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3 Steps to Creating a Marketing Strategy that is Effective (from Scratch!)

compass on blueprintThe topic of creating a marketing strategies is a common topic in blogs, books, and trainings.

And sure, you need a good one to get your business off the ground and make sales.

But getting started can feel difficult when there are so many things you need to consider. And most of the ideas you’ve heard of (and tried) don’t work.

The same problem arises when you want to improve your current marketing.

Getting good results isn’t as complicated as it’s hyped up to be, nor is it as simple as some “gurus” claim.

There are different ways you can look at creating a marketing strategy. Here’s one of them.

I recommend (and use) this one because it’s simple and it works for every business type.

Don’t get me wrong; your success is up to your willingness to do the work. But following these steps will save you a lot of time and headache.

Step 1: Create a Strong Value Proposition

I assume you know – at least generally – what you (want to) sell. You should also have an idea of who will be your customers.

You can create your value proposition (sometimes called a customer value proposition) when you know those basics.

Your value proposition is the collection of the best believable reasons your target customers have for taking the action you’re asking for. There’s no one best value proposition template – but there are some standard practices you can rely on!

In other words, when you know your value proposition, you know what you need to tell people so they’re as likely to take action as possible.

Your marketing is supposed to get those ideas across. And when it does, you see great results. If you don’t know your value proposition, you can create a marketing strategy, but you don’t know if you’re focusing on the right things.

Building a value proposition isn’t the simplest task. But knowing the basics is necessary for you to succeed. (

Start by figuring out the core of it – what are the reasons people should pay attention to you and buy what you sell.

Those reasons are (usually) about the most important benefits you can provide to people. Specifically, the benefits that make you better than others.

Is your product faster, cheaper, or more durable than others? Will your service create better results than others? Can your company help people reach goals or solve problems others can’t? Do you have expertise others don’t have?

The ideas that are the most persuasive to your target customers create the core of your value proposition.

And when you know the core, you can refine it.

The goal is to figure out how to convey the ideas simply yet so that people understand and believe them.

You’re not after a “value statement” or tagline. You just need to find a way to communicate the ideas in your value proposition.

Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s not a competition of who can squeeze the ideas into the fewest words. Clarity is more important than literary exercising. So, if you need a few sentences to make people really grasp the meaning, it’s not a problem.

Step 2: Reach your Audience

Granted, sometimes this isn’t quite as straightforward, but in most cases, this is the easy step.

Figure out where can you reach your target customers in a meaningful way.

The two questions that you need to answer are:

  1. Where do your target customers go to find a solution to the problem you can solve or the goal you can help achieve?
  2. How can you reach them in that place and showcase how you can help?

For example, if you sell gardening supplies, your target customers probably use Google to find what they need. So, using AdWords would be the simplest way to reach them when they’re looking for what you sell.

Sure you can utilize online marketing strategies, and relationship marketing strategies and write guest posts to gardening blogs or run ads in gardening magazines.

Maybe you use all three channels. But you only really need one good channel to see results. Pick the one you’re most comfortable with and expand later when you’ve made the first one work well.

Step 3: Get Your Value Proposition Across

Once you have their attention, you need people to understand your value proposition.

Remember: By definition, they’re most likely to buy from you when they’ve understood it. So, that’s what your marketing focus should be.

But people won’t really understand your value proposition and what makes you worth their attention if you don’t present the ideas in the right order.

Start with the idea that’s closest to what your target customers are already thinking about.

For example, let’s say the core of your value proposition has three ideas: 1) your running shoes are cheaper than others, 2) they’re lighter, and 3) they have the best cushioning.

If you’re targeting people who are looking for running shoes on a tight budget, you should start by mentioning how cheap your shoes are. It’s what they were already thinking about.

When you’re hoping to find something specific, like cheap running shoes, everything else becomes part of “grey mass.” You’re only going to notice what you were hoping to find.

After the first idea, you focus on the idea that’s then closest to what they’re thinking. So, after mentioning the cheap price, point out how great the cushioning in your shoes is (assuming that’s the next thing your target customers want).

The idea of the shoes being light would be the last main point after the price and cushioning. It’s not an unimportant idea – it’s the third most important of all. But it’s the last of the main ideas of your value proposition.

You can follow the same pattern regardless of your business type; first focus on the idea in your value proposition that’s most prominent in your target customers’ minds and move “down” in order or importance.

Even if your sales funnel – what I call conversion path – is long, you still do the same thing.

For example, if you have an audience-based business, you’re likely to interact with people for a long time before they buy anything from you. All that time is time you can use to get them to understand your value proposition, which ultimately leads to them buying.
But in the beginning, to get them to join your email list (or even notice you), you need to make them notice the main ideas of your value proposition.

Sure, there are lots of details to consider. There always is. And they can make a big difference.

But you can create an effective marketing strategy by following these steps.

If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments.

And download the 2-page PDF that explains the quick 5-steps you can use to find the core of your value proposition.

About Peter Sandeen

Peter Sandeen dreams of sailing with his wife and dogs on the Finnish coast-unless he's helping someone build a clear marketing message and strategy that creates sales consistently. Download the quick 5-step exercise that shows what ideas are most likely to make people want to buy your products and services.

26 comments

  1. Suz Ashley says:

    Hey Peter!

    Thank you for the helpful article. My coach and I went through your Value Proposition exercise last week. She loved how you multiply the numbers, which gave me a few surprising results, by the way. This post will be quite helpful in moving forward with the next step. Thank you!

