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The SMB CEOs Ultimate Guide to Creating a Marketing Strategy

Marketing your business or product in today’s fast-paced world means understanding the landscape and the different marketing areas that will work best for your business goals and objectives. Marketing is harder than ever because information and content is available everywhere. It’s difficult for your prospects and customers to filter through the noise. Regardless of your company’s size, taking time to form your marketing strategy will help you stay focused on the most effective approach to reach your audience and achieve your business’s goals.

Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan

All too often, businesses, especially small businesses, will jump into a marketing plan without formulating a solid marketing strategy to guide them. Don’t fall into the trap of doing something because it’s working for everyone else. That may not be the best investment for your marketing dollars. Invest time into developing your marketing strategy. In other words, carefully plan out the value and the offering you will deliver, the best approach to deliver it and how it aligns with your overall business objectives and goals.Here’s a few points to help you remember the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan:

  • The marketing strategy is “why” you’re doing something
  • The marketing plan is “how” you take action

The well thought out and planned marketing strategy sets your course for achieving success. Sometimes, however, that means bringing in a third party for a marketing strategic planning session to help formulate a solid and scalable marketing strategy. It would be wonderful if we could do everything we wanted to, on our own, without any help, but that’s not realistic in today’s fast paced digital marketing world.

With so many options for marketing, building a strategy that will effectively achieve your goals can be overwhelming for some marketing teams and businesses. However, working with an Indianapolis marketing strategic planning team will help you develop a strategy that’s built with your marketing foundation in mind and will transition into an actionable and tailored marketing plan.

Understanding your business goals are key to building a solid marketing strategy. Those goals will influence what you include in your marketing strategy. For example, if you’re trying to build brand awareness or engage your audience, you may want to include a social media strategy in your marketing strategy mix. But keeping up with the different social media sites is impossible for many companies. You have to know where your audience is. According to the HubSpot State of Marketing Report, most marketers in 2021 believed that Facebook was the most popular social media platform across all age groups. The report also revealed that 49% of YouTube users in the US are over the age of 65, yet for 44% of US teens, Snapchat was the most important social network in 2019.

If your goal is to add contacts to your CRM or convert contacts to qualified leads, you would want to consider an email marketing strategy or a marketing automation strategy. Hubspot’s  report claims that small businesses see the highest return on investment from email marketing.

A content strategy is necessary for all marketing strategic planning because content is needed for all areas of your marketing strategy. Hubspot reported in 2020 that 70% of marketers budgeted for content marketing with 40% of all marketers stating that content marketing was essential to their overall marketing strategy.

Your marketing strategy is as unique as your business, so you need to invest the time to identify the reasons why doing something will help you achieve your business goals. Of course, as every business owner or manager knows, things can easily change.

Starting with a Solid Marketing Foundation

Having a solid marketing foundation is the start of building a strong marketing strategy. As we explain in our Indianapolis Marketing Consulting: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Solid Marketing Foundation, it’s important to identify gaps in your marketing so you can fill in the cracks. You’ll position yourself to create a solid marketing strategy by identifying and evaluating your company’s:

  • purpose, mission, and vision
  • target audience
  • goals + objectives
  • strengths + weaknesses
  • opportunities + threats,
  • and your core marketing stack

Working with What You Have

Knowing what you’re starting with allows you to scale your marketing to match what your budget and resources allow. Most businesses have small marketing teams or none at all, and they operate with small or limited marketing budgets, especially when there’s a financial downturn. So it’s critical that a  marketing strategy be optimized for resources and budget.

With a scalable marketing strategy, you can easily:

  • Modify messaging and content
  • Adjust digital platforms
  • Change reporting criteria

Benefits of a Marketing Strategy

Businesses of all sizes will realize benefits from developing a marketing strategy or from working with an Indianapolis marketing strategic planning consultant. Here are some of the top benefits of a marketing strategy:

Establish Trust and Industry Leadership

If you’re looking to be seen as trustworthy or a thought leader in your industry, a marketing strategy will help unite the leadership team and set a clear direction with a clear and consistent voice. This will help set you apart from your competitors while setting the tone of knowing what matters to your customers. According to a 2021 Edelman-LinkedIn thought leadership study, 71% of B2B decision makers reported that thought-leadership content provides them with valuable insights, and 47% said they discovered a brand or made a purchase based on thought leadership content.

