Marketing is how people find out about your business and it impacts the way they feel when they hear your company's name. In D2C companies, it may be your principal sales channel. In B2B companies, it generates leads for your sales team and provides cover fire for your outbound campaigns. Marketing is often painted with a broad brush as being the realm of "creatives." However, I'd argue that marketing should be a targeted, sophisticated, data-driven, and assertive approach to communicating your business's essence, functions, and value to the world. It should capture the attention of potential customers and make a compelling case for your products or services.
In today's saturated marketplace, it's not enough to simply present your offering to consumers and hope for the best. Consumers and buyers have more educational resources to evaluate your business than ever before. Effective marketing requires earning the attention and mindshare of potential customers, establishing relevance and value before any transaction can occur.
Your marketing function doesn't necessarily need a huge, full-time marketing department. On the contrary, this is a function that has historically seen a significant amount of outsourcing to freelancers or agencies. Your in-house team can be organized in many ways as a combination of employees, freelancers, agencies, and even AI.
Your marketing strategy is crucial to establishing a strong brand presence, engaging your target audience, and driving business growth. Your marketing strategy should be both quantitative and creative, combining data-driven decision making with innovative ideas for marketing campaigns. It's about being able to precisely measure the impact of your activities, but also being willing to take risks and experiment in order to capture mindshare with your target audience.
Key elements of a marketing strategy include:
Target Audience: Identifying and understanding your target customers and "Ideal Customer Profile" (ICP) is step #1. Know their pain points, their desires, their preferences, and where you are likely to catch their attention (e.g. what are their virtual or real-life watering holes).
Value Proposition: The importance of clearly understanding your value proposition cannot be oversated . Often this involves marketing resources working with the product team to clearly articulate why your product or service is valuable and unique. Why should people care? How does it solve their problems? How does the value it creates compare to alternatives?
Branding and Positioning: Build a consistent brand identity and determine your product's position in the market. What is the first thing you think of when you hear a brand like "Costco?" How does it make you feel? How about for "Trader Joe's?" How do you want your audience to perceive your brand? How do you differentiate from competitors?
Channels and Tactics: Determine the best marketing channels and tactics to reach your target audience. This could be SEO, content marketing, social media, email marketing, paid advertising, or many other options that we'll discuss in depth.
Metrics and Goals: Define what success looks like and how you will measure it. Set tangible goals for your campaigns and track relevant KPIs to measure their effectiveness. Marketing KPI's should be aligned with the overall business KPI's.
While your marketing strategy is a long-term plan, it isn't set in stone. The market is dynamic, and so are your customers. Regularly review, stay agile and adaptive, and never forget: you're not just selling a product, you're telling a story.
Marketing Organization, Functions, JTBD
It should be noted that for marketing in parictular, there are many different opinions on the definition of each function/discipline and who owns what. For example, some companies may see sales enablement as a job for the product marketing team and some may see it as a job for the content marketing team. The following categories are meant to provide one high-level framework for the different marketing tasks and functions that may exist in a business.
Market Research: Conducts research to gather insights about the target market, customer needs, competitors, and industry trends. These insights inform marketing strategies, messaging, and campaign planning.
Go to market: Develops and executes strategies for launching new products or entering new markets. GTM involves market segmentation, pricing, distribution, sales enablement, and marketing campaigns to ensure successful product adoption and market penetration. Strategies for GTM, your marketing function, and your sales function should all be aligned and may have significant overlap depending on your business.
Marketing Strategy: Develops overarching marketing strategies aligned with business goals. This function determines target segments, positioning, differentiation, and channels to effectively reach and engage the target audience.
Branding & Messaging: Shapes the brand identity and ensures consistent messaging across all marketing materials and channels. This function defines the value proposition, tone of voice, and visual identity, enhancing brand recognition and building trust.
One early investment for any company should be in a brand style guide, which will include things like the fonts, colors, templates (letterheads, powerpoint decks), etc. You could easily create your own, use one of many pre-defined templates, or engage with a marketing agency to create one for you.
Product Marketing: What is your product? What does it do? Why should people care? Focuses on understanding the product or service and its unique selling points, creating compelling messaging, and enabling the sales team with sales collateral and competitive insights. Product marketing aims for effective positioning and differentiation in the market.
Content Marketing: Creates valuable and relevant content, such as blog posts, whitepapers, and videos, to attract and educate the target audience. Content marketing supports lead generation, brand awareness, and thought leadership, aligning with the overall marketing strategy.
Growth Marketing: Focuses on driving rapid and scalable growth through innovative and data-driven marketing strategies. This function leverages experimentation, optimization, and customer acquisition techniques to maximize growth and revenue.