    Salud!

  2. silver price says:

    Keeping a focus on knowing your value proposition is particularly important for those developing new web services and software. The great thing about building computer software is you can make it do whatever you want – and that’s also the terrible thing. Failing to keep a focus on value proposition often leads to a lack of prioritization when it comes to features, resulting in a sprawling, over-featured product that end-users don’t understand, and don’t find compelling. Ever visited a web site or downloaded software and found that you just didn’t know what you supposed to do with it? That’s what happens when folks lose sight of their core value proposition. Obviously, the issue of executing on the concept of the core value proposition are largely determined by domain-specific knowledge related to your business. I know how to do it for web sites and software, but I wouldn’t claim to have any idea how to do it for a retail clothing store. Generally, however it’s not the execution where new businesses run into trouble – it’s in defining exactly what that execution is going to achieve. There’s a basic question I pose to a lot of early-stage entrepreneurs – “10 seconds, 2 sentences – what does your business do for its customers”. If they were given a sound bite on CNBC, what would they say about their company? Too often, the answer is about the product, rather than what it does for customers. Customers don’t care about your product. They don’t care about how you thought it up. They care about what it promises to do for them, and how well it delivers on that promise.

  3. Mike Martel says:

    Peter,
    I like your steps, simple and to the point. Somewhere in there, perhaps in Step 1 Value Proposition I think you have to have why they should buy it from you. There are so many places to get products, information and many places offer it for a very cheap price. You really have to make a case of why they should buy it from you. As you mentioned creating an audience that knows, likes and trusts you is a great way to cross that line and have them buy your product even if it costs more than another source.

  4. Brenda says:

    I cannot get your pdf to download or access your website, Peter. It says 502 Bad Gateway. Let me know when it’s fixed because I think you just clarified some things for me. Thanks!

    1. Hi Brenda,

      Thanks for letting me know. I checked the site; it’s now working as it should (and I didn’t get any downtime alerts).

      If you still can’t get through, can you send me an email (contact [at] petersandeen.com), so I can send the PDF to you?

      Thanks,
      Peter

      1. Brenda says:

        It all worked smoothly today. I wasn’t using my home wi fi yesterday. That may have been the problem. Thank you.

  5. Mike Devaney says:

    Thanks…simple but meaty article. I find Step 2 to be the most mysterious, at least now as I’m just getting started.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks 🙂

      Yeah, it’s often the tricky part. Then again, if you just put your mind to it (or find someone who can help with it), it’s not as difficult as it might seem—even if you haven’t done it before 🙂

      Let me know if you have any questions I can help with.

      Cheers,
      Peter

    1. Hey Simone,

      I don’t think the topics are the same. You’re focusing on setting up online marketing technologies and the groundwork for that whereas this post is about the underlying process for creating a marketing strategy (of which online marketing can be a part).

      But maybe I misunderstood what you meant 😉

      Cheers,
      Peter

  6. Lori Dominguez says:

    I suspect, it’s really a combination of the two. You’re testing your core value proposition as your ideal customer travels through the entire funnel. Plus, in this case, the PPC ad and the landing page (or whatever steps your funnel might have) are all expressions of the core value prop with their own derivative value propositions .

    1. Hi Lori,

      Yep, you got it right 😉 Although I’d say that you should test your value proposition separately (with A/B testing) to see what works best as the first idea, second idea, and so on.

      Let me know if you have any questions I can help with.

      Cheers,
      Peter

  7. Azalea Pena says:

    This post is as simple as it gets. Many people tend to get rattled up when making a marketing strategy. I admit, it is quite intimidating at first. However, it really comes down to the basics like what you explained here: value proposition, audience and getting the message across. I’d say the toughest part is step 1 because you really have to think about what makes your product unique from the rest. Then again, if you really know your product, this won’t be much of a problem at all right?

    Thanks for this insightful post Peter. I’m sure a lot of people will learn a good deal here. Always start with the basics as they say:)

    1. Hi Azalea,

      There are other ways how you can build your marketing strategy; this is just where I start. And for it to work, you already need to know your audience quite well.

      Creating a strong value proposition doesn’t require super powers. And there’s nothing magically difficult about it. But I would still call it the most difficult part of marketing because after you’ve done it, everything else is that much easier. I do it almost every day with clients, but I still think it’s a complicated task; what comes after that is the “easy” part (at least compared to the brain-crunching value proposition creation 😉 .

      Let me know if you have any questions I can help with.

      Cheers,
      Peter

  8. Damayanthi says:

    Hi Peter,

    Love your posts always. I like the way you present them. I got to agree with Jim above, these are basics we need to learn or know before we go out in the market place. Saying that, I am still trying to translate my value proposition to words.
    As you said it is like few sentences. I think it is something that evolves over time.

    It is always good to keep these basics in mind & reading posts like these help get the creative juices flowing.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Damayanthi

  9. This is crazy talk, I tell ya!

    Where’d you get all these hair-brained ideas, Peter? I suppose you would call them “core fundamentals,” huh?

    Love your posts, Peter. They may not be “epic” but they are helpful as all get-out! 🙂

    1. Iain says:

      It’s funny how often we forget the basics.

      As was mentioned, we often get caught up in all the excitement and lose sight of what is most important.

      Peter, other than your value proposition sheet. Is there anywhere else that might supplement your starting sheet?

        1. Iain says:

          Thanks very much peter. I’ll have to take a look at that.

          I’m sure other people could benefit from it as well.

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