How to master the fundamentals of marketing strategy


The developments in the tech world around AI and VR are exciting, but make sure you have these basics in place to avoid getting distracted by the hype


We’re safely into 2018 now, which means you’ll have had plenty of time to read and digest those trend reports that started appearing at the tail end of 2017 and have no doubt already thought about purchasing a VR headset and working with influencers to spread your message and it’s probably your AI bot that’s reading this anyway, not you, so you can go and have a nice lie-down. Yes, there are lots of innovations on the horizon that may affect you but no, this doesn’t mean you have to rush out and rewrite your marketing strategy. If you’re just starting out or if your business has revised its overall strategy, the best approach is to step away from the rolling trends predictions and get your fundamentals in shape.

1. Who are your audiences?

Whatever business you’re in, you’re selling something – a product, an idea, a service – and so your audience should be the number one driver of all of your marketing activity: they’re the people you’re hoping will engage with you. Audience data is in flux as the way people interact, particularly due to technology, is changing rapidly. But none of that will be relevant if you don’t have some solid personas to start from; I’d recommend three–five. Where does your audience live? How old are they? Where do they shop? What platforms do they use? What really drives them nuts?

Create a reminder to revisit your personas after six months and assess them against your marketing activity. Do the data and assumptions you made about them still stack up or do you need to rewrite anything?

2. What are your key messages?

Your key messages are the phrases you use consistently when describing your business – or, better, when describing how your business benefits its audience. If you don’t have a set, now is the time to create them; and if you’re finding your team isn’t using them naturally and consistently, now’s the time to revisit them.

You can start this process from the position of ‘Who?’ (are you), ‘What?’ (do you do) and ‘Where?’ (do you do it) but ‘Why?’ (do you do what you do) is going to give the most interesting responses for your audience to engage with. For example, you might say:

‘We are an interior design company (who) that restyles people’s homes (what) in south London (where) so that our customers can live in a beautiful and functional environment (why).’ Your audience is interested in the beautiful and functional environment, first and foremost, and the fact that you are an interior design company second.

If you don’t have them already, this process might also help you develop a mission statement, vision statement and strapline – but these can evolve from using those messages in real life. Don’t think you need to pigeonhole yourself in creating a precise toolkit from the start.

3. Do you have a strong brand identity?

Developing your business as a brand is a considered process and a designer will help you along this path by adding spice and visual impact to your messaging: it’s much more than commissioning someone to create a logo, although that is one part of it. It’s about creating a simple set of brand guidelines that describe your colour palette, fonts, graphics, photos and how to use them, as well as specific outputs – website graphics, email headers, business cards, social media templates, etc. It’s helpful to create a Pinterest board of things that you see that you like and would resonate with your audience, and then ask for recommendations of designers who seem to be aligned with this aesthetic.

The best designers won’t want you to tell them what you want, they’ll want you to tell them:

  • Background to your company

  • Aims – How do you want people to feel? What do you want them to do?

  • Audience

  • Uses – What are your immediate and anticipated uses of the design, thinking about those outputs?

  • Treatment – Your Pinterest board will come in handy here

  • Timeline, including rounds of proofing and final delivery

This means your designer will feel empowered to use their skills and creative freedom, while you can be sure that what you get back works for your needs – now and as you grow.

Taking these actions will ensure you have a sustainable, long-term way of presenting and describing your business that will outlast any of the trends of this year and next, and know for sure which developments are worth buying into.