April 2, 2021

How to create a marketing strategy – A guide for small businesses

Your marketing strategy is the most important element in any campaign and probably gets the least time. 

Most businesses are happy to invest time and money on tangible things such as capital, projects, machinery, office space, people and trade shows etc. But investing time and energy into defining your proposition in a clear and concise way is the most crucial factor in determining any businesses future success. If you want to prevent wasted time, effort and money all while avoiding unnecessary worry and stress then it’s vital that you do this one thing and do it right.

Business reappraisal is more rapid than ever now and you are not short of advice. Management Consultants McKinsey proclaim that loyalty is no longer a path to growth and building 
moments of consideration is the key. Indeed, business guru Byron Sharp espouses the need for businesses to build mental and physical availability as the key drivers of growth. These are opportunities to be embraced, as customers are more willing to review new things. However, it means that our business propositions have to be distinctive and create effective customer impact and action.

If you’re not impactful, you’re not considered so you must have a proposition that encapsulates both the promise to be delivered by your business and the conviction that sets you apart from others. Invest the time to thrash out your strategic proposition with great clarity and in a way that is unique to you and you will forever reap the benefits. 

The importance of Business Strategy:

Many, many businesses fail or do not achieve anything like their potential. Only 1 in 20 small to medium-sized businesses have a strategy. Senior managers struggle to identify three of their company’s strategic objectives, and this gets even worse for front line teams. This is simply the result of poor articulation of the business strategy

No business should commission any marketing until they have defined their proposition in a way that is unique to them. This should be based on a genuine human business insight (the problem that needs solving), and should be captured in a brief statement of why you are in business and what makes you better and different to relevant prospects versus your competitors or other alternatives (including doing nothing).

It may seem like too obvious a thing to capture after all it’s why you started the business in the first place, but often this is the special reason that gets lost over time as the business grows and the day to day running tasks get in the way. But only when you have the sanctuary of a deep understanding of who you are, and where you are going tomorrow, can you confidently make the brave short- term calls needed to win today.

Focus on  answering three key questions:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. What do we do better than anyone else?
  3. How do we do it better?

Why Do We Exist? [What client problem do we seek to solve?]

People often talk about what they do and how they do it, the functional things, but very few talk about why they do it.

Successful businesses have a very strong understanding of why they exist and are clear about communicating it to people in a simple and compelling way so that people relate to them emotionally.  People don’t just buy what you do, they buy into why you do it. Studies have shown that up to 95% of our decisions are driven by our subconscious*, so how we instinctively feel about things is hugely important to our decision making process.

Once we have processed our initial reactions we then post-rationalise our decision making with an appraisal of more functional aspects. So the most crucial thing you need to do is identify your personal business “cause” (the thing that you and your team can rally behind every day) in essence it’s the passion that really drives you and the reason why you get out of bed in the morning.  A clear cause attracts customers so…

Complete the sentence: “We are here to……..”

e.g.  “We are here to save you more money on printing than anyone else” or “we are here to  help you reduce manufacturing costs faster.”

Once you have ‘your clear cause’ you can really narrow down and articulate the promise you’ll deliver and the true beliefs and convictions that set you apart from others. In summary, it is vital that you are clear about your unique role in the world and how you fit into the lives of your customers.

What Do We Do Better Than Anyone Else?

In todays challenging business climate, it is no longer good enough to be the best of the best, your true goal is to be perceived as the only people who do what you do.

You need to be crystal clear about how you tell your customers’ what they need to know about you and explain this in a succinct, engaging and compelling way.  Think of it as answering three simple questions for your customers so that they can easily understand:

  1. Who you are?
  2. What you are?
  3. Why you are relevant?

Simply define for them (your target customer) why you are the people in the category or market sector that you work in that provides the clear range of defined emotional and rational benefits. So clearly identify the true value that you provide in simple terms and lead with the emotional benefits.

 e.g. “We are the only online printing and display company with an unrivaled passion for excellence who can deliver within 24 hours or “We are a time served consulting firm peopled by personable eggheads specialising in high tech manufacturing that can meet BSXYZ standards.”

How Do We Do It Better? 

This is really about identifying what makes you unique. Here you need to be ruthlessly honest with yourselves and drill down into what you truly do better than your competition. Identify the genuine proof points and reasons for your customers to believe why they should choose you.

Be clear about why and complete the sentence: “We do it better because…”

e.g. “We give you free proofing , mockups and same day delivery” or” our propriety and world leading ABC engagement model gets you to the best results in half the time for half the cost…”

A Single Minded Focus:

Being single minded in this endeavour is tough but essential. It’s not hard to write a huge amount of “stuff”  but what you must be willing to do is ruthlessly edit and then edit again. If you find yourself sounding like any of your competitors, then go back to the drawing board.

What matters most at this stage is drilling down to your single most compelling and important message because that can then be the foundation of your marketing and ensure you will cut through and make an impact. This can be the unique bit of pixie dust that is only true to you and the thing that can’t be copied by your competitors. You also need to be consistent in all you say and do.

Remember clients don’t spend much if any attention on you and your product (or even your competitors). It is better to assume they do not care, that way you have to be highly persuasive in all you do. If you are scattergun in your thinking and marketing, the chance of anything “sticking” in your prospects’ minds is low.

You won’t succeed if you are not memorable so get crunchy and boil it down to the following strategic statements…

  1. For XYZ (your target market)
  2. We are here to…….. (your unique personal cause) 
  3. XXXX company is the only …. (why you are the people in the category or market sector that you work in that provides the clear range of defined emotional and rational benefits.)
  4. That…. (outline the value you provide the emotional and rational benefits you provide)
  5. Because… (outline the proof points and reasons to believe)


* Dr. Gerald Zaltman Executive Committee of Harvard University’s Mind, Brain and Behaviour Interfaculty Initiative 2003

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