Digital Marketing: Utilizes digital channels like search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, social media, and display advertising to drive website traffic, generate leads, and nurture customer relationships. Today, this can often be used as a catch all term for any marketing efforts that involve the internet. One firm may consider email marketing a function of a content marketing team, while another firm may consider it a function of the digital marketing team.
Events/Field Marketing: Plans and executes events, such as trade shows, conferences, webinars, and workshops, to engage prospects, build relationships, and showcase the company's expertise. Unless your marketing strategy is heavy on events, you may not need to hire this person until you've grown substantially. A word to the wise, logistics for planning and setting up in-person conference booths can be a tedious and time consuming task (not to mention expensive). Even if you don't hire a full time event marketer, treat each trade show like it needs a mini-project manager.
Public Relations (PR): Manages the company's public image, builds relationships with media outlets, and secures press coverage. PR activities contribute to brand visibility, thought leadership, and reputation management. As a small company, you probably don't need a full-time PR employee, but you may need an agency to help you get your content placed.
Performance/Analytics: Collects, analyzes, and interprets data to measure marketing performance, track key metrics, and optimize marketing campaigns. Marketing analytics provides insights to refine strategies, improve targeting, and maximize return on investment (ROI). How will you quantitatively track how effective your marketing campaign is? If you spent $10,000 on LinkedIn ads and received 80K impressions, 30K clicks, and 100 sales, then how did you do? That may be great if you're selling a $15k product, but not so much if you're selling a $5 ebook.
Distribution / Marketing Channels: Distribution of your marketing materials is one of the most important aspects of your marketing plan. Now that you can tell people about your business and product(s) with content, how will you reach your audience? Is SEO/SEM right for you or not worth the resources (time/money/attention)? Does it make sense to send spam emails, advertise on linkedin, or post on subreddits? What are the channels through which you will engage and with what frequency and cadence will you be getting in front of prospective customers' eyeballs?
Lead Generation: This specific function concentrates on the initiation of consumer interest or inquiry into products or services of a business. Its main goal is to capture and stimulate the interest of potential customers in order to develop the sales pipeline. Lead generation activities might include content marketing and syndication, outbound and direct email marketing, webinars, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and social media marketing. Techniques used for lead generation are often designed to capture contact details, such as email addresses or phone numbers, which can then be used for further nurturing and conversion efforts. This is a more targeted effort in comparison to demand generation which seeks to drive awareness and interest more generally.
Demand Generation: This strategic function focuses on creating awareness and interest in a company's products or services with the aim to build a well-defined market for them. Demand generation emphasizes activities related to raising awareness about the product, shaping perceptions, and influencing buyer's decisions. This includes developing and executing marketing programs such as thought leadership content, educational webinars, influencer partnerships, PR campaigns, and events, which aim to nurture potential customers from the top of the funnel (awareness) through to the bottom of the funnel (purchase). Demand generation is a broader, more holistic process, spanning the entire customer journey, and its strategies are geared towards long-term relationships with customers, not just one-off sales.
Marketing Operations: Focuses on the processes, technology, and human resources that enable the marketing organization to run efficiently and to scale with quality and consistency. It involves data management, technology management, and alignment of marketing goals with sales and business objectives. Marketing operations teams manage marketing performance metrics, implement marketing automation processes, handle budgeting, and coordinate operational activities to ensure marketing strategies are executed effectively. They play a critical role in enhancing operational efficiency, improving productivity, and driving marketing effectiveness through data-driven decision making.
Marketing Project Management & Campaigns
Within the marketing landscape, project management plays a crucial role in organizing, planning, and executing marketing initiatives. Effective project management helps ensure that marketing projects, like campaigns or events, are delivered on time, within budget, and meet their stated objectives. A marketing project manager coordinates with various teams and stakeholders, keeping everyone on the same page and ensuring smooth progress from conception to completion. They manage resources, set deadlines, assign responsibilities, manage the creative review process, and monitor and summarize the progress of the project, ensuring marketing efforts align with overall business goals.
Marketing Campaigns involves creating and executing strategic initiatives aimed at promoting a product or service to a specific target audience. Marketing campaigns can be run across various channels such as email, social media, traditional media, and more, and often involve multiple touchpoints. You may launch many short-term campaigns across the year (~2-4 weeks/campaign) and/or you may run longer-term campaigns (~6-12 months). The goal is to achieve a particular objective, like increasing brand awareness, generating leads, or driving sales. Each campaign needs to be carefully planned and managed, ensuring a consistent message across all platforms, and tracking performance against established KPIs to measure effectiveness. The length of the campaign should be sufficient to collect results that are statistically significant in terms of measuring efficacy, but not so long as to be burning cash reserves on an effort that has clearly stopped working.