework of some sort.
Which is where SMART comes in.
Let’s quickly review what each of these factors entails:
- Specific: Your stated goals need to cover “The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” of your marketing plan. Who will be involved, and who is responsible for what? What, exactly, do you hope to accomplish? Where will your brand be present? When do you hope to reach your goal by? How do you intend to go about reaching your goal? Why is reaching the goal important in the first place? All these questions – and more – need to be addressed as specifically as possible.
- Measurable: Without a clear definition of what, exactly, you define as success for your marketing plan, you’ll have no way of knowing whether or not you’ve been successful in the first place. In turn, you’ll have no way of knowing whether or not to make changes over time – or what changes you should be making. On the other hand, by setting finite goals in which you can easily say “Yes, we reached our goal” or “No, we didn’t reach it,” you’ll be prepared to make improvements moving forward.
- Attainable: While you certainly want to dream big when setting goals for your marketing plan, you also want to be realistic, as well. That said, you need to consider everything that goes into the process of making the plan come to life – such as your budget, your current status within your industry, the potential reach your industry offers, and more – in order to determine what’s possible to achieve. At the same time, you also don’t want to set the bar so low that you reach your goal too easily – and end up leaving a lot of potential on the table.
- Relevant: In considering relevancy, you’ll essentially be fleshing out the “Why” questions we asked earlier. Why do these goals matter, both in the short- and the long-term? Why is it important to reach these marketing-related goals, as far as your entire business is concerned? Without an understanding of the relevance of your marketing goals, you might end up reaching them – only to realize doing so made no difference to your company’s overall success.
- Time-Bound: Again going back to specificity, you should set a realistic timeframe for your marketing team to reach your goals. Again, the key word here is realistic; you want to be sure that you provide enough time for a certain initiative to pan out (e.g., you wouldn’t expect to see results from an SEO campaign within less than six or so months), but not so much time that it sets your entire plan back indefinitely.
When developing these goals, it’s essential that you get buy-in from everyone involved in bringing said goals to reality, for two main reasons:
- Each individual on your team will be able to provide valuable insight to help ensure that a goal meets the above-mentioned criteria
- In discussing your goals in-depth with all stakeholders, you ensure that everyone remains on the same page as you begin working toward achieving said goals.
One important thing to note, here, is that your goals aren’t meant to be set in stone. While, of course, you should take the development of these goals incredibly seriously, you’ll want to assess your progress and revisit your goals on a monthly basis in order to determine if any changes need be made moving forward.
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