Building Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is critical for the success of a product or a service. If you’re trying to build brand equity, brand recognition, or create an association with your brand, a marketing strategy will give your brand a clear focus and identity so it’s better recognized within your target market.

Increase Engagement

A marketing strategy can help increase engagement by improving your messaging and accelerating the demand for your product or service. By using the customer personas identified when you set your marketing foundation, your marketing strategy will define why you are creating specific messages and content and how increasing engagement will help achieve your business’ revenue goals.

Establish Trust and Industry Leadership

If you’re looking to be seen as trustworthy or a thought leader in your industry, a marketing strategy will help unite the leadership team and set a clear direction with a clear and consistent voice. This will help set you apart from your competitors while setting the tone of knowing what matters to your customers. According to a 2021 Edelman-LinkedIn thought leadership study, 71% of B2B decision makers reported that thought-leadership content provides them with valuable insights, and 47% said they discovered a brand or made a purchase based on thought leadership content.

Identify Audience Communication Channels

A business marketing strategy allows you to concentrate your resources and actions on your greatest opportunities for success. Your marketing strategy will help you identify the communications channels where you can effectively reach your target audience and bring in new customers. Increasing conversions and acquiring new customers is, in the end, the foremost goal of any marketing strategy.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) includes all the methods, strategies, and tools that are used by organizations to analyze, track and improve customer data and engagement with their brand. In terms of your marketing strategy, a lot of focus is given to acquiring new customers because the fact is, that’s how your business will grow. However, once a prospect has turned into a customer, it’s important to nurture that relationship and retain your current customer base. That’s a big part of what a CRM can do for you. Below are the ways a CRM supports your digital marketing strategy:

Improving Customer Experience and Sales

Reaching your target audience is becoming more and more difficult. Implementing a CRM solution allows you to engage with your customers and automate their interactions with you through personalized content, messages and offers. Customer relationship management is one of the building block components of your marketing strategy because doing it right means increasing sales. Automating and tracking customer interactions means that you are providing the right information, at the right time, to the right customer, and giving them the the best customer experience possible which in turn will expedite the sales cycle.


Identifying your target market is part of building a strong foundation. Breaking your audience into different segments and identifying why each segment is important and how it will help achieve your business goal is part of the CRM building block for your marketing strategy. Segmenting audiences into smaller groups provides businesses with a better understanding of customers and allows them to create clear and focused messages that address specific needs or concerns. This helps you identify and narrow in on your biggest opportunities for conversions.

Customer Journey and Retention

Understanding your audience allows you to help prospects through their buying journey or create programs to retain customers. Building the necessary content for each audience and each stage of the funnel helps move prospects from one stage of the funnel to the next, until they convert. The CRM also helps manage a prospects journey and customers engagement by recording interactions and enhancing the customer experience.

Online Presence

An online presence at its basic meaning is a website.

Web Presence

Businesses today cannot operate and grow without an online presence. A website is usually the first experience or interaction that a prospect has with you and is therefore a significant building block for your marketing strategy.

A website has the ability to create a wider reach in building awareness for a brand. And, unlike a few years ago when having a website marketing strategy meant optimizing a website for search engines and promoting it on social media, today there are more options for Indianapolis marketing strategic planning for a website.

