The Four Rings of Marketing A Primer for Mid-Sized Businesses Part II

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Part II

This is the second in a series of blog posts to help mid-sized businesses with marketing strategy. Read Part I here.

Ring Two: Marketing Strategy

Our clients usually do not have a marketing strategy, or an “interior” to their painted house. This is a typical blind spot for mid-sized businesses because it’s invisible to the layperson, so without marketing experience, it isn’t obvious that there should be a strategy supporting the work. 

Marketing strategic objectives should be designed based on market research and analysis; we’ll get to that later. They should be measurable and supported by multiple tactics each. Because this tends to be new information for mid-sized business staff without marketing backgrounds, here are some sample basic marketing objectives our clients can relate to, plus sample tactics and methods of measuring:

Objective

Tactics

Measurement

To increase awareness of our services to our target market of XXX in the Dallas area (zip codes #####, ######, and ######). 

Downloadable tool for target market

## form fills to access downloadable

Ad campaign

#% click-through rate 

Blog posts tailored to our target market and calls to action on every blog

Time on site number of form fills, 

To build a brand known for high customer service

Dedication to customer experience at every touchpoint

XX% customer retention rates

XX%+ Net promoter score of 

30 new marketing-qualified prospect inquiries at the close of the fiscal year

Ad campaign

XX form fills

Grow referral network

XX referrals

Webinars

XX of slots filled

 

Note that the strategic objectives are supported by multiple tactics; this is what makes the tactics more effective. Studies have shown that customers engage with brands multiple times before making a buying decision, and brands with multiple digital capabilities sell at more than twice the rate of those that don’t. 

Finally, we’d like all mid-sized business clients to beware the traps of branding and rebranding. Here’s how to determine whether a branding or rebranding exercise is a good investment:

It has value when...

It doesn’t have value when...

Tactics depend on it

It serves no other objectives 

It’s grounded in research/learnings

It’s based on aesthetic refinements or a need to be “done”

There is a separate budget allocated to it

It’s competing for time/budget with lead-generation objectives

 

Research and Analysis: A Note

It may make sense to build or add to a marketing strategy over time as we get to know a client, rather than dictate all of it upfront. That’s in part because strategy should be based on market research and data analysis. Once in business, few mid-sized companies invest time to separately analyze different markets that evolve after they are in the black, and instead go by gut feel. We perform research and analysis upfront for our clients to inform a marketing strategy, but build it more slowly with clients that just want to crack open the front door, adding pieces along the way.

Ring Three: Foundational Marketing

“Foundational marketing” is a term we have coined to describe the basic, highly visible marketing collateral mid-sized businesses typically develop on their own, before contracting an agency. Foundational marketing is the paint on the house. Mid-sized businesses know they need a website, flyers, and perhaps social media properties. Some companies even have a YouTube channel, sponsor events, or host webinars. Developing this collateral is a lot of work.

Where businesses struggle is that foundational marketing is typically a box-check for them, an exercise to do. But it can only get a business so far. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that large corporations (and marketing idealists) don’t design websites, branding, product names, and so on without setting up their marketing strategy first. That’s why so many agencies will tell you to tear the house down and start over with a fresh strategy. 

The prevalence of this tendency, however, motivated us to design a new framework for marketing, with a specific place to show where all of your hard work belongs, and to work with it instead of throwing it away. The great thing about hiring an agency with this mindset is that we can start wherever you are in your marketing journey. You may be able to keep some of your existing marketing collateral while we put structure in place, and prioritize lead-generation activities while taking measured steps toward developing a stronger marketing strategy. It all depends on where you are.

Next week, come back for Part III, in which we cover ring four: Campaigns.