The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Complete Marketing Strategy in 2021
How many times have you seen a killer marketing campaign and thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish I would’ve thought of that!”
(Glossier, I’m looking at you.)
We’ve all been there.
The truth is, when you’re just starting out, it can be tough to know whether your strategy is as comprehensive and powerful as it could be.
To help ease some of that uncertainty, we’ve created this guide that’ll show you step-by-step how to create a marketing strategy that leaves no stone unturned.
Let’s dive into the five critical components of a complete marketing strategy in 2019, followed by some examples for further inspiration.
1. Build a marketing plan.
Wait, I have to make a plan for my strategy? What’s the difference? Your marketing strategy provides an overview behind the reasons why your marketing team will need certain resources, take certain actions, and set certain goals over the year. Your marketing plan is the specific actions you’ll take to achieve that strategy.
Not sure where to start? This free marketing plan template can help.
The right template can help you build a marketing plan that identifies your budget for the year, the initiatives your marketing organization needs to tackle, and the marketing channels you’ll use to implement those initiatives. And it will tie everything back to a business summary, to keep you aligned with overarching company goals.
2. Create buyer personas.
If you can’t define who your audience is in one sentence, now’s the chance to do it. A buyer persona is an example of your ideal customer.
For example, a store like Macy’s could define a buyer persona as Budgeting Belinda, a stylish working-class woman in her 30’s living in a suburb, looking to fill her closet with designer deals at low prices.
With this description, Macy’s Marketing department can picture Budgeting Belinda and work with a clear definition in-mind.
Buyer personas have critical demographic and psychographic information — including age, job title, income, location, interests, and challenges. Notice how Belinda has all of those attributes in her description.
You don’t have to create your buyer persona with a pen and paper. In fact, HubSpot offers a free template you can use to make your own (and it’s really fun). Buyer personas should be at the core of building your strategy.
3. Identify goals.
Your marketing strategy goals should coincide with your business goals. For example, if one of your business goals is to have 300 people attend your annual conference in three months, your goal as a marketer should be along the lines of boosting online RSVPs by 10% at the end of the month.
Other marketing goals might be to increase brand awareness or generate high-quality leads. You might also want to grow or maintain thought leadership in your industry or increase customer value. Whatever your goals, identify what they are and how your marketing organization can work to achieve them over the next year.
4. Select the appropriate tools.
Once you have your goals identified, make sure you have the right tools to measure the success of those goals. Online software like social media schedulers gives you analytics to help you keep track of what your audience likes and doesn’t. Alternatively, you might consider Google Analytics to measure blog and web page performance.
Additionally, it will be helpful if you make your goals SMART — to do so, take a look at How to Write a SMART Goal [+ Free SMART Goal Template]. Here are a few tools that can help you track and measure the success of your marketing goals:
Trello keeps your marketing team on track and openly communicating about the projects they’re working on. Create boards for individual campaigns, editorial calendars, or quarterly goals.
Built-in workflows and automation capabilities keep communication streamlined, and simplicity keeps your marketing team focused on the work that matters.
Pricing: Free; Business Class, $9.99/user/month; Enterprise, $17.50/user/month for 100 users
Everything on Monday.com starts with a board or visually driven table. Create and customize workflows for your team and keep groups, items, sub-items, and updates synced in real time.
You can also transform data pulled from timeline and Gantt views to track your projects on Monday.com and ensure deadlines have been met. Plus, with more than 40 integrations — from SurveyMonkey to Mailchimp and, of course, HubSpot — you can visualize your data and ensure your whole company is collaborating.
Pricing: Basic, $8/month/seat; Standard, $10/month/seat; Pro, $16/month/seat; Enterprise, contact for pricing
SEO continues to be a huge factor in the successful ranking of your website. SEMrush allows you to run a technical SEO audit, track daily rankings, analyze your competitor’s SEO strategy, research millions of keywords, and even source ideas for earning more organic traffic.
But the benefits don’t stop at SEO. Use SEMRush for PPC, building and measuring an effective social media strategy, content planning, and even market research.
Pricing: Pro, $99.95/month; Guru, $199.95/month; Business, $399.95/month
BuzzSumo allows you to analyze data to enhance and lead your marketing strategy, all while exploring high-performing content in your industry to increase engagement. Use the platform to identify influencers who may help your brand reach, and monitor comments and trends to make the most of every turn.
They also have tools to help with crisis management and video marketing as your needs evolve.
Pricing: Pro, $99/month; Plus, $179/month; Large, $299/month; Enterprise, $499+/month
Need to optimize your website this year? Consider getting started with Crazy Egg. You’ll be able to identify “attention hotspots” on your product pages, track ad campaign traffic on your site, and understand if shoppers are clicking where you want them to. You can even make sure your “buy now” buttons are in the best place.
Crazy Egg also offers recordings, A/B testing, and more to help ensure your website is offering the best user experience and the best return.
Pricing: Basic, $24/month; Standard, $49/month; Plus, $99/month; Pro, $249/month; Custom options available upon request
5. Account for existing resources.
Decide what you already have in your arsenal that can help you create your strategy. To streamline this process, think of your assets in three categories — paid, owned, and earned media.
Owned media is any of the media you create — blog posts, ebooks, images, and infographics that your marketing team has created are examples of owned media.
Earned media is another way to say user-generated content. Shares on social media, tweets about your business, and photos posted on Instagram mentioning your company are all examples of earned media.
Gather your materials in these areas and consolidate them all in a single vehicle so you’ll have a clear vision of what you have and how you can integrate the three channels together to maximize your strategy.
