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10 First Steps of the Marketing Strategy Process: Your Path to Success

Published May 6, 2022
/ Updated April 19, 2024

What should be the first step in your marketing strategy?

Well, there’s no universal answer in the industry.

But, you can follow the lead of more experienced marketers willing to lend a hand. We made this guide to be your go-to resource for ideal marketing strategy steps.

These steps address the two main forces affecting a marketing strategy:

  • External factors in the market that your business has to account for
  • Internal factors in your organization you can change

You’ll develop a rock-solid marketing strategy by directing the factors you can control and adapting to those you can’t.

Step 1: Research Your Ideal Customer/Audience

In your first step to building a marketing strategy, you’ll identify an external factor — the ideal people for your business to market to.

Start by researching your target audience. Look for patterns in your current or intended customers’ demographics and interests. Identify the needs they have that you can address.

The traits that you define your target audience with don’t always have to fall into traditional categories like age or a favorite hobby. They can get a little more niche, like Sproos’s target audience of apartment renters:

Sproos showers website showing images of new colorful shower installation

After you get a good idea of your typical customers, create marketing personas to represent them. Marketing personas are fictional customers representing the main groups your customers fall into. For example, if you sell a computer headset, one of yours might be a gaming enthusiast, while another could be a remote worker.

Recommended Reading: Customer Relationship Management

Step 2: Analyze Your Market & Competition

Now, you’ll examine two external factors — current market sentiment and competing businesses. You’ll need to know what’s going on in your market to succeed.

Analyze social media, other businesses’ case studies, and your customer surveys to perform some fundamental market research. Find out what companies, products, features, and ideas are trending in your space. Then, think about how you can leverage those trends or subvert them.

Thorough Market Research Helps You Find:

  • The latest industry trends
  • The needs and wants of your target audience
  • Pain points of your target audience
  • A list of your competitors
  • Which strategies your competitors are using
  • Strategies that give better ROI
  • Factors that influence consumers’ buying behavior

Using our framework, you can run a competitive analysis as you evaluate your market. Build a list of similar-sized companies with products or services that compete with yours. After that, take note of their business practices, marketing tactics, and target audience.

For example, if you ran Little Beast, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) dog clothing store, you’d focus on other DTC dog goods brands. You might do a quick overview of more prominent brands like Chewy, but most of your research should cover other indie dog shops.

Little beast webpage showing dogs wearing vests

Step 3: Audit Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats (SWOT)

A SWOT analysis overviews the internal and external factors deciding your business’s position in the market. Your strengths and weaknesses (internal) will reveal what you can embrace and change at your company. Meanwhile, your opportunities and threats (external) will help you execute your marketing strategy against external factors.

Each element of a SWOT analysis:

  • Strengths are the advantages of your resources, differentiators, and audience compared to your competitors.
  • Weaknesses are the places for improvement and limitations that could get in the way of achieving your marketing goals.
  • Opportunities are the tactics and trends you can capitalize on to get ahead of your competition.
  • Threats are the market conditions and efforts from your competitors that can prevent you from reaching your marketing objectives.

Step 4: Research Your Distribution & Promotion Tactics

During this marketing strategy step, you’ll uncover the external factor of where your audience is so you can find the best avenues to get in front of them.

Begin researching your distribution and promotion strategy with a classic marketing mix, also known as the four P’s:

The four P’s

  • Product: What physical good or service do you plan to sell to your customers?
  • Price: How much will you charge for that product compared to your competitors?
  • Place: Where will you make your product available?
  • Promotion: Based on the previous three P’s, where should you promote your product?

Keep expanding on that last P, Promotion, by building a list of marketing channels. A marketing channel is a method or platform used to market something to customers, such as social media or your website. Grab the audience research you performed in the first step and think where your personas and customers would most likely look for marketing content.

Once you get together a list of at least 10 channels, develop marketing tactics to get your brand onto those channels. Some examples of marketing tactics include testimonials and referral marketing.

How can you apply these concepts to an existing brand? Check out Triviso. They sell a watermelon hair mask (product) for $22 (price) and sell online to customers internationally (place).

triviso watermelon hair mask product page

Scroll down to the site’s footer, and you’ll find their promotion strategy — both channels and tactics. They promote their product on four social media channels, their blog, and their website. You’ll also see they use affiliate marketing as a tactic.

screenshot of triviso website footer with affiliate marketing as one of the menu options

Step 5: Know Your Financials

Before you dive into any more specific goals and actions, you’ll need to set a marketing budget. Money is one of the most critical internal factors in building a marketing strategy because it determines your scope.

