Over the last several months, I've been assisting Salesforce customers with developing a strategy on how to best utilize their licensed platforms. It's an interesting opportunity and one that's actually surprised me. Having been an early employee of ExactTarget, I'm a huge fan of the infinite capabilities of Salesforce and all of their available products.
This opportunity came to me through a Salesforce partner that has an outstanding reputation for implementing, developing, and integrating the collection of Salesforce platforms for their clients. Over the years, they've just knocked it out of the park… but they've started noticing a gap in the industry that needed filled – strategy.
Salesforce provides countless resources and outstanding use cases to prospects on how other customers are best utilizing the platform. And my Salesforce Partner can accommodate the implementation of any strategy. The gap, though, is that companies often enter into an engagement with Salesforce and the partner without actually determining what the strategy might be.
Implementing Salesforce is not a Marketing Strategy. Implementing Salesforce could almost mean anything – from how you sell, who you sell to, how you communicate to them, how you integrate with your other corporate platforms, as well as how you measure success. Getting a license and sending out logins to Salesforce isn't a strategy… it's like buying a blank playbook.
What is a Marketing Strategy?
A plan of action designed to promote and sell a product or service.
A marketing strategy is a business's overall game plan for reaching people and turning them into customers of the product or service that the business provides.
If you purchased a marketing strategy from a consultant, what would you expect them to deliver? I posed this question to leaders throughout the industry and you'd be surprised at the range of answers I received… from ideation through to finite execution.
Developing a marketing strategy is one step in your overall marketing journey:
- Discovery – Before any journey begins, you must understand where you are, what’s around you, and where you’re going. Every marketing employee, hired consultant, or agency must work through a discovery phase. Without it, you don’t understand how to deliver your marketing material, how to position yourself from the competition, or what resources are at your disposal.
- Strategy – Now you have the tools to develop a baseline strategy used to achieve your marketing goals. Your strategy should include an overview of your goals, channels, media, campaigns, and how you will measure your success. You will want an annual mission statement, quarterly focus, and monthly or weekly deliverables. This is an agile document that can change over time, but has the buy-in of your organization.
- Implementation – With a clear understanding of your company, your market positioning, and your resources, you’re ready to build out the foundation of your digital marketing strategy. Your digital presence must have all the tools necessary to execute and measure your upcoming marketing strategies.
- Execution – Now that everything is in place, it’s time to execute the strategies you’ve developed and measure their overall impact.
- Optimization – Notice the cool wormhole that we’ve included in the infographic that takes our growing strategy and transports it right back to Discovery again! There is no completion of the Agile Marketing Journey. Once you’ve executed your marketing strategy, you must test, measure, improve, and adapt it over time to continue to maximize its impact to your business.
Notice that strategy precedes implementation, execution, and optimization. If you're developing or purchasing a marketing strategy from a company – that doesn't mean they're going to implement that strategy, nor execute it.
A Marketing Strategy Example: Fintech
We've got a fantastic webinar coming up with Salesforce, Best Practices in Creating Customer Experience Journeys at Financial Service Companies, where we discuss developing marketing journey strategies with Financial Service companies. The webinar came to be after I did some ground-breaking research in the industry on the digital divide that was happening between financial institutions and their customers.
In developing the marketing strategy, we identified:
- Who their customers were – from their financial literacy, to their life stage, to their financial health, and their persona.
- Where their marketing efforts were – how mature their organization was in building a relationship with them. Did they know who they were, whether or not they were educating them, whether or not their customers actually benefitted from learning from them, and whether a customer actually reached out personally?
- How was the organization engaging – had the institution asked for feedback, could they assess the questions above, did they have the resources to educate and equip their customers, and was the journey actually personalized?
- Did the organization have the resources – our research showed a couple dozen topics that their customers were always researching online – from credit management, wealth management, estate planning, to retirement planning. Customers were looking for DIY tools to help them assess, plan, and execute their finances… and the institutions they were working with should have them all (or at least point them to a great partner).
- Was the organization visible in each of the buying stages – from problem identification, to solution exploration, to requirements and financial organization selection, could the organization reach every stage in the buyer's journey? Did they have tools and resources to help validate the buyer's findings and help them drive home the engagement?
- Could the organization be reached through the preferred mediums – articles aren't the only medium. In fact, some people don't even take the time to read anymore. Does the organization utilize text, imagery, audio, and video to reach their prospects or customers where they prefer?
- Once implemented, how will success be measured with your marketing strategy? Before you implement a strategy, the measurement capabilities must be taken into consideration so you know it's working. How long will you wait before deciding how successful it is? At what point will you optimize your campaigns? At what point will you fold them if they're not working?
If you can answer all of these questions, then you probably have a solid marketing strategy. A marketing strategy will help you uncover, discover, and plan that you need a tool or resource.
From the fintech example above, your company may find that the site is missing a home mortgage calculator so you have in your plan to build one. That doesn't mean the strategy defines what the calculator looks like, how you're going to develop it, where it will be hosted, or how you're going to promote it… those are all campaign execution steps that can be done down the road. The strategy is to build a calculator that you need to reach customers. The implementation and execution comes later.
Strategy is the Gap Between the Need and Execution
As I consult with more and more organizations with Salesforce, we're knocking it out of the park on these engagements. Salesforce has helped the customer identify the need for a technological solution to help them with their sales and marketing efforts.
The Salesforce partner is there to help them implement the solution for the processes and strategies they hope to execute. But I'm in between the two identifying the gap and working between the platforms, the partner, and the customer to develop the plan to reach their prospects and customers. When there's consensus between us all, the Salesforce partner comes in and implements the solution, then the client executes the strategy.
And, of course, as we measure the results, we should adjust the strategy from time to time. In an enterprise setting, that could take months to achieve, though.