How do I develop a marketing strategy?

11 thoughts on “How do I develop a marketing strategy?”

  1. Could you possibly provide us with a bit more context about your business. This may help us post better feedback. Is there any area that you’d like to more about first?}

  2. It’s a social networking community site focussed on wedding couples, very much like projectwedding.com. To me, the channels that I think will be most relevant to us are – a) PR / Blogger coverage (b) Viral (c) SEO / SEM.
    Brand Mangaement is a long term thing, but I am curious if you have any advice on branding do’s and dont’s.}

  3. The key to a market strategy is to balance how you will acquire users against how many resources you have at your disposal (money and time). In the case of a community site, you have two communities to attract – the users and the customers. Your market strategy towards each is distinct.

    The strategy answers how you will accumulate enough users in order that your customers will pay you money (assuming you want to make money at this). Without lots of users you can’t gather customers – put the majority of your effort on users.

    To develop your strategy you have to put yourself in the shoe’s of the user. How do they like to find the information you offer? How do they get it today? Do they Google for it? Read magazines? Go to local wedding planners and related stores? Look in the newspaper? The answer to these questions will tell you where to find the users.

    Once you know which of these routes will put you in front of the most users, then you can lay out a plan for attacking it. Be laser focused. Spend your limited resources on the target with the best return. Try it, learn, adjust. Don’t expect to nail it on the first try.

    This applies to your product marketing strategy too. What features do the users most desire and use? Expect to be adjusting as your learn.

    How much you should spend on branding, PR, SEO/SEM will fall from your plan for user accumulation. Go for the biggest bang for your buck. You do not need to address elements that don’t bring you users. Attempt to guesstimate the cost of gathering each user with these different elements – the cost per user is likely very wide. Some methods are also measurable and some are pay-n-pray. Measurable is always more desirable.

    Branding becomes more important when you get larger and and want to build a value into your name. At an early stage, having a simple company name that’s easy to remember and a matching URL are probably the top items you need. A logo and set of colors are needed for your website, collateral and such.

    Another dimension to think about is partnering. What other companies have access to these people? Could you work together? Good partners can accelerate your market growth and create barriers to competitors.

    Viral can be great if there is a natural communication network within your users. Is there something that bonds these people together – do they communicate already? Does it transcend the one wedding event? Any natural communication among your users is a good place to look to leverage a viral model. If they are all islands today, or only use the site for one wedding, this can be hard to pull off.}

  4. As said above, I would first focus on getting more users, which can be done by putting on a typica user’s hat to your community. How would they land there, What would they want in your community, What could the community do for them. Once you know the what (route) and why’s of the users, you can start pushing in some more effort in those what and why’s. (If they find you mostly using Google, focus on optimization.) Pick a geographical location and see if you can partner with some other ingredients of the whole plan (wedding) in general. Like wedding photographers, can they refer users to your community, better if they have online presence, which would link to you. Try talking to the other key participants (photographers, planners etc.) and leverage them to market for you.

    I am not sure of the Viral marketing in this particular domain. Its kinda hard to have a viral spread for a community based on weddings. But in any case thats my thought,which could be wrong.}

  5. I think there is quite a bit of potential for a viral component to a site based on weddings. At a minimum, there are at least 2 people intimately involved with the wedding process, and more often than not there are a lot more than that. There is also opportunity for multiples levels of interaction between users at different points during the wedding process. Determining at which points multiple user interactions may occur and providing the tools for the users to evangelize about the service or, at least, encourage communication is key.}

  6. One of the biggest marketing challenges you’ll likely face is that people only plan one wedding in their lives (okay, maybe two or three). That means that an acquired user has a finite tenure that ends once their wedding takes place. Hence, you will need to focus on strategies that continue to attract new users as your service has finite “stickiness”.

    The good news is that in my experience wedding planning is a very communal process. Communities like The Knot (http://theknot.com/) spread because people tell their unmarried friends about it after they use it.

    Since there are other services out there, you should try and pick one or two things that you do extremely well and build your message around that. For example, maybe you provide indepth comparison pricing on caterers. Use that feature as the hook to lure them into your site and then give them a fantastic experience they will want to tell their friends about.

    Hope that helps.}

  7. Thanks all. These are great comments and very helpful.

    Sean – you rightly point out that customer churn will be the biggest issue and also leaves the business susceptible to new entrants.

    Its good to know that its best to focus on one or two channels.

    For viral, I was thinking more along the lines of an ongoing contest. Something like folks share stories of their wedding proposal (say) and the community votes on it and the winner gets a crazy luxurious honeymoon. I have no experience with contest marketing, so any thoughts would be welcome…

    Thanks again!}

  8. I recently started a couple contests for my startup, Saki Mobile. Users signup to enter the contest, upload a picture for it, and then try to get more of their friends to signup and vote for them. They get banner code to post on their MySpace pages to gather votes. When someone votes, they get the chance to enter the contest as well. So it has the potential for viral growth. We also partner up with related sponsors and offer cool prizes.

