How to Build Your Own Custom Marketing Strategy
My main message to my audiences is always that I’m not a guru. I don’t have some revolutionary strategy for growing your brand, a 248-part framework you can follow to achieve Insta-fame, or insider growth hacking tips. How your company grows is always going to be dependent on your goals, your resources, and your strategies. What I can do is help you uncover the right marketing messages, create a brand that truly speaks to your intended audience, find the right channels to promote your brand, etc. It’s all custom, and it always should be.
Marketing ain’t easy. There’s a reason it trips up most small business owners and startups. If you’re trying to put together a smart strategy, I don’t want you to look to a bunch of fancy how-to blog posts to find the answers. You already have all the answers you’re going to need. Here is how you uncover them:
You can’t go anywhere if you haven’t set a destination. Think about not just what you want for your business, but what you want for yourself. Try not to focus on vanity numbers like social media followers unless you are going to work on a specific, actionable plan to convert those followers into a regular stream of revenue. Think about how much money you need to make to be sustainable and how much money you need to make to be happy. Then work backwards to figure out how many units you need to sell or customers you need to acquire to make these goals a reality.
Choose small goals, and then choose big ones. Set non-sales goals like how many speaking gigs you can get or PR placements you want. These will impact your growth in a less direct way than sales, but ultimately will play into your big, long-term goals for you and your brand.
Create a buyer persona
So buyer persona, client avatar, I don’t really care what you call it, but you’ve got to have a detailed picture of who your people are. One of the biggest and most common mistakes business owners make is that they try to sell to people without really know much about them. They create marketing messages based on their own assumptions, based on what they think people want to hear. The quickest way to crash and burn is to skip out on getting to know your buyers in a deeper way.
You can start with a more generic buyer persona that you create based on your assumptions, but be sure to really get clear on the customer’s why. Then, once you start making sales or building your community, make the best effort possible to have real conversations with the people who are engaging with your brand so you can course correct.
Features and benefits
For most business owners, they know their product or service intimately, like inside and out. This often means that they don’t know how to effectively communicate their value to others because it’s kind of obvious in their own minds. Before you market anything, it’s essential to get clear on the features and benefits so potential customers can have a clear picture of what you can do for them.
Features are fact-based statement about the product or service being promoted. However, features themselves aren't what entice customers to buy. That's where benefits come in. A benefit is the positive result of the feature—meaning the benefit explains the value or upside associated with each feature.
It sounds easy, but this will be a difficult exercise to complete. Ask a friend or a colleague to review it for you and offer constructive feedback. Don’t shy away from making multiple revisions.
Competition doesn’t have to be scary; in fact, it can be validation that your idea is already working out in the marketplace. (You just need to get yourself in front of the right people!) However, most small brands don’t even know who their competitors are. They focus solely on their own brand and ignore the others.
But it’s always a good idea to know what your competitors are up to — both the good and the bad. You can learn from their mistakes and create a more worthwhile experience for the community you’re building around your brand.
Your competitive analysis should look at 5-10 other companies who are doing the same thing or something similar to your brand. Write down features, benefits, what you like that they’re doing, what you don’t like, and key messaging points to start. You’re going to learn SO MUCH and hopefully be inspired to take action in your own marketing.
Messaging and imagery
Anyone who tells you the market isn’t saturated is either lying to you or seriously confused. Competition has never been more stiff. Does that mean you can’t sell? Of course not! It simply means that messaging is more important today than ever before.
Your storytelling and your messaging will be what tells a customer if your brand is for them or not. It will create a connection or send them looking for alternatives.
Again, it’s incredibly important not to “wing it”. Instead of just creating a message based on what YOU want people to hear, you’ve got to create a message that speaks straight to their hearts, so doing your research is going to be important.
As for imagery, be critical about how you represent your brand visually. There’s a million stock photo sites out there and you can get a lot for free these days….. And so can everyone else. It could be a filter, or a color splash, or a type of lighting, but you’re going to want your brand’s visual style to be unique whenever possible.
For example, on Making Moxie, you may see some of the same images more than once between the blog posts and social media sites. While I could keep things a bit fresher by grabbing stock photos, I want the brand to be all about the female entrepreneurs who contribute their thought leadership to the site. And so, any time you see a picture of a woman on an article or social post, it’s because she wrote it.
There’s lots of different ways to gain exposure for your brand, but online marketing is definitely on the top. This can include everything from social media to paid advertising, but there are a few key points you should be thoughtful of when it comes to your online presence:
You need a website. Sure, you could just sell from your social profiles, but having a clean and easy to navigate site boosts your credibility and can provide important information to potential customers that may not be easy to share on social accounts.
You need a marketing funnel. This concept is foreign to a lot of business owners, and honestly, it can be a bit scary. Marketing funnels can get huge and take on a life of their own, but at the end of the day, it’s a fancy chart or process that introduces your brand to a potential customer, builds trust, and then keeps them engaged until you make a sale.
If you’re going to be on social media, pick one or two sites and really hit it out of the park before you start more accounts. Social media requires a great deal of time and effort to conduct effectively, so focus on one or two to start and make them awesome or you might spread yourself too thin and not see any results.
As a marketing consultant, I will always suggest that you invest in social advertising. Everyone wants to see growth, but online marketing is typically about what you can create organically. While you can do a lot on your own, it will take time for your efforts to blossom and yield fruit. Right now, social advertising the most cost effective way to create quick exposure for your brand. This will require investment, so you’ll need to be very intentional about your budget, your CTAs, and your messaging to make the most of what you spend.
Whether you’re the face of your brand or not, you’ve got to build trust with your audience if you want them to buy from you. This can be tough! There’s really nothing new under the sun, but you will position yourself as an expert by just getting yourself out there.
From blogging to speaking to live video streaming on social, there’s a ton of ways that you can step into the limelight and show the world you mean business. The key is to be authentic, original, and consistent. The rest will follow.
If you’ve followed this advice, you’ve put in a lot of work already and you have a lot to think about. So next, think about it! Take what you’ve learned and create an execution plan. Based on the goals you set in the beginning, what do you need to do over the next 6 months to achieve them? What actions will you have to take each month? Each week? What are your daily non-negotiables?
It’s not going to be easy, but you didn’t become and entrepreneur because it was easy. And growing your business is going to be so very rewarding!
Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage
Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.
As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.