Brand Strategy: Why You Should Start With Strategy Before Spending

In the last two decades, digital marketing has grown from a nice-to-have marketing boost to an essential element of doing business with any type of customer. Unfortunately, marketing’s central importance in modern commerce has also grown its complexity. Marketers now are overwhelmed with a lot of different options and tools they can use to reach their target audience.

This leads to a specific type of problem that we see all too often in the world of digital marketing, particularly in fields like health and technology software.

A lack of strategy leads to questionable results

It’s an unfortunate situation that’s almost as old as business itself: someone (often the owner) feels that some sort of activity must happen in order to bring in new leads that can help the company grow. As a result, they engage in some kind of campaign that feels like it could be helpful for growth.

There are two problems with this kind of approach: first, there’s no specific reason for why a particular marketing action is taken or not taken. Social media or email marketing? SMS or in-person events? Without a clear strategy, decisions about whether or not to use these channels might be made based on personal preference or unverified opinions.

A lack of a clear reason for marketing activity means there’s no particular definition of what success looks like Click To Tweet

Second, a lack of a clear reason for marketing activity means there’s no particular definition of what success looks like. For marketing managers and executives, this sometimes provides a great opportunity to use so-called “vanity metrics” that make a campaign look good but don’t indicate anything substantive about its actual impact on revenue. With some selective analysis of the numbers and clever presentation, it’s easy to make marketing efforts seem successful.

As the Cheshire Cat told Alice in Wonderland: if you don’t know where you’re going, any direction will do.

Why you need strategy first

There is a famous saying about the importance of preparation: “Given four hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first two sharpening my axe.” You should approach your digital marketing efforts the same way: make a plan first before you start swinging around the axe that is your marketing budget.

The lack of an effective strategy will lead to some serious money wasted on marketing campaigns and tactics that don’t work. Worse, some tactics might actually appear like they are working, leading to more wasted time and money that digs you further into a hole.

Another reason to prioritize strategy before action: your marketing campaigns aren’t just an internal company decision that your team has to deal with if something goes awry. Your marketing campaigns impact your reputation as well. Most marketing happens in public, whether it’s on a popular social media network or a blog post published on a company website. A campaign that’s ineffective online will not only waste valuable company resources, but it could also negatively impact your brand reputation if it’s inconsistent with your voice or the products and services your company offers.

Before diving into the specific elements of planning your marketing, one final note: just because we are recommending you take some time to create a strategy, doesn’t mean strategy is the only thing you can do. While some marketers may have an issue with wasting money on tactics and messaging that isn’t effective, we’ve also seen plenty of marketers with the opposite problem: they spend days, weeks, even months planning a strategy, constantly tweaking it without ever actually launching anything.

Just like you don’t want to spend too much money on marketing before you know how effective it’ll be, you don’t want to let the apparent complexity of digital marketing prevent you from taking enough action to get any results.

Let’s simplify your brand strategy into a few easy-to-understand elements.

Key elements of a brand strategy

While these aren’t the only things you’ll ever have to worry about in a brand strategy, taking care of the below elements will go a long way towards solidifying the broad positioning of your business. Once you have a foundation, you can build on it for specific campaigns and initiatives.

Know your audience

The first rule to be successful with any sort of marketing is knowing your target audience. The more intimately you understand your ideal customer, the more likely it is that your digital marketing efforts will be successful. If you don’t already have one or more buyer personas in place, creating one is a good place to start. Hootsuite provides an excellent resource with templates for building personas.

The nice thing about spending time upfront to create a buyer persona for your brand strategy is you can use it over and over as you experiment with different campaigns on various platforms. As you receive data from your campaigns (more on this in a minute), you can use it to refine your persona, making it sharper and sharper until you have a strong sense of your target audience.

Know your channels

In other words, what vehicles will you use to transmit your message to the people you want to receive it? There’s no right or wrong answer here – it’s largely dependent on your target audience. If you’re trying to sell practice management software for patent attorneys, you probably aren’t going to be spending a lot of time on TikTok or Pinterest (though your audience might surprise you!).

Email is typically a good bet no matter what kind of target audience you are targeting, especially when it comes to B2B products and services that need more complex marketing initiatives. Blogging is another good cornerstone for almost any kind of industry. A big advantage of these two specific channels is you own your own audience: unlike social media, there is no gatekeeper between your email subscribers and blog visitors that regulates how you can interact with them.

Know your messaging

Once you’ve spent some time building an audience persona and deciding the best channels to pursue them on, you have to decide the specific content of your message. In an article published in The Harvard Business Review, it’s suggested that marketers can nail their brand strategy by finding a happy medium between two important goals: centrality and distinctiveness. In other words, how do you get your product or service to be highly positioned within an existing category, while also making it stand out from competitors already there?

It’s a challenge for companies in every field. Deciding on your brand messaging is beyond the scope of this article (or any single article, for that matter), but much of it will be determined by your company’s values and your offering’s unique selling proposition (USP). Shopify does a great job of explaining USP and providing examples in this guide.

The last word: Always be measuring

The steps above should provide you with a basic framework to fill in that can help you get started. However, don’t think that because you’ve read a few blog posts on marketing strategy you’re now ready to deploy your budget and start bringing in the leads. You need to define a strategy that outlines who you’re targeting, where you’ll target them, and what you’ll say to pique their interest. Beyond that, you need to create specific goals that will help you identify whether or not your efforts are working and how to alter them if they aren’t.

If you need help at any point along the way, click here to schedule an introductory call and learn more about how the team at Grwth can help sort out your brand strategy so that you can keep all your marketing expenditures in line with your overarching mission.

About the Author

Mosheh Poltorak

Mosheh is a growth consultant, advisor, and fractional-CMO to early-stage startups. His specialty is at the intersection of marketing and product, and the overlap between data and customer experience. Mosheh has successfully deployed these strategies for companies big and small, across B2B and B2C industries. He has served as CMO for a number of startups in healthcare, technology, and eCommerce verticals.