Elements of a Marketing Strategy – Part 2

This is the second part of my post on important elements of a marketing strategy In these posts, I would like to share a more general view on marketing, without getting into detail on the tools and strategy implementation.

marketing strategy
Elements of a marketing strategy

Company

One of the most important steps in creating a marketing strategy, in addition to defining the products you offer and your target customers, is defining who you are. In other words, your company identity and how you want to communicate it.

Branding

Remember that your company is a solid part of your brand. Do not neglect corporate identity elements, such as logo, colors, fonts, etc. Once they are set, use them consistently in the marketing and sales materials, as well as internal documentation.

People

This is arguably the most important company asset and should be part of your marketing strategy. This aspect, is, of course, not just limited to PR efforts for senior management. A lot of tech companies employ “product evangelists” to personalize their marketing. Apart from this, sharing personal employee stories, e.g. on social media, may contribute to the positive image of your company and create more trust.

Mission and vision statements

Although they may seem unimportant at first, a well-formulated set of values and a common vision can become a driving force for company development. They can also be the “glue” that holds different people together.

Although it may sound ironical, it is equally important to define who you are not. Trying to serve more customer segments and flexibly adapting your company image accordingly will confuse your customers. In the worst case, they will start distrusting you.

Competitors

Someone once said that companies should stop concentrating on beating the competitors and instead focus on delivering value to their customers. Although I share the same view, this doesn’t mean that you must disregard the competition.

Learning from competitors

Learning from competitors has two sides to it. On the one hand, you can benchmark the strategy of your more experienced /successful competitors. On the other hand, you can also learn from their mistakes. Take a critical look at:

  • Structure and design of their websites
  • User journey on the website
  • Selection of social media channels and shared content
  • SEO strategy (backlinks opportunities, keywords, etc.)
  • Content types used for content marketing

Direct and indirect competition

In order to understand who your competitors are, you can think in terms of competition levels (e.g. a model by Lehman & Winter).

You probably concentrate on your direct competitors (product form competition), however, try to think of competition in a wider sense. Product category competition includes similar products that can differ in functionality or design. Generic competition is the next competition level that includes products that can be used as substitutes but do not offer the same features or benefits. Budget competition comes from products allocated to the same part of consumer budget (e.g. “entertainment”, “housing”, “education”).

competition levels marketing
Marketing Competition Levels (Lehman & Winter)

Marketing tools

I put marketing tools at the end of this list on purpose. If a company lacks experience in marketing, they tend to concentrate on the tools too much. It is not uncommon that they ask such questions as: “Shall we use Google AdWords?”, “What do we write in our blog?” before they defined who they are, what products they offer and who their target customers are. (I talked about this in one of my older blog posts on mistakes in marketing).

One well-known model for marketing decisions is 4 P’s by McCarthy (Product, Place, Price, Promotion). If we adjust this model to online marketing, the promotion will include:

  • Advertising (Google AdWords, display, etc.)
  • PR (Social Media, blogs, guest articles, etc.)
  • Direct selling (e-mail marketing)
  • Promotion (e-coupons, free trial, etc.)

You also need to make decisions on how to position your product, what pricing strategy you will choose and what your sales channels will be.

All in all, when crafting your marketing strategy, you need to go through several distinct steps and plan carefully. Also, remember that once the strategy is selected, you need to follow it consistently. Making too many changes and adjustments along the way will inevitably result in time and budgetary losses.

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Welcome to the New Marketing to Convert Blog!

I have now moved to a self-hosted blog from wordpress.com and want to share my experience with moving the site. The main difficulties were:

  • Comparing hosting providers for WP blogs and identifying important features that should be included in the offer.
  • Coming up with a domain name for the blog. I had to analyze the broad spectrum of topics represented on this blog and came up with Marketing to Convert as something conveying the essence and the purpose behind the articles.
  • Finding suitable and GDPR-compatible plugins for analytics, cookies, etc.
  • Finding how to re-implement the functionality of the previous blog (e.g. the WordPress following button is now implemented through the email subscription widget).
  • Fine-tuning the theme and the layout (I stayed with the same theme as on allaroundmarketing.wordpress.com, however, this still looked different on a self-hosted blog). I chose this theme because of good color contrast and the overall sleek and stylish look, however, I am still not 100% satisfied with the font readability.
  • Setting up additional functionality, such as social sharing buttons, etc.
  • Selecting a suitable SEO-Plugin (I went with Yoast first, however, I did not like its functionality and selected Rank Math instead).
  • Updating connected Social Media accounts, including my personal accounts.

