Let’s talk marketing strategy. (We do that a lot around here.)

We’ve got one guess at what’s going through your head right now at the mention of marketing: Your blog posts. Your email marketing. Your quarterly direct mail pieces.

You’re on the right track — but what you’re thinking of are marketing tactics. Which is where a lot of small businesses get caught up.

Marketing: It all starts with strategy

The difference between strategy and tactics is an important one. The strategy is the big-picture plan, the blueprint that guides what your business is and where it’s going. Only once that’s in place can you plan the tactics — the individual tasks — that will help you accomplish the goals set forth in your strategy.

This is incredibly difficult for small business owners, and for good reason: Focusing on the big-picture strategy means having to back out of the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day, which can feel like it means bringing business to a halt.

Not so — in fact, taking pauses to back up and think the big picture is key to making sure that your day-to-day doings still make sense, and that they’re pushing your business forward instead of keeping it static. All too often, it’s ineffectual marketing — that’s not informed by strategy — that can give off false impressions, no matter how stellar your services actually are.

Marketing, as a key part of moving your business forward, deserves a strategy that makes it the effective business function it’s meant to be.

Marketing, as a key part of moving your business forward, deserves a strategy that makes it the effective business function it’s meant to be.

We’ve talked about where to start in building a strong marketing strategy before. (Haven’t read that post yet? Start there.)

Because it’s only after your purpose has been stated, your goals have been drafted, your client avatars have been built, your position has been defined, and your brand story has been written, that you can then turn your attention to the actual implementation.

Marketing tactics (and finding the ones that work for your business)

Up to this point, we’ve been talking strictly strategy. (It’s that important.) Now, it’s time to jump off our strategy soapbox and turn to the supporting role: marketing tactics.

These are the actual vehicles and campaigns that make sense in your day-to-day to support your overall strategy. Think tactics such as:

  • Blogging
  • Email marketing
  • Guest posting
  • Google AdWords
  • Social media
  • Trade shows
  • Direct mail — brochures, postcards, etc.

The list goes on. (And of course, each tactic is supported by your stand-out website.)

The key here is to find a strategic blend between the ongoing tactics — blogging, social media, PR — and one-off campaigns — direct mail, print advertising, social media advertising — that will drive concentrated attention and revenue.

No two marketing strategies are the same, just like no two sets of tactics are the same. Here’s a handy process for figuring out the tactics that are converting for you — and what’s important to drop versus continue doing.

Streamlining the tactics: The controls that keep your marketing going

Type A personalities: rejoice. The most effective marketing strategies are incredibly organized. A few controls can and should be put in place to guide the tactics you choose to incorporate in your marketing strategy, making it a well-oiled machine. Having these in place will be key to keeping your marketing consistent over time:

  • Marketing calendar: Consider this your master marketing dashboard. The calendar is the keeper of your overall marketing strategy, tracking your short- and long-term goals, your purpose, and your progress.
  • Editorial calendar: This is your communication dashboard. This calendar is focused on the content and communications you’re creating: your PR outreach, your blog and video content, your whitepapers/ebooks, and more.
  • Style guide: Like a lookbook, your style guide is your visual blueprint that ensures the look and feel of your brand is consistent across platforms. A comprehensive style guide will include your logo, logo variations, color palette with codes, typefaces, brand graphics, and more.
  • Voice guide: How can you ensure that all your employees, partners, and hired teams communicate your brand in the same way? Develop a voice guide that includes your tone, your main messaging, key language, personality traits, and positioning against competitors.

These guides and documents can be developed with the aid of a marketing strategist and should be based off of your purpose, goals, target market, positioning, and brand story. (There’s a reason we went through those first, of course!)

Small business marketing that works

So many small businesses have trouble defining their marketing function, for this reason: They’re using marketing tactics without a firm strategy. Context is key to getting the most from your marketing tactics, and your strategy provides that context.

Once a foundation is built, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with the plethora of marketing tactics out there, and exactly how well they can work when they’re given the support to do so.

PS – Marketing isn’t a one-(wo)man job. Here’s when + how to outsource it so that it gets done, and done right.

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