    With the wedding site, you could have a “Best Wedding Photo” contest and get a bunch of users signed up even if they are entering their wedding photo from back in 1996. I’m sure when they’re helping plan one of their friend’s weddings down the road, they’ll remember your site and the cool contest they entered.

    Sweetest Rides of 2007
    http://www.sakimobile.com/contests.aspx?i=4
    Contestants: http://group.59.mysaki.com

    Smile With Your BFF
    http://www.sakimobile.com/webshots/WebshotsSmilesContest.aspx
    Contestants: http://group.34.mysaki.com}

  9. This is perhaps a more general comment, and maybe more of a personal habit than anything else. But a good thing to do when thinking about Marketing is to break it down into different components.

    What’s the big strategic idea? What are you trying to accomplish? Everything you do in terms of look, feel and execution needs to feed into this. This can be the feeling you want people to take away after using the service, how you want people to feel about your communications, what you want them to tell their friends about, etc.

    What vehicles are you going to use to feed the big idea? So viral, search, etc. Think about how they might work in combination, not just by themselves.

    What tactics drive the vehicles that feed the strategic goal? How does viral get executed? What search terms do you buy? etc.

    I know this isn’t very specific, the general idea is to just break apart the marketing effort into a structure that helps you plan it. Things like branding start to take care of themselves if you do it this way (and become much less of a beast later on).

    Again, maybe this is just the way my head works, but it seems to be useful.}

  10. There’s a temptation to dive right into marketing strategies and tactics – the make-and-do stuff — because it’s interesting, it feels like you’re doing something, and your vendors make money off of it. Moreover, when you’re in start-up there’s an imperative to drive results fast.

    I won’t tell you to slow down (well, not exactly), but I will suggest you back up and spend a little time thinking at the higher, more strategic levels. Here are a three tools to help.

    First off, even if you don’t have a product out the door, get people familiar with the market and the product in a room and do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Yes, they’re subjective and no, they don’t result in a punchlist of marketing activities — do it anyway. It doesn’t take long and it gets everyone thinking in terms of ammo (what you’ve got at your disposal) and enemies (the challenges you face). Remember: Strengths and weaknesses are based on internal factors; opportunities and threats are externally driven.

    Next up: Convert what you know about yourself, your market and your business into some decisions about the product(s) and markets. Now, you’ve almost certainly made some of these decisions already – you’ve got a product nearing launch! You know who you want to sell to!

    But the thing is, almost any product or service will be marketed differently to different audiences, even to the point of seeming to be an entirely different product.

    There are lots of tools for figuring out the market/product mix, but one of the easiest (and most appropriate – it was developed for fast-growing companies) is Ansoff’s Matrix – go get an overview here: http://www.marketingteacher.com/Lessons/lesson_ansoff.htm . It’s a proven tool for segmenting where you’ll put your effort and it gives you clear categories for setting goals. And set goals you should: At least one per quadrant in the matrix (even if the goal is to not pursue effort in this quadrant right now), and probably no more than three per quadrant.

    Which brings us to the third tool — a framework of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics that lets you put this all together.

    * GOALS: Create them tied to the four quadrants of Ansoff’s Matrix, and phrase them as desired end states tied to your company mission.

    * Objectives: One or more per goal, defining how you know when the goal is achieved. Goals are SMART:
    — Specific: Don’t be vague.
    — Measurable: Numbers!
    — Attainable: No pie-in-the-sky stuff.
    — Realistic: It’s got to be do-able, real and practical.
    — Time-bound: Have a deadline.

    * Strategies: Now you know what you’re trying to achieve (goals) and what the measures of success are (objectives). How will you pick each objective apart and accomplish it? These are strategies – things like media relations, direct marketing, etc. Depending on your budget and your marketing expertise in-house, you can drive the whole process or you can give your goals to a consultant and say “OK, what are achievable objectives based on our budget and timeframe? And once we agree on them, what are the strategies you’d recommend?”

    * Tactics: Break out the Gantt chart – this is the stuff that needs to get done, who does it and when it gets done by. Again, activity at this level can be done in-house, via consultant or through a mix.

    At the end of all this, what do you have? Well, you’ve got a marketing plan and a roadmap for moving forward that will save you time, headaches and money. Why? Because you’ll have a reference point to go back to whenever you have a new idea or see a new opportunity — something that says “Is this what we set out to do? Does it mesh with our plan?”

    Hope this helps! Shoot me an email if you’d like examples or more info on any of this.}

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