There are still some tasks that remain open, such as changing the blog logo and further exploring the additional functionality now available. I am also still thinking about how to handle the existing (old) blog and make the transition as smooth as possible (e.g. checking for backlinks, handling subscriptions, etc.). There is also a lot of SEO optimization to be done both for the articles and for the blog as a whole. However, at this point, I am satisfied with the first results and motivated to work further on improving the visibility of the new website.

 

Usability Testing: Recap Webmontag Bonn

This post is a recap of Webmontag Bonn (October 21, 2019) that was dedicated to usability testing topics. The speaker explained Think Aloud method in detail. This presentation was followed by a discussion on website usability and accessibility.

This post is a recap of Webmontag Bonn (October 21, 2019) that was dedicated to usability testing topics.

It started with a talk by the organizer, Lina D., that introduced general concepts of usability testing. Normally, it includes figuring out how intuitive a UI is, how users handle their tasks within a UI and what improvements can be possibly made. Some common methods include prototyping, benchmarking, case studies with personas, interviews, eye-tracking, etc. The speaker went into detail regarding the Think Aloud method. This method has the following parts:

  • A prototype is built (can be also done on existing software or even on a paper prototype)
  • A use case is written (i.e. a task that a user has to fulfill);
  • Users are invited for a short interview;
  • During ice-breaker, the tester tries to define what customer type the user belongs to;
  • A task is presented to the user. They have to complete the task while commenting on their actions;
  • The test completes with a short feedback round;
  • The whole test lasts about 20 minutes

The talk was followed by a lively discussion about the presented method and also about general usability problems. One question was how to select test participants, especially in the case of a very narrow target group. For example, you can try to reach them in person through industry events, etc. My suggestion was to launch the software and get feedback by analyzing analytics data or making online surveys (though from my experience a lot of people use this survey instead of customer service chat). Somebody also suggested recruiting the participants for one-on-one tests by displaying banners within the software.

There was also a lengthy discussion on accessibility. In the public sector in Germany, there exist accessibility catalogs that constitute minimum requirements for the software to be accepted. However, without proper accessibility testing, such catalogs are only partially helpful. It was noted that a lot of times users with a disability have a completely different workflow interacting with a software or a website.

The last topic that was brought up in the large discussion round was about how to onboard users to new software. For example, through instructional videos, FAQs, pop-up windows within the user interface (UI), or an overlay with explanations of different elements on the first login.

After this, the discussions of the Webmontag continued in smaller groups accompanied by pizza and cold drinks.

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It Starts with a Z: Visual Hierarchy in Banner Design

Visual hierarchy defines the arrangement or presentation of elements on a screen by importance. More important elements are supposed to draw the attention of a website visitor first. UX designers use a variety of methods to assign visual hierarchy to design elements (also see my post on UX design principles). In this post, I will explain how UX design principle of visual hierarchy applies to designing website banners.

  • Color contrast
    • Light colors (less important elements) vs dark colors (more important elements)
    • Unsaturated colors (less important elements) to colors with high saturation (more important elements)
    • Use of complementary colors to highlight an important element (e.g. a red button on a blue background)
  • Shape (e.g. grouping important elements by placing them close to each other (proximity) or putting a boundary around them)
  • Size (more important elements are larger than less important ones)
  • Perspective (foreground vs background), also figure-ground relationship

For a banner, a common pattern for organizing content is called ‘Z-pattern’. It can be explained as follows: the eye movement starts in the upper left-hand corner, then the focus shifts to the right (where normally teaser text is placed), then moves to the left-hand side (e.g. with a visual) and then goes to the right-hand corner, mostly to a CTA.

Below we will look at how these principles are utilized in banners on websites of several skincare companies.

The first banner (LUSH) does not follow the Z-pattern, but arranges the information vertically and centered. This works for headlines, however, if the text was longer, aligning it to the left would achieve better readability. We also see that the color of the teaser text and the CTA are low contrast compared to the background, so they can barely be read. The navigation bar, however, achieves a high contrast compared to the banner. The text (especially the sub-headline and the CTA) is relatively small compared to the background elements, thus, there is no contrast by size.  Shape or perspective are also not used. When visiting the page, the user would notice the background and the navigation bar first.

banner lush

The next banner is by The Body Shop. We can see the Z-pattern being used in this banner, with the CTA placed in the bottom left corner. The teaser text has good contrast in color (white on a dark purple background) and in size. We can also see that the products’ visual and the text elements are arranged in groups that allows for better visual separation (proximity principle). However, the CTA has lower contrast in color and size than the headline, it is also not separated from the text by a boundary but only underlined (as with hyperlinks).