For example, if you already have a blog that’s rolling out weekly content in your niche (owned media), you might consider promoting your blog posts on Twitter (paid media), which customers’ might then re-tweet (earned media). Ultimately, that will help you create a better, more well-rounded strategy.
The free option? Tweet it from your company’s Twitter or post it on Instagram and use relevant hashtags to spread it.
If you have resources that don’t fit into your goals, nix it. This is a great time to clean house or identify gaps in your materials.
6. Audit and plan media campaigns.
Cleaning house segues straight into this step. Now, you must decide which content is going to help you. Focus on your owned media and marketing goals. For instance, will updating the CTAs at the end of your blog posts help you increase RSVPs to your event?
Next, look at your buyer personas. Let’s say you work for a video editing software company. If one of your persona’s challenges is adding clean sound effects to their videos but you don’t have any content that reflects that, make a 15-second demo video for Instagram to show how great your product is at solving that challenge.
Finally, create a content creation plan. The plan should include the title, goals, format, and channel for each piece of content. Be sure to include which challenge it’s solving for your buyer persona.
For ideas on content creation or a more in-depth look at how to create a content plan, check out our post, The Ultimate Guide to Content Creation.
7. Bring it to fruition
At this point, your market research and planning should help you visualize how your strategy will be executed (and by which teams).
The final step is to bring that all together — to put actions into your planning. Create a document that maps out the steps you need to take to execute your campaign. In other words, define your strategy.
Think long-term when creating this document. A standard strategy document is 12 months. This structured timeline should be the home base for your strategic marketing efforts.
To paint an example, let’s go back to the video software company.
Maybe in January, you will launch a software update that improves the exportation process for users. In April, you want to publish an ebook that explains editing terms to your buyer personas, and in September, you plan to launch an integration with other software.
Remember, your digital strategy is unique to your business, so the document should be, as well. As long as the strategy includes all of the necessary information, you’ll be all set to take your company’s brand from okay to outstanding.
Now that we’ve explored five critical steps of a complete marketing strategy, let’s look at some “Why didn’t I think of that?” strategies to inspire your own.
Examples of Successful Marketing Strategies
1. Regal Movies
Digital strategy: Owned media
Regal Movies took the Halloween spirit to a new level, even re-naming their Twitter to reflect the spirit of the season. This “Monster Madness” poll is a fun, interactive way to get followers invested in Regal’s content:
Regal’s tweet is an example of owned media because the company was in full control of the answers followers gave (and, apparently, American Werewolf didn’t stand a chance). Regal effectively kept true to their brand by using only classic movies in their poll,, while still putting a modern spin on it.
This is also a good example of how retweets don’t necessarily equal success. While four retweets isn’t that big of a deal, check out the votes: 461. That means there were over 400 interactions with a single tweet.
2. Taco Bell
Digital strategy: User-generated content, earned media
Real love is taking your engagement photos at your favorite fast food Mexican restaurant — right? User-generated content is one of the best ways to gain traction in your strategy — it demonstrates your appreciation for loyal customers, and also incentivizes other users’ to promote your products for the chance at a similar shout-out. Plus, sometimes the content your brand-lovers create is really, really good:
Oh, you sure did. 👏❤️ https://t.co/TXflZvxVxR
— Taco Bell (@tacobell)
September 26, 2019
It’s not every day someone takes engagement photos at a fast-food restaurant, and Taco Bell jumped at this earned media opportunity. Earned media is at work here because this couple is saying they love baja blasts and crunchwraps as much as they love each other — so it must be delicious.
3. Small Girls PR
Digital strategy: Event marketing
Wait, is that Keke Palmer?
Small Girls PR is a boutique PR company based in New York, and one of the company’s talents is throwing amazing events for their clients, like Olay. This event recap carousel on Instagram is an effective event marketing example.
Event marketing is a fantastic opportunity to boost awareness for your brand. Not every business needs to throw lavish events, either. Event marketing can be as simple as the last company outing you had at your team’s favorite brewery.
Posting a quick recap on Instagram sheds light on your business’s culture, and demonstrates your appreciation for your employees’, ideally incentivizing others to apply.
4. Diesel Cafe
Digital strategy: Word of mouth
Boston-local cafe Diesel Cafe is more than just a great location to get vegan bagels. It also rocks at word-of-mouth marketing. In fact, Diesel even has a website dedicated to it — a place where fans can submit letters about the fun times they’ve had at the cafe:
Check your company’s Yelp climate. Are people giving you nice reviews? Showcasing some of them on your social channels is an effective opportunity to provide social proof that your products or services are a worthwhile investment, since people typically trust peers more than ads.
Digital strategy: Paid media, Twitter cards
If you’ve got the budget for paid media, take full advantage of it. Paid media is when you pay social channels, like Twitter, to promote your content on their site. By doing this, your content reaches new audiences you might not be able to reach organically:
Get wrapped up in soft sweaters and fleece-lined jean jackets.
— Target (@Target)
October 11, 2019
An inclusive ad from Target about fall shopping uses Twitter cards to promote their brand and offer easier ways to shop — simply click on the photo, and you’re redirected to a purchase page. More social channels are offering ways for shoppers to purchase in-app or close to it, driving sales and boosting exposure for brands.
Ultimately, creating a complete marketing strategy isn’t something that can happen overnight. It takes time, hard work, and dedication to ensure you’re reaching your ideal audience, whenever and wherever they want to be reached.
Stick with it (and use some of the resources we’ve included in this post), and over time, research and customer feedback will help you refine your strategy to ensure you’re spending most of your time on the marketing channels your audience cares most about.
Editor’s note: This post was originally publishing in October 2019. It has been updated for freshness and accuracy.