TLDR: Every great marketing strategy for an early-stage company can answer three questions. How do I demonstrate commercial value? Where can I unlock growth multipliers? And what is my long-term vision for marketing? Consider these when building your 2022 strategy using my ‘Big Questions’ exercise.
It’s that time of the year again:
When you sit down with your team, dust off the crystal ball, and develop an approach that will see you knocking down each of your KPIs for the next twelve months.
(I love it so much)
So, how do you build a marketing strategy? Every marketer I’ve spoken to has a slightly different take – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But before I even get close to pulling together something to be shared with anyone outside of the marketing team, I like to take a step back and answer what I call the ‘Big Questions’.
These are designed to help start framing my core challenges, get the creative juices flowing and – hopefully! – identify some untapped growth opportunities.
My objective isn’t to map out specific campaigns or how I want to activate a new channel. Instead, it’s to get me and the team in the right mindset before getting too bogged down in the details.
Think of it as the amuse-bouche to your marketing strategy entree.
Here they are.
#1. What’s Going to Help Me Prove ROI?
This is the question most important to the CEO/CFO.
Essentially, you’re asking what’s going to help you justify your budget. Or, in some cases, why the marketing team should exist at all.
Your goal is to draw a through-line from whatever it is marketing is going to ‘do’ to a net positive impact on the company’s financials. This could be leads, pipeline or revenue – ideally the latter, but whatever is the most achievable and demonstrable based on your specific situation.
I think of this as the foundation of any strong marketing strategy that’s designed to unlock more influence and resource the following year. If we come up with a strong answer to this question, execute it well, and do nothing else – we’ll have a good year.
When answering this question, I like to start by looking back at what has already worked in the past and finding ways to make it more effective.
For instance, say I had a strategy that was generating a ton of high-intent leads but few were converting to sales. This tells me something could be broken further down the funnel that needs to be fixed and that is where I’ll spend most of my energy for the first quarter of the year.
#2. Where Am I Going to Invest in ‘Gear Change’ Growth?
One of the biggest reasons marketing starts to fail is complacency.
You crack a channel and see significant returns. So, you double down. More budget, more results, right? Sure – for a time. But then your competitors catch wind and start rolling out the same stuff. Your success is diluted. Each year you see diminishing returns – never quite enough to pull the plug, but they’re all the same.
And then it’s too late. You have descended into mediocrity.
Avoid this by carving out 10% – 30% of your budget and resources every year to what I call ‘gear change’ growth. These are essentially big bets on brand new marketing approaches, strategies or tactics that allow you to escape the shackles of moderate growth that come with just doing the same thing as before.
#3. What Would I Do if My Budget Tripled?
Most of you reading this will work at early-stage companies where tight budgets are the norm. The idea of seeing your available funds grow significantly year-on-year is but a pipe dream; why even think about it?
Because if you don’t know what you would do with more money, there’s no reason for a CEO/CFO to even contemplate giving it to you.
Every marketing leader should have a clear vision of what opportunity lies behind the door that a hefty entry fee can open. You should always have a plan on how more money can be productively spent for the benefit of the business – this is what earns us a seat at the table.
I also find this question useful as it allows me to paint a best-case scenario picture and work backwards to what is achievable based on available headcount and resources.
Every great marketing strategy for an early-stage company can answer three questions. How do I demonstrate commercial value? Where can I unlock growth multipliers? And what is my long-term vision for marketing? Consider these when building your 2022 strategy using my ‘Big Questions’ exercise.