I want to let you know that your story matters. And how you tell it can be a subtle difference between marketing and a strategy.

Marketing is easy; strategy, not so much. The reason I bring up this topic is I had a conversation with a client, actually maybe a past client. It’s hard to say. When we started the project, the goal was to increase sales. During the process, we learned a lot. But the end result is that the client felt unsatisfied. “We got nothing, we got nothing,” I kept hearing. In reality, there was a lot. But all he wanted to see was sales. What he missed was some incredible information that we got which could help him get what he wants if he would listen and learn to implement it.

The Answer Is In The Questions

The key thing is that you have to ask questions. The way that you ask questions is people that have already purchased your product. That’s going to give you real solid clues as to how you can convince other people to make purchases. Ask them these questions after they’ve purchased. Get on the phone with them, record it. When you record it, you can have it transcribed, because when you’re listening you tend to have a certain emotion. It could be defensive, it could be gleeful, it could be anything. But record it and have it transcribed, and reread it with different eyes after you’ve had the conversation.

Ask them: why did they buy? What motivated them? What convinced them to finally pull out their credit card and make that purchase, or hand you cash, or whatever it is? Then: can you use that information to help you figure out a way to convince other people who are like them to buy? I think that’s one of the most underutilized tools in marketing, is doing post-customer surveys. Most people oversimplify it and they ask: How’d you hear about us? Most people will respond: the Internet. Then they just leave it there. But there’s so much more detail available if you just ask.

When this project started out, it was a marketing project. But what it really turned into was a strategy product that can be used to help improve marketing. Let’s talk about the difference between marketing and strategy.

Marketing Defined

Marketing in its simplest form is pretty easy. I look at it as being comprised of three major components. Now, you can get a lot more complex, but if you break it down, the first component is composing branding messages, the messages that you want to send. The second thing is you have to deliver those messages to your audience where they’re listening. It could be TV, could be radio, could be social media, whatever it is. Then thirdly, measure the results of what’s happening with that marketing. Are people buying? Are people clicking? Are they getting to your website? If not, why not?

Strategy Refined

Now let’s look at strategy. A strategy is built upon what you’re doing with your marketing. When you look at a real strategy, the ultimate thing is what people are doing when they consume the marketing messages that you put out there. What you do with that information is incredibly important.

First and foremost, you want them to take action. You want them to click the buy now button to give you a credit card, to sign up with whatever program you have, buy a house from you. That’s what you want them to do. But if they’re not ready, then what you want to try to do is get them to ask for more information.

Secondly, you want to have the opportunity to stay in front of them so that you can convince them, so when they’re ready to buy, you’re the choice.

The third thing is to stay in the loop. That’s the way I use email marketing, is they may not be ready to buy today, but I can at least keep my content in front of them.

I own my email marketing list, so I have the ability to do that with platform independence. You do, too. Get them to take action. If they’re not going to take action, bribe them to get on your list and then communicate with them via email or some kind of way. Could be a phone call, could be text, whatever you need to do.

Sometimes you have to reverse that order. Get people on the list and then convince them to buy your stuff, and then eventually they will. A lot of the time that’s what it takes, but that’s the strategy. You have to look at it forward and backward, backward and forward, and figure out what’s working for you, your audience, and your product.

Three Strategy Options

Sales Campaign

Let’s talk about three different types of strategies or sales campaigns. what I want to talk about is something like Amazon. Amazon’s main goal is to get you to their website and buy something. That’s how they make their money. They want you to put something in the cart, click the cart button, and pay. But, sometimes you look at something and say, “Hey, that’s cool, but I wonder if I could find an alternative? Can I find something cheaper?” They’re constantly putting in front of you alternative options. What’s the most popular, what’s the cheapest? You can go and look at all that. You can research what it is that you’re trying to achieve.

The next thing is can you get people to stay in the loop, just like I said before. You want them to add their products to a wish list, so when they come back, they remember what it is they were researching so then they can put it in the cart and purchase. Think of what I said about a strategy in that way.

Brand Awareness Campaign

Next, let’s talk about a brand awareness campaign. For this one I want to use McDonald’s. Most people think of McDonald’s as the fun family place, but they’ve actually b een taking out all of those playgrounds. Yeah, they still have a Happy Meal but you don’t hear about Ronald McDonald or the Hamburglar anymore. What they’re marketing to is value. Think of the dollar menu and what they offer. That’s trying to get their brand out there that they’re a cheap alternative.

The second thing they’re trying to do is get you to remember their brand when you’re in your car. Because it’s not only cheap, but it’s convenient. Then finally, in order for them to stay in the loop, they do some unique things. Now I don’t know about you, but I love me a McRib. They bring that out just once or twice a year, so it becomes one of those things that people talk about. Do you like McRibs, do you hate McRibs? But they create brand awareness. They keep it top of mind by doing things like that.

Public Relations Campaign

The last thing I want to talk about is a public relations type campaign. It exists to create a brand awareness in a different sense. One of the things that younger people care about is social consciousness. Think of Amazon Smiles. You can actually donate to charities when you buy things and it doesn’t cost you any more. Think of the Ronald McDonald House where kids with cancer parents can stay. Those are social consciousness brands.

The next one is the feel-good neighbor. Have you seen those McDonald ads where the kid walks in with his acceptance letter to college and how McDonald’s was his first job and primed him to get to where he needs to be? That’s the message they’re trying to get across.

The final thing that PR can do is overcome bad news. Think about Amazon. It was in the news because it’s taking advantage of the postal system, when in reality it’s actually making it a lot of money. PR can overcome a lot of those issues.

Final Thoughts

When thinking about strategy, there are three things you need to consider. Number one, it’s a long-term process. Number two, it’s a process. Stay committed. Number three, ready, fire, aim.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about showing the concepts presented. 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?