bodyshop banner

The next banner by Yves Rocher also incorporates the  Z-pattern. Red is used as complementary color to green to highlight more important elements on the screen. The visual hierarchy is supported by grouping the elements of the visual and the text against the background. The background is also less saturated than the visual and the text. Additionally, important parts are highlighted by a boundary (marketing claim: Limited Edition and the CTA)  by color contrast (CTA and price) and by size (price).  The text is also aligned to the left, which allows for better readability. However, the header is designed in pale yellow, the same as background elements, which makes it stand out less.

yvesrocher

The last banner I would like to have a look at is L’Occitaine, also with the Z-pattern. A good point in the design of this banner is that the text and the CTA are not only grouped together and surrounded by a boundary but are also put against a white background, different to that of the visual. CTA in yellow, however, has middle contrast to the background. The teaser text is rather long and is aligned to the center, which makes it more difficult to read. Although yellow is the main branding color of L’Occitaine, it is perceived by the brain as a signal color and its overuse in the design as well as in visuals causes the page to look a bit “busy”.

loccitaine banner

In this post, we have had a look at how visual hierarchy can be realized in banner design. We saw that not only corporate identity, design guidelines or aesthetics play a role, but also UX/UI factors, that is how users perceive the banner and get motivated to take a desired action.

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Elements of a Marketing Strategy – Part 1

marketing strategy

The diagram above demonstrates elements of a marketing strategy. Below, I will explain it in more detail.

Product or service

Although it may sound strange, the first obstacle in creating a marketing strategy is to define what product or service you are going to sell. Sometimes companies are too quick to change or switch their product because they try to please the end customer. This can cause contradicting marketing messages and result in marketing campaigns being ineffective.

USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

USP is the unique benefit resulting from the product or service that makes it stand along against competition. What is that that you can do better than others? For example, the USP of Ryanair is low-cost flights.

Features

Features are what your product or service is comprised of. In order to sell a product, it is not necessary and sometimes even counterproductive to include a large number of features. Rather, the features should match the requirements of the target customer (see below).

Use cases

Writing use cases for your product or service is an excellent exercise that helps you to get ideas for promotion. Here are some examples of use cases for an app for sending appreciation badges within a company:

  • New colleagues can introduce themselves by sending short messages to the team members.
  • Colleagues can congratulate each other on a completed project or on other occasions by sending a badge.
  • The app can be used after meetings or training for sending feedback and thanking the organizer.

Target group

Achieving product-to-market fit is one of the cornerstones of successful marketing. However, not only the product part is important but also defining and selecting your target group.

Segmentation

You can segment both outside and inside your target group. Segmenting the market in general (see market segmentation) orientates you what segments you will target and what not. Once you selected your target group, you will unlikely be homogeneous, so you need to segment further. Typical target group segmentation for a B2B product can include such criteria as:

  • Users vs decision makers
  • Company size
  • State-owned vs privately-owned companies
  • Geographical segmentation (country, location)
  • Field of business

Personas

Personas help you to define in detail who your customers are, to understand what language they speak, what motivates them and drives their decisions. Customer personas are more detailed and granular than segments and may look like this: “Male customers, located in the US, aged 20-30, working as software developers, interested in hacking, having “geek” mentality. Their main focus is not on the career but on improving their skills. They visit hacker blogs and websites, spend a lot of time online and participate in forums and closed communities. Their challenge at work is time pressure, the necessity to learn new skills fast and requirements changes in the course of projects.”

Market

While the target group defines who your customers are, market defines how many there are of them and also how many you can realistically reach.

Size

No matter how good your product fits customer needs or how elaborate your marketing strategy is, without a proper market size your product is not going to scale. Market size can be defined in several ways, e.g. total potential market size (the total number of potential users for your product), total existing market (what share of market is already being covered by the competition), the size of the market you can serve (for example, if your product does not scale very well or because there are strong competitors in the market). Estimating market size will be based both on research and assumption, however, this is an important step in creating marketing concept.

Market segmentation

Here you can look at the existing market (competition, customers) or make assumptions about a market you can create. Creating a new market means that you have to generate the demand by educating potential users about your product or service instead of fighting the competition. Bear in mind that this approach has both advantages and disadvantages: you will not have direct competitors, but at the same time, you may face indirect competition by substitute products (see Part 2 of this post).  It also takes a lot of time and effort to explain to potential customers why they need your product or service, so your sales materials and pitches have to be carefully crafted.

In the second part of this post, I will explain how company image influences your marketing concept, what you can learn from your competitors and why marketing tools are the final step in crafting your marketing strategy.

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