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Marketing – Where to start

How do you feel when you think about tackling your marketing?

Excited? Empowered? Enthusiastic?

I didn’t think so.


Most people find marketing intimidating, overwhelming, and somewhat confusing.

Partly for that reason, many people tend to bump marketing to the bottom of the To Do list where it languishes with the dust bunnies. Poor, neglected marketing.


I get it. Marketing can seem Too Big to tackle. Where do you even start?

It’s like standing at the bottom of an imposing mountain and wondering how the hell you’re going to get to the top. You feel very small and ill equipped to handle such an adventure.


However, just like climbing a mountain, you don’t have to tackle the whole thing in a single bound. You mount your attack one step at a time. For beset results, you need a solid plan. Without a plan, you risk a lot of false starts that waste time, resources, and effort. Without a plan, you might hike around and around the bottom of the mountain without getting any closer to the top.

So – how do you develop this plan?

Here’s a simple, high-level, four-step approach to getting your marketing headed in the right direction:


STEP 1: Define your goals (The peak)

What are you trying to accomplish? What business problem do you need to solve?

Do you need more traffic to your site/offer/store? Do you have plenty of traffic, but no sales? Are you having trouble keeping your existing customers?  Are you constantly losing sales to price cutters? Are you battling uphill against a negative consumer perception?

Your marketing goals should be simple, but detailed. They should be quantifiable so that you can measure against them. “More sales” is not a good goal. “5% more sales from referrals” is a better one. “Standing out from the competition” is not a good goal. “25% higher brand awareness” is a better one.

“Engagement” is not a good goal. “50% more shares of brand content” is a better one.


STEP 2: Identify your assets (Take stock of your supplies)

What resources (human, financial, technical, network, intellectual property, content, etc.) do you have to help you reach your goal? As you compile this list, notice any gaps. Where do you need to supplement your existing toolbox? Be creative about how you can fill in those needs. Can you partner or barter with another company? Can you cultivate certain skills in-house, or do you need to outsource?


STEP 3: Craft strategies (Your general direction)

Now that you know where you want to go and what tools you have at your disposal, it’s time to brainstorm ways to reach your goals. It’s important to remember the difference between strategies and goals. Strategies are the Big Ideas, concepts, possible solutions. Tactics (coming up next) are specific actions that help you carry out a strategy.

So, for instance, if your goal is to increase referrals, your strategy might be to incentivize customers to recommend you. If your goal is to increase brand awareness, your strategy might be to expand into new verticals or establish a strong presence at major industry events. As you can see, strategies are not detailed. They are broad brushstroke directions. In the case of our mountain climbing metaphor, your strategy would be “up.”


STEP 4: Choose tactics (Your detailed plan)

Now that you have a general direction, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty with specific tactics. If your mountain-climbing strategy was “up,” your tactics will include all the details of HOW you are going to go up: what kind of climbing technique you’ll employ, what apparatus you’ll use, the route you’ll follow, how many stops you’ll make along the way.

If your strategy was to increase referrals by incentivizing customers, your tactics might include a tiered rewards package, direct mail letter, email campaign, and internal competition amongst your sales reps.

Tactics involves all the details of your “plan of attack” – the audience, the message, the creative, the channel, the delivery mechanism, etc.



1 – 2 – 3 – 4 … and just like that you’re ready to tackle that marketing mountain:

You’ve got a destination (goal – the top of the mountain), supplies (assets – tools and skills), a strategy (general direction – up), and tactics (detailed climbing plans). All of these elements work together: your tactics are driven by your goal, inspired by your strategy, and constrained by the assets in your toolbox. All the pieces make sense in the context of the Big Picture, each has a specific purpose, and they all work together towards one goal. You aren’t going to waste any time or energy. Doesn’t it feel good to have a plan?


Now, if only you had the time to make it all happen.

That’s a topic for next time.


Image Credit: gigi 62


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  1. Jamie, this is such a helpful post!

    I find I avoid setting a concrete marketing plan because I’m still “gathering my tools” as it were.

    But by taking a higher level view to it all, I can simply see that as one of the steps up the mountain – making it feel so much more meaningful as I do because I can actually link it to WHY I’m investing all the time and energy in the first place!

    • Jamie Lee

      Wonderful, Sabrina. :)
      That’s just what I like to hear.

      Marketing planning and activities can become so overwhelming that it feels like your full-time job when what you should really be focusing on is your Real Work.

      Love that you’re getting that higher level view that helps provide some encouraging perspective. Keep it up!

  2. Laura

    Copied and pasted into my Writing – Business Related subfile!
    Great post Jamie! You’re always so helpful.

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