There are so many tools out there to help you set up your marketing. You can use a marketing calendar, marketing programs that allow you to schedule out email and social media for months, but what is often missing is the strategy that pulls it all together. What happens is that people tend to use their inner crystal ball to try to predict their future, but it’s almost always a little bit more complex than that. You need somebody who understands how to strategize, how to look into the future, and give you some sense of what may happen based on what has happened in the past.

What’s A Strategy?

A marketing strategy is really the overall game plan for getting customers to buy from you, and it usually includes things like the company’s value proposition, branding, and targeted data on customers. One of the things that challenge a lot of companies is that they are not really good at segmenting who their customers are and communicating with them as individuals, especially in the B2B space.

I want to talk to you today about using your inner crystal ball with your marketing strategy, but let me start off with a few quotes.

  • “A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.” – Lee Bowman
  • “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” – Michael Porter
  • “You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.” – Jeroen De Flander
  • “Strategy without process is little more than a wish list.” – Robert Filek
  • “Hope is not a strategy.” That was Vince Lombardi

A Marketing Plan vs. Strategy?

As you can see, there’s a big difference between having a marketing plan and having a marketing strategy. A business strategist usually works with multiple people: sales, marketing, the CIO, the CFO, the CTO, whoever. The entire team has to be involved and tries to bring all of those people together to have a common purpose, to try to drive your business or organization towards its goals. They prepare strategic plans and they do those to try to meet specific targets. Now this involves analyzing what’s worked in the past and what potentially is going to happen in the future. They’re always looking at ways to improve, to implement, and to make things better for the business.

Building Your Strategy

I believe there are three key things that should happen in order for even the smallest business to be successful when it’s creating a marketing strategy.

It’s About Data

First, creating a great strategy is based on data. You have to look back over the course of time and see what happened in order to be able to predict what’s coming. What happened in your business over the last year? Now, granted 2020 was pretty unique, but it did tell you a lot about your business. You have to dig into more than just the sales numbers. You have to dig into attitudes. You have to dig into customer feedback. You have to dig into things that maybe you really never looked at before while your business was just humming along. Not only do you look at what happened last year, but what happened last quarter or what happened last month? All of that data gives you a sense of where things have been tracked.

It’s About Trendsetting

The second part is about going with the flow. It’s a lot easier flying with the wind than into the wind. They learned that during the Second World War when they tried to bomb Japan. When they were flying from east to west, they were going straight into headwinds, slowing down the planes and eating up fuel. That’s partly why it was so easy for Japan to reach Hawaii because the winds were with them. We all want to jump on the latest trends, but here’s the biggest thing: trends are something that’s already happening. It’s not something that’s about to happen. So if you’re following the latest trends, chances are you might be too late. You have to try to predict what’s next. I’ll give you a clear example of that.

I did a BACON and Coffee interview on LinkedIn Live with Chris Voss over the weekend. We were talking about something called Clubhouse, which is a really cool new platform that’s audio-only. But as I jumped on it this weekend what I found was that people were actually posting pre-recorded material. Now the concept of Clubhouse is you go into a room and you have live conversations. But if you’re going into a room and it’s prerecorded, nobody can hear what you have to say, so basically you’re listening to a commercial. People are already starting to see how to commercialize something that should be the trend, which is having one-on-one conversations. Trends are things that have already happened.

It’s About Flexibility

The third and final piece of this is you have to be flexible and agile. Meaning that you have to constantly watch, measure, and tweak what it is that you’re doing in your marketing strategy and marketing plan. Don’t give up too quickly. Don’t give up on the concepts that you decided to try.

On my first LinkedIn Live, I only had three people show up the first week and then ten people showed up the next, and the next thing you know, it could be hundreds, which would be awesome. But I’ve also seen the opposite where I’ve done things that started out with 50 people and then 20 people, and then I was basically doing live broadcasts to no one. So follow the trends of what’s happening and don’t give up too quickly.

And then finally be willing to scrap it and start over. When I found my LinkedIn Live tips were starting to get less and less interactive with people, I decided to say, “Okay, that’s done. What’s next?” You never know how your audience is going to perceive what goes on, but you got to give it a chance.

Final Thoughts

A crystal ball, a magic eight ball, and even Zoltar, the guy in the machine, they’re all fun, but that’s entertainment and it’s not a sound business planning strategy. A lot of people try to use preemptive data from third parties. The bottom line is this: what matters is what’s happening in your business last year, last month, and today.

First define your end goals. What is it that you’re trying to achieve? Who are you trying to achieve it with? Who is your customer? Who’s going to help you do what it is that you’re trying to achieve. Define who or what you need to meet those end goals.

The next thing is to plan the work and work the plan. Again, remember everything is based on data, you have to be watching the trends and be a trendsetter (not a trend follower). Finally be flexible and agile, make changes as you move along.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about how you can start to develop a stronger marketing strategy. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?