By: Steve Olenski
Do you sometimes get the feeling that your marketing strategy is missing something? Maybe sales leads just aren’t closing, even though you have a great product. Or perhaps your top-of-funnel efforts simply aren’t generating enough leads in the first place.
You aren’t alone. Most businesses — a full 78% — are dissatisfied with their sales conversion rates.
Regardless of what you’re selling or where your problem lies, there are six key elements of any effective marketing strategy. Here’s a compilation of advice on those six essentials.
1. Start with a compelling story. Erin Berman, founder of Blackbeard Studios, a digital creative agency, is an established brand storyteller and inbound marketing expert who’s helped dozens of startups reach more customers.
According to Berman, effective marketing contains all of the elements of an irresistible story. These include characters (target audience); their challenges (pain points) and motivations (desired outcomes); a setting (connecting the dots); obstacles (to the desired outcome); the climax (the value your solution provides); and a conclusion (the delivery of that value).
Once you have these elements in place, you can begin to build the central message that demonstrates how your product or service takes audiences from where they are now to an ideal scenario in which their lives are improved.
Not sure where to begin? Berman advises entrepreneurs and marketers to “consider tales that captivated you and provided your greater mission in life. Don’t worry if your answer seems silly or overly complex. Get your creative juices flowing, then write.”
2. Develop technical expertise. As the number of messaging distribution channels continues to grow, the number of systems required to integrate these channels grows with it. Christine Alemany of Trailblaze Growth Advisors explains, “You have to have much more than a cursory understanding of the underlying technologies involved in the entire ecosystem to successfully establish metrics that enable you to manage a marketing program.”
As your marketing efforts mature, be sure to invest in the technology, education, and personnel required to keep them effective over the long term.
3. Coordinate your messaging. All of your marketing efforts should be based on a unified strategy, meaning you should be telling a consistent story across all channels and customer touchpoints.
Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital, says that disjointed messaging is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving meaningful ROI for digital marketing programs, but also one of the most common.
“To this day, I see people referring to content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization as three different things — as if each is a tactic that can get you there alone,” he says. Instead, Clark argues that each of these tactics, and any others you use, should be part of a “holistic strategy that centers around compelling content.”
And speaking of content....
4. Content marketing leads the charge. Content should be the foundation of any modern marketing strategy. There are a lot of differing opinions about what makes content great, but above all, your content should be authentic — it should stem from your unique brand story. Unfortunately, many companies still seem to produce content for its own sake, which ultimately gets them nowhere.
Robert Rose of Content Marketing Institute asserts that “if we’re not actually building a collection of connected assets, then we’re not really building anything of investment value. What we’re building is just individual ad hoc assets that we throw against the wall and hope some stick.”
Great content is relevant to your customers and your brand, adding value for consumers in a way that aligns with your company’s larger mission.
5. Incorporate employee voices. Authentic content relies on your brand’s unique voice, and your employees are a part of that voice. As such, John Hansen of Recall Americas recommends that companies empower employees to become brand advocates. “Many organizations are reluctant to let go of control in fear of what, or how, the employees will alter the marketing message.”
Rather than fear what they might say, business leaders and marketers should encourage employees to talk about the services and value their organization provides. If you trust your employees, they’ll typically reward that trust.
6. Focus on branding, not selling. Your marketing messaging should always center on telling your story, not selling your products or services.
Instead of trying to reach everyone, your story will resonate with the customers who share your values and draw them to you. Legendary marketer Gary Vaynerchuk uses Apple as an example of a company that has mastered strategic brand storytelling.
He asks, “When, if ever, have you received an advertisement from Apple telling you to BUY their product? It never happens. Apple focuses on building a relationship.”
Apple’s marketing draws potential customers into its brand story, showing them what life is like when they live that story (by using Apple products). The results speak for themselves.
Marketing is both an art and a science, and if you’re struggling to do it right, take your cue from the experts. Focus on implementing the six critical elements outlined above, and you may even become one of them.