At CoSchedule, we recommend setting a goal-driven marketing budget. To calculate this budget, multiply the cost of getting a conversion toward your goal by the number of conversions you want to get. Then, add your operational marketing costs.

Monthly marketing budget formula

Monthly marketing budget = (marketing goal acquisition cost × marketing marketing goal #) + [marketing operational costs]

Of course, this formula begs the question of how to calculate the cost of a conversion — your customer acquisition cost. Try dividing the cost of a piece of content by the number of conversions it got or; dividing your overall monthly marketing costs by your monthly conversions.

Step 6: Set Marketing Objectives & Goals

Your marketing objectives and goals are the internal factors that serve as the foundation for your marketing strategy. Every marketing strategy boils down to goals and the tactics you’ll take to accomplish them.

You can approach marketing goals and objectives in two different ways. You can set broad marketing goals such as “raise brand awareness” and break them into more specific, measurable objectives like “increase share of voice by 10% by the end of August.” Or, you can create SMART (specific, measurable, aspirational, realistic, and timely) marketing goals that check both boxes.

Whichever route you decide, make sure you have measurable and specific goals or objectives to follow. Metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) help you measure your success and set the pace for your marketing. What do these terms mean?

  • Metrics: Measurable variables used to track performance
  • KPIs: Metrics you choose to follow to measure your progress toward a goal

Whenever you set a marketing goal, add some associated KPIs. Those KPIs will give you specific metrics to watch as you monitor your success.

How to choose your KPIs, ask these questions:

  1. What is the most important metric we can monitor right now?
  2. What are the most important metrics we can monitor at each stage of the funnel?
  3. How might our KPIs change in the future as our business matures?

Step 7: Define Your Brand

What impression do you want to make on your customers? Branding controls the internal factor of how you present your business and products.

If your company and product were a human, your brand identity would be their looks and personality. A brand establishes the messages and aesthetics you use to represent yourself. It also includes the promise you make to your customers.

Your brand also determines your brand positioning strategy — your plan for connecting your brand to your audience. Once you develop an initial brand, define what makes it stand out from other brands. Then, embrace those differentiators across your organization, not just in your marketing.

After establishing your brand and its positioning, infuse it into your communications by creating your brand voice and tone. What’s the difference between voice and tone?

  • Voice is the brand personality you add to your communications.
  • Tone is how you modify that voice in different situations, such as during a celebration versus a crisis.

Think about the words, phrases, and ideas that will express the brand “personality” you created earlier. Then, add your voice and tone to your style guides so everyone in your organization can follow them.

Wrap up your branding with an impactful visual identity. A brand’s visual identity includes elements like:

  • Logo
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Use of visual elements like icons
  • Infographic style
  • Photography and illustration direction
  • Image styles on different platforms, such as website vs. social media

Trader Joe’s is an example of a business with a strong brand. From their flyers to their in-store experience, they stand out from the rest with vintage artwork and laid-back vibes:

Trader Joe's web page. Image of vegan buffalo style dip

Step 8: Document Your Marketing Strategy

Now that you’ve completed the smaller elements that make up a marketing strategy, it’s time to bring it all together in a document. Start with a high-level marketing strategy, then narrow it into an actionable marketing plan.

Your marketing strategy document will guide the what, why, and how behind your marketing activities. Grab our handy template and fill it out with all the hard work you’ve done so far. It includes sections for your:

  • Audience personas
  • SWOT analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Marketing budget
  • Voice and tone
  • Marketing funnel
  • Marketing goals
  • Channels
  • Tactics
  • Top metrics and KPIs

Great job! You now have a reference for your marketing strategy. Look it over whenever you want to launch a new campaign or make any marketing decisions.

Let’s dig deeper with a marketing plan that’ll become your roadmap for executing your strategy. We have a template for that, too. In this document, you’ll establish your:

  • Mission statement
  • Marketing goals
  • Content standards of performance
  • Core competencies
  • Situational and SWOT analyses
  • Message and target market
  • Audience personas
  • Go-to market strategy
  • Pricing strategy
  • Marketing tactics
  • Value complexity matrix
  • Marketing budget

It’ll take a little more work to adapt your strategy to this template. You’ll take the information you’ve collected so far and turn it into a plan of action. Don’t be afraid to look at our marketing plan template for inspiration.

