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4-Step Marketing Strategy for SMEs

There are many definitions of marketing strategy and a plethora of unnecessarily complicated (in my opinion) ways to create marketing strategy. The goal of this blog post is to simplify it for SME CEOs with a 4-step approach and a template. Let's dive in.

These are the four basic steps to create your marketing strategy:

1. Know your short-term and long-term business objectives

2. Establish marketing objectives that are aligned with the business objectives.

3. Create a list of marketing activities to perform in order to achieve the marketing objectives.

4. Define the key results and key indicators to measure.

Here is a template you can use to go through these four steps. Click the image below to download a template. Wondering about what the marketing BHAG is all about? Have a look at the tip #5 in this blog: 5 Tips for Establishing Marketing Objectives

To make these steps more tangible and real, in this blog, I'm going to go through each step for our imaginary company, ABC Consulting. This is a totally imaginary company that I made up to demonstrate the 4-step approach.

ABC consulting is a B2B consulting company. Currently, they have a sales-led demand generation strategy, meaning that their sales team is conducting cold calling and emailing to generate their sales pipeline. The challenges with this sales-led demand generation include: 1) an increasing customer acquisition cost; and 2) un-scalability.

4-Step Marketing Strategy for SMEs

Step 1. Know your short-term and long-term business objectives.

The future and ideal state that ABC Consulting would like to get to is a marketing-led demand generation. In other words, their objective is to build a marketing engine that generates leads to fill the top of the sales funnel.

Their short-term business objectives (i.e. the current fiscal year’s objectives) are to:

  • Start the shift from the sales-led to the marketing-led demand generation by generating 10% of the net new leads from the newly built marketing engine; and

  • Increase revenue by 10%

Their long-term business objectives (3 to 5-year goals) are to:

  • Reduce customer acquisition cost by 50% within the next 5 years

  • Grow the revenue by 50% within the next 3 years

Step 2. Establish marketing objectives that are aligned with the business objectives.

To achieve the clearly identified business objectives, what should be the marketing's role? This is the question you want to ask in this step 2 of the 4-step marketing strategy. The answers to this question become your marketing objectives. Here are ABC Consulting's marketing objectives:

  • Generate 50 MQLs and 2 SQLs per month on average by doing content marketing.

MQL stands for marketing qualified lead. MQLs are those people who sign up for your webinars or those who give you their contact information to download a white paper. They are not ready to talk to a sales person or click that "purchase" button just yet. They are educating themselves and evaluating their options.

SQL stands for sales qualified lead. SQLs are those people who contact you with a specific inquiry or request. They are ready to move forward in their buying journey, from the education and evaluation stage to the purchase stage. They want to talk to someone who can answer their specific questions.

When you invest in marketing, you want to generate both MQLs and SQLs. This is because focusing on both MQLs and SQLs can help you generate not only short-term but also long-term return on investment. Have a look at this blog for more details: Effective ways to do marketing with a limited budget

  • Refresh website by the end of H1.

In order to generate MQLs and SQLs, a solid website is a must. Why? Two words: Perception and Relationships. This blog explains what this means in detail: A website is a must to SMEs. Here’s why and where to start.

  • Generate 2 new opportunities from existing customers per month on average by doing email marketing.

Marketing is a long game and it takes time to harvest a significant return on investment. As a marketing engine is being built (and even when a marketing engine performs at a full capacity), paying attention to the existing customers and continuing to serve them is the key to decrease cost per lead and increase customer lifetime value.

Step 3. Create a list of marketing activities to perform in order to achieve the marketing objectives.

Creating a list of activities that you need to perform in order to achieve those identified marketing objectives is the next step. In this blog, I will identify the marketing activities just for the first marketing objective: Generate 50 MQLs and 2 SQLs per month on average by doing content marketing.

  • Content marketing – 4 blogs per month & 12 webinars per year

  • Website management & SEO

  • LinkedIn – repurpose the content from the blogs and webinars

When coming up with a list of marketing objectives, the key is to think about what would resonate with your target audience. For our imaginary company, ABC Consulting, blogs and webinars are the right types of content because these are the content their target audience likes to consume. ABC Consulting chose LinkedIn because they know their target audience spends time on LinkedIn.

Step 4. Define the key results and key indicators to measure.

This final step of the 4-step marketing strategy is critical to generate the return on marketing investment you’re looking for. This is where many SMEs miss the mark. Without having a clearly identified OKRs (objectives and key results) and key indicators, it is really challenging to understand whether your investment in marketing is working out and generating results. Measuring OKRs and key indicators also helps you optimize your marketing effort.

Here are the key results and key indicators for ABC Consulting to measure for their first marketing objective. As you can see, the key result is the same as the objective. When you are specific with your objective, the objective itself is the key result you want to measure. Both key results and key indicators should be SMART for you to measure your progress and return on investment, and optimize to generate even better results going forward.

Key Result:

  • Generate 50 MQLs and 2 SQLs per month on average

Key indicators to measure:

  • Publish 4 blogs and send out 1 email newsletter per month

  • Host 12 webinars per year with 50 registrants on average for each webinar

  • Each webinar should have a clear CTA (call to action)

  • Send 3+ follow-up emails after each webinar (each email to include CTAs)

  • Publish 5 social media posts per week on average and increase the website traffic from social media by 10%

When we put these in the template introduced above, here is a marketing strategy one-pager for ABC Consulting:

Marketing Strategy and Marketing Framework

Marketing strategy is the rooms of the marketing “House”, i.e. the 6PM (6-pillar marketing) Framework. See the image below. Four of the six pillars represent marketing strategy. Marketing strategy, in a nutshell, is a game plan to attract, engage, delight, and grow with your target audience in an effective and sustainable way for now and the future.

The 6PM Framework is a visualization of your marketing priorities. It helps you stay focused on the priorities and avoid shiny ball syndromes. It also helps you have a balanced approach to marketing. For example, ABC Consulting could have marketing strategy that has a heavy focus on the “Attract” pillar and zero focus on the “Grow” pillar. Without inserting the planned marketing activities into each pillar, it is not as easy to visualize whether they have a balanced strategy to successfully attract, engage, delight, and grow with their target audience. Below is ABC Consulting's marketing activities and strategy within their 6PM Framework.


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