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What does it take to carve out a great marketing strategy? This is a question that begins with careful planning, along with some simple truths around your objectives and the ideas driving your message. Before you can begin to map out the practicalities of a campaign and allocate the right spend, certain questions must be taken into account - questions that will keep you from veering off track, and help steer your creative efforts in the right direction.

For Joe McCambley, SVP of Content Marketing at POP, there are six questions that every marketer needs to address before they can drive a winning strategy and ensure the right return on investment.

1. How does this tie into your business strategy?

“First and foremost, your marketing strategy needs to be aligned with your business model and your overarching business goals”, says Joe. As he outlines, any campaign or strategy looking to compete in today’s landscape must support the bigger picture rather than simply pursue a single, short-term goal.

With reference to marketing’s continuous path towards more audience-centric storytelling, Joe says: “Most brands nowadays are testing more innovative content and trying it out in the hopes that it works, and they’re doing individual trials, but many haven’t really thought about how this can be incorporated and affect their entire business. For example, I think we’re going to see content marketing becoming more and more important and integral to what marketers are doing.

So now is the time to start asking:‘How does this fit into our overall business model?’”

2. What is your brand story and brand voice?

“The second thing you really need to take into account is your brand strategy and brand voice, and this is often where the big disconnect happens”, says Joe. With in-house teams branching out into niche areas of expertise and many brands still relying heavily on agencies and external teams, maintaining consistency across messaging can be a key challenge.

“You’ve got brand people doing brand storytelling which is disconnected from the product people doing product storytelling - The voice is different and the manner is different”, says Joe. “Usually at brand level, they’re thinking about being helpful and useful because they know that’s what makes good storytelling, but at the product level where your year-end bonus depends on how many conversions you get, the nature of your goals is very different…

I think that the extent to which you can have your brand voice and strategy infused in everything you do throughout the journey is so important.”

3. How can you tailor your message to your audience?

The next aspect to consider is the strategy itself as you plan how to tailor your message in the right way. Audience profiling has transformed the traditional process of understanding your audience and where to target your messaging, allowing you to create more in-depth personas and consumer journeys that are actually based on your consumers’ interests, perceptions and behaviors.

Using this information to paint an accurate portrait of your consumer and guide your strategy in the right direction, you can tailor your plans accordingly. For Joe McCambley, the arrival of this kind of data and the ability to understand your consumers in the most in-depth way imaginable is spurring the industry to get back to basics.

“I think in digital advertising, especially over the past twenty years, it’s been about anything but the customer and their need”, he says. “It’s been about tricking people into clicking.

Now that advertisers are moving into the content space, all of those old marketing lessons that centre around understanding your audience are coming back and proving to be more important than ever.”

4. What are your big ideas?

“I think that for the first time in history, every advertiser is focused on creating content because that’s where consumer attention is turning to”, says Joe. “The only way you’re going to get their attention is if you’re genuinely useful, helpful or entertaining to them.” Outlining the importance that must be placed on creating big ideas and quality content, Joe says this is something that’s often omitted from the conversation as too many marketing efforts are focused on quantity over quality.

“As advertisers, for example, when you look at things like the ‘death of the banner ad’ - This view of quantity over quality is essentially what led to its demise. The same is true for any form of marketing. Everybody wants to get as much content out the door as they can because they know content works, but they’re not thinking about quality and the value of ideas.

It’s important to ask early on: ‘Am I really focused on the big ideas that will deliver high quality work?’”

5. What are the best platforms and channels to use?

Deciding where to invest your time and spend is the next step, and one that has been widely overlooked. As Joe explains, “You can create lots of great content but it’s hard to get it up on a platform in a way that makes it easy for the customer because the it’s not as robust as it needs to be. I think we’re going to see a lot of advertisers moving towards more robust publishing platforms.”

Apart from considering the importance that platforms play in the customer experience, Joe highlights the need for marketers to really think about where to place their message, which comes back to understanding their audience.

By using data-driven personas and consumer journey maps to guide your channel planning in the right direction, you can ensure your message is optimized for the right audience, at the right time.

Only when a marketer has considered and answered these six essential questions can they create an effective strategy that truly guides marketing that works.

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