You likely know that marketing strategy typically encompasses several factors, such as sales and marketing objectives, target audience, the competitive landscape, forecast success metrics and so forth. But how can you create a great marketing strategy that will achieve your team’s goals and leave everyone on the team and all stakeholders gratified? Are some elements more important than others?
I have discovered, through trial and error, a key element for a great strategy: Bring on board all of my stakeholders, from individual contributors to management. It may sound crazy and time-wasting to assure that every single stakeholder agrees with the strategy. But my experience has shown that if all stakeholders agree on key elements up front, any future difference of opinion can be resolved by referring back to the agreed-upon expectations.
What do they need to agree upon?
- Sales and marketing objectives.
- Target audience.
- Competitive landscape.
- Product differentiation.
Sales objectives: Concrete sales objectives will motivate and rally the team. All stakeholders need to agree upon revenue dollars, volume units, marketing segment share or growth percentage. Once everyone signs off on the sales objectives, they will more likely be able to formulate concrete marketing objectives.
Marketing objectives: Marketing objectives incorporate sales objectives. They focus on the desired marketing outcomes your team seeks to accomplish. These marketing objective templates can help you and your stakeholders think specifically about your aims:
- Stimulate demand for product by increasing sales objectives.
- Increase product awareness to the target audience by reaching sales objectives.
- Position product as the best in its category to the target audience by achieving sales objectives.
- To expedite the agreement process, you and your team might pitch specific marketing objectives to the other stakeholders and solicit their feedback on refining or changing the objectives.
Target audience: Part of defining sales and marketing objectives includes defining the target audience. It’s no longer surprising to me that stakeholders often have very different ideas about the right set of customers on which to focus. Do we market to our distribution partners or the end-users? Do we market to children who drive demand or to the parents who make decisions? Different audiences dictate different messaging and marketing plans. Among your team, you can lay out all of the optional audiences and ascertain which target most likely will help your team achieve its objectives. Then, you can take your plan to your stakeholders to assure they understand the logic of your strategy as well as, again, to solicit their feedback.
The competitive landscape and product differentiation: The next step is to understand the competitive landscape and product differentiation. I interview my sales and product teams as well as gather primary research and possibly purchase third-party research. I also grill our engineers on the proposed product’s features and benefits so that I can compare it with our competitors’ products. If I have the budget, I conduct message testing to understand which positioning or specific copy words and phrases resonate with my audience.
- Here is the step-by-step process to rally everyone to agreement:
- Identify the key stakeholders.
- Identify the key decision-maker (preferably one or two).
- Understand your stakeholders’ and decision-makers’ expectations up front.
- Create a draft of sales and marketing objectives, target audience, competitive landscape and product differentiation.
- Conduct review sessions to these key elements in order to ensure everyone is in agreement.
- If there is any disagreement, the decision-maker(s) will provide the verdict.
- The decision-maker needs to communicate the logic behind the verdict with the whole team.
- Finalize with an e-mail confirmation whose recipients include all key stakeholders.
Miraculously, when everyone is in agreement on the objective, target audience, competitive landscape and product positioning, everything else such as pricing, promotion, forecast, budget, placement and success metrics comes together with relative ease.
I’ve tried this simple process with numerous product launches and annual planning, and it works. I do know how challenging it is to get “all” stakeholders on the same page. Yet the hard work up front yields an effective strategy and big dividends.
Give it a try, and let me know of your successes or challenges.