Step 9: Build A Content Strategy That Will Reach Prospective Buyers

Content needs a dedicated strategy built from your overall marketing strategy. At CoSchedule, we share blog posts, guides like this one, and podcasts as part of our content strategy. How should you decide what to do with yours?

Begin with a content marketing funnel. Customers go through different stages of awareness as they get to know your product. The marketing funnel represents that process through three stages:

  • Top of the Funnel (TOFU): Unaware of a problem or solution
  • Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): Becoming aware of a problem and searching for a solution
  • Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): Considering your product as a solution to their problem

The funnel stage a customer comes from will determine what content they’ll search for. List each funnel stage and brainstorm content formats to create for each one. You’ll have fewer potential readers but higher potential value as you move down the funnel.

illustration depicting the marketing funnel showing top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel

With your content marketing funnel set up, you can move on to a content map. This document will cover your content strategy and the factors influencing it. It’ll help you establish:

  • The types of content you’ll make
  • Which channels you’ll use to distribute your content
  • What metrics you’ll track to measure success
  • The topics you’ll cover related to your audience, funnel, and customer journey
  • How your content strategy will fit into your content calendar

Step 10: Execute Your Marketing Strategy

Time for the last step of the marketing strategy process  — putting your strategy into action.

Brainstorm projects that match your marketing goals and strategy. For example, if you want to increase your social following, you’d plan a social media campaign. Break those projects into tasks, and plot them out on a marketing calendar like our template or the CoSchedule marketing calendar app.

Whenever you start a new project, create a marketing strategy execution plan that includes:

  • Detailed role descriptions for everyone involved in the project
  • A creative brief covering the project scope
  • Time estimations for every step of the project
  • Calendar scheduling for all project tasks
  • Task checklists for each team member
  • A defined project approval process

After you wrap up that project and give it time for your audience to react, evaluate its performance. These resources can help you evaluate your return on investment (ROI) and analytics:

Pat yourself on the back — you finished the final step!

What Is The 7-Step Marketing Strategy?

The 7-Step Marketing Strategy framework was developed by Joanna Lees at Seven Steps Marketing and consists of these stages:

  1. Understand your customer: Research your customer and understand their pain points
  2. Analyze the market: Perform market research
  3. Analyze the competition: Assess your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
  4. Research distribution channels: Find the best ways to deliver your marketing content
  5. Define your marketing mix: Create your four P’s — Product, Price, Place, and Promotion
  6. Analyze the financials: Establish your marketing budget and project your ROI
  7. Review and revise: Keep measuring your strategy’s effectiveness and revise as needed

The CoSchedule 10-step framework you just learned uses similar tactics, but it adds more detail.

What’s Missing In The 7-Step Marketing Strategy?

The 7-Step Marketing Strategy gives a very high-level overview that lacks actionable details. Compared to our 10 steps, it’s missing:

  • Goals and objectives to ground your strategy
  • Audits and SWOT analyses that help you understand your strengths and opportunities
  • Specific documentation and communication to keep your team members on the same page
  • Tactical direction that tells you how to execute your strategy
  • Free in-depth resources and templates that help you follow the steps

FAQs About Marketing Strategy Steps

What Are The 5 Must-Have Steps In The Marketing Strategy Process?

At its core, the process behind creating and executing a marketing strategy consists of five steps:

5 Must-Have Steps In The Marketing Strategy Process

  1. Mission, vision, goals, and objectives: Establish the reasons behind your marketing
  2. Situation analysis (SWOT): Discover where you stand in the market
  3. Audience, marketing strategy, and planning: Plan who you’re going to market to and how you’ll do it
  4. Marketing mix, resources, channels, and tactics: Break your strategy down into actionable steps
  5. Implementation and measurement: Execute your marketing strategy and analyze its performance

Recommended Reading: Build Customer Trust: Adopt a Winning Marketing Process

What Is The First Step To Market And Promote A Product?

Your first step in marketing a product should be to research your audience. We always recommend starting with this step because it’ll help you understand the wants and needs of prospective buyers. You’ll then be able to design the rest of your strategy around your audience.

Related: Best of Season] AMP 081: How To Do Remarkable Customer Research With Rand Fishkin From SparkToro – CoSchedule Blog

What Are The 4 Steps To Designing A Customer-Driven Marketing Strategy?

If you want to pursue a customer-driven marketing strategy, follow these four steps:

  • Segmentation: Defining groups (segments) in your audience based on specific traits
  • Targeting: Deciding what segments you should market to
  • Differentiation: Identifying what makes your product different from competing products
  • Positioning: Establishing why your audience should choose your brand over the competition