Increased demand for voice search and artificial intelligence (AI), content clusters for SEO, smart chatbots and influencer marketing are just some of the latest trends on the market. Regardless of whether you're starting a new venture or refining your current strategy, this framework will ensure you go through the right steps.
This "zealot checklist" is designed for a quick analysis of a broad range of business models to ensure your branding and marketing efforts have the impact you intend in the new year. Here's what you need to know:
1. The Why
What are the business goals and purpose of your marketing campaign?
Being crystal clear on why you're undertaking this endeavor should be the foundation. It determines the purpose of the marketing in itself. While most handbooks default to leads when funnels and techniques are discussed, this is truly limiting. A strategy could focus on volunteerism for an event, recruiters from leading corporations or even employees in a brand-new startup.
Some campaigns are purely money driven, but that’s not necessarily the case for nonprofits, charity events and open-source communities. Aligning your team around the core purpose will result in a better culture and better execution of your strategy.
2. The Who
Is your target audience well-defined?
Your ideal customer -- also referred to as your buyer persona -- determines the medium, tone, story narrative, corresponding channels and even the creative strategy itself. Consider your audience and align it with your current strategy. Do your landing pages reflect what prospects look for? Are you targeting the right events?
Define your buyer personas clearly and take it from there. Bonus points: If going after a consumer directly doesn't work, consider partnering up with vendors or other industry providers to bolster your combined value.
3. The How
How do other brands get the job done?
Research existing techniques and proven success stories. Do they focus on inbound or paid campaigns? Is public speaking bringing most of the revenue or do video courses work better?
Discover the most influential players in the space -- both people and companies. Then reverse engineer their approach and see what could be adopted as a result. Look for specific case studies within your industry, biographies or interviews of successful market leaders and their recent activities online.
Whatever they spend time on works well. If they bet on long-form content, try answering short daily questions. If video works, consider starting a podcast. But don’t diverge too far -- it should be a healthy mix of success stories with your unique twist.
4. The What
What is your unique selling proposition?
Being the first in a category is an integral goal taught in traditional marketing classes. While competing with veteran entrepreneurs and large corporations is extremely challenging, a fresh alternative is niching down or even creating a new category yourself.
Limit your solution geographically or by industry, or mix in another competitive trait you offer. It's better to be the big fish in a small pond at first. Once you pick up some traction, expand accordingly.
5. The Where
Where do your prospects hang out?
Instead of jumping straight to Facebook or starting a blog, think about which channels will work best for your business. Do your prospects spend most of their time online or offline? Are there specific sites or networks they browse or events they frequently attend? If a top channel is oversaturated, is there a new, creative opportunity worth exploring?
I often advise entrepreneurs to pick two channels -- one that's proven to work (or expected) and one less conventional. The first is somewhat safe and one that prospects use while searching around. The latter adds to your unique proposition and forms a subtle twist around your brand, helping you occupy the new category.
6. The When
Once you're past the checklist, start your first campaign.
Defining when to evaluate results or refine your strategy is paramount. Jumping the gun too fast will dilute the results. Waiting for months may jeopardize your business.
Research the type of strategy you're about to implement and define some key performance indicators. Make sure you can assess the results quickly, even through a partial data set. Paid campaigns are usually easier than organic search engine optimization, but everything takes a while to ramp up. But with the right key performance indicators in place, you'll be sure to keep the ball rolling and iterate quickly, optimizing your campaign over time.