Updated: January 2024. (Originally published in 2016).
Building your marketing strategy is like building a machine – a highly sophisticated production line that turns your target audience into customers, repeat customers and even raving fans.
Before I started my marketing consultancy, I worked for a large brewery as the General Manager of the brewery tour. Each week we would take hundreds of visitors through the brewery. Their favourite part of the tour by far was the packaging area. A huge warehouse filled with high-tech equipment. It was mesmerising, like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory but for beer lovers.
No matter how many times I visited the packaging area I too was fascinated by the almost hypnotic spinning, filling, folding, sticking. Thousands of bottles would enter at the beginning of the packaging line and would be funnelled and sorted through the first machine. They would then travel along the conveyor belt, jostling for position as they moved to the next stage, only to be flipped upside down and cleaned carefully. Then it would be onto the next step where they would be filled with beer.
Pretty quickly they would move to another machine that applied the crown seal (the beer cap). The next stage would be labelling. The bottles would be moved through while a labeller spun around, applying the labels in exactly the right place. Then they would be divided into six packs, with the machine grouping the bottles and then wrapping them in shrink wrap. Finally the cardboard carton would be folded around 4 six-packs, transforming from a flat piece of cut-out cardboard into a perfectly folded and glued carton. Once the cartons were ready they would move to another section of the packaging hall where they would be organised on pallets by a robotic arm that could stack them in just the right way to fit the correct number of cartons per pallet. The pallets were wrapped, put into the back of a semi-trailer and they were on their way.
The one (giant) packaging line was divided into several smaller machines, each with its own role in moving the bottles through the process. At each stage, there were specific measures to make sure only the highest standard of bottles made it through to the next stage. The machines could tell if the bottles were chipped, warped or not filled enough. They could tell if there were foreign bodies in the liquid inside the bottle or if the labels were not quite right. And whenever a problem was identified, the below-quality bottles were filtered off to the side and discarded, making sure only the right bottles went through.
So how is a good marketing strategy like a marketing machine?
Your marketing strategy takes your target audience and turns them into customers.
The brewery’s packaging line took thousands of stubbies and through a series of phases turned them into cartons of beer ready to be distributed. Your marketing machine takes members of your target audience and through a series of phases turns them into customers, then repeat customers and, hopefully, raving fans.
The important thing is to make sure you’re bringing your target audience into your marketing machine. The brewery packaging line doesn’t put cans and stubbies and tall bottles all through the same packaging line and expect them to come out filled at the other end. Each packaging line only takes a certain type of vessel and it’s designed to work best with just that type. In the same way, your marketing strategy will work best when you target a specific audience and tailor your machine to suit them.
Several phases make up the total machine.
Just as the brewery’s packaging line was made up of several separate machines, each with its own role to play, so your marketing strategy should be broken into phases. When I’m developing a marketing strategy, I look at the following phases:
In the awareness stage, you’re aiming to make members of your target audience aware of your business, products and services. They go from not knowing you at all to knowing a bit about your brand. In this awareness phase they’re not necessarily taking any action, other than becoming aware that you exist.
In the Lead Generation stage, you are aiming to create the first interaction with your business. Whether it’s getting them to sign up for your emails, try your product or service, attend an event or call you to find out more, this phase is about offering a clear benefit or value to get your target audience to take a specific action. In this phase, you’re also generally moving them to your own marketing platforms (e.g. your website, storefront or phone) which gives you greater opportunity to control your communication with them.
In this phase, you are helping your target audience come to Know, Like and Trust you. Offering valuable information, special offers, and ongoing communication, this phase keeps your product or service top of mind. This builds a relationship that makes it easier for your audience to buy from you when they’re ready to purchase or when you launch a product.
Conversion (including Transaction and Delivery)
This is the phase where you look for the sale. Whether it’s a specific launch or a time-sensitive special offer, the marketing messages in the Conversion phase aim to get your audience spending.
Many overlook the transaction and delivery of the product or service, seeing it as operational rather than a marketing activity. But the way you treat your customers during this phase has a huge impact on whether they buy from you again or refer you to their friends and family. Throughout the transaction and delivery there are opportunities to surprise them, exceed expectations and provide a positive brand experience that sets you apart from your competitors. Don’t miss this opportunity to cement your customers’ loyalty to your business.
Repeat and Referral (Customer Nurturing)
Following the Transaction & Delivery phase, there is another nurturing phase designed to make your customers your raving fans and greatest ambassadors. Whether it’s ongoing information to help them make the most of their purchase or additional offers or information, if you can increase their enjoyment of your product or service they’re much more likely to come back and bring others with them.
Each of these phases is like a separate machine within your greater marketing machine. Each will require its own strategy and tactics to make sure you’re talking to your target audience at the right stage in the journey to becoming your customer.
The same components might be used in the different phases, just in slightly different ways.
You might use similar tactics and platforms in some of the phases, just like some of the cogs and bolts in the different packaging machines might be the same. But the way you use them will be slightly different depending on which phase you’re in.
For example, your website will feature in many of the six phases of your marketing machine. It’s SEO rankings will be important in generating awareness. The incentive you offer on your website to capture email addresses will play a huge part in the Lead Generation Phase. Blogs you write or emails you send might be involved in Lead Nurturing. The purchase itself might happen on your website. So although it’s the same tool, it has different jobs to do in the different phases.
Another example is social media. The social media activities you undertake to generate awareness will be different to those you use to generate leads or convert your audience to sales. Same tool, different uses. So rather than just using any tool in one way, consider its role in each of the phases of your marketing strategy.
You build your marketing machine piece by piece.
You should have seen the resources and effort it took to commission a new piece of machinery in the packaging line. If a more efficient or improved option became available, it was sometimes added to the line in addition to, or in place of, one of the old components. But each single piece was chosen thoughtfully and intentionally to build the machine. Not once did the engineers hear about a new tool and just throw it in because it was the latest thing. Any new component was assessed in terms of the machine’s purpose and evaluated to make sure the resources dedicated to adding that component paid a respectable return on investment.
Take the same attitude with your marketing strategy. Few businesses have the budgets or resources to implement EVERY marketing tool and tactic available to them. Assess what’s on offer, and then choose the pieces that will get your machine started and provide a return on your investment. Then add new pieces as required to increase the speed, strength or efficiency. But don’t be distracted by bright and shiny things. Before you get sucked into the latest tools and toys, assess them to determine their value to your specific marketing machine.
Your marketing machine needs maintenance.
Whether it’s your car, your washing machine or the brewery’s packaging line, all machines need regular maintenance to continue to operate efficiently and effectively. Your marketing machine is no different. Consistent measuring of the performance of your marketing strategy will mean you can make the appropriate tweaks, updates and changes to keep it humming along. It will also make sure your resources aren’t being used up on ineffective operations. Regular measurement and monitoring is vital.
So it’s time get started on building or refining your marketing machine. And don’t forget, when you’re done, kick back with a beer to celebrate! Cheers!