According to Hubspot, a website’s traffic source is pretty well evenly distributed. Their research shows that direct traffic makes up 22% of website traffic on average. This means that when building your website keep your visitor’s experience and ease of getting around the site as one of the main objectives. Organic search provides 17% of website traffic and social and email are not far behind with 16% and 14% respectively.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO means organizing your website content so it will appear high in search results. According to 2021 Advanced Web Ranking, the first 5 search results get 67% of the clicks. However, keep in mind that not all organic traffic is equal. It’s important to make sure that your search engine and online presence strategy focuses on the right target audience and attracts the right vistors to your website. The key to doing that means understanding the SEO guidelines. Optimizing content for SEO takes time and knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work. Keep in mind that the search algorithm is constantly being updated by Google, so there will never be a clear-cut answer as to how search engine page results (SERP) get pulled. The current recommendation is to create content that resonates with your audience so you’re relevant for all possible searches. Google’s search results are based on the expected customer experience based on their search criteria. Ranking on page one of search results can be challenging for companies especially when you’re competing for one of the 10 spots on page one of a SERP.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Because claiming your position on the first search results page can be extremely difficult, PPC is an important piece of your building block for the online presence portion for your marketing strategy. PPC is used for both search engines as well as social media. With paid advertising you can pull in your segmentation and set criteria who should see your ads. Therefore, PPC is a highly targeted way of pulling in quality leads to funnel into the customer journey. For a small business, PPC is a way to build brand awareness and acquire quality leads. A2020 Hubspot report revealed that paid advertising was “very important” or “extremely important” to the overall marketing strategy for 68% of marketers.

Build A Solid Marketing Foundation

Developing a successful marketing strategy involves many building blocks. So, it’s crucial that you take time to think through all of the different aspects of digital marketing and how each component fits into your strategy.

Finalizing Your Strategic Plan

Your marketing strategy is unique to your business and will differ greatly according to your audience and your business goals and objectives. With so much at stake we recommend that you consider working with an Indianapolis marketing strategic planning consultant that has the expertise to work with you on all facets of your marketing strategy.

Making it all work together

We’ve addressed the top four building blocks required for implementing a successful marketing strategy. In order to make sure that your strategy is meeting your business goals and objectives, make sure that you’ve covered the following and have addressed why you’re doing it and what you’re trying to achieve for the following areas:

  • Target Audience
  • Marketing goals and objectives
  • Marketing channels
  • Metrics
  • Budget
  • Timing

Engaging your team

Once you’ve created your marketing strategy, share it with other teams and key stakeholders so they’ll know what you’re working on and what measures are in place to determine the project’s success. They’ll be able to provide a different perspective and valuable feedback.

Having a marketing team that understands and can manage and execute each component of the strategy is fantastic, but that is usually not the case. For smaller businesses, a marketing team may not even exist. A detailed, realistic, and relevant digital marketing strategy needs a marketing team that can confidently manage the marketing strategy execution successfully. If you don’t have a marketing team, or if it’s just a small team, you should speak with your Indianapolis marketing agency.

Measuring and Evaluating Success

Part of your marketing strategy needs to define how you’ll measure success. What does success look like if all goals and objectives of the marketing strategy are met? This is the stage that tells you whether or not all of your marketing efforts paid off. After building and implementing your marketing strategies, you need to measure the results. However, don’t wait until the end of campaigns before evaluating. Depending on the results, you may be able to make needed adjustments.

Common critical metrics

Critical marketing metrics are measurable chunks of data that companies use to see the impact of their campaigns. For measuring the success of a marketing strategy, common metrics include:

  • Gross revenue
  • Email engagement (clicks versus opens)
  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Cost per engagement
  • Number of downloads, leads, and website traffic

When to re-evaluate?

There is no fixed timeline for how often you should evaluate your marketing strategy. Some businesses like to measure the influence of their marketing campaigns after every 6 months, but we recommend annual strategy evaluations. If you want to follow best practice, you should look at the marketing metrics monthly and do yearly evaluations on your marketing strategy.

Marketing Consulting Services

Our marketing consulting team, based in Indianapolis, understands how to provide cost-effective solutions and services to identify and act on opportunities to strengthen your sales and marketing.  Our approach is to first evaluate current states, then engage client stakeholders and finally assist in executing the agreed upon strategy.

Keeping our clients updated with monthly meetings and regular communications ensures that they have insights into project activity, and campaign data. This makes it easy for you to evaluate and make decisions against success criteria that’s tied to your goals and objectives.  

Our marketing consulting services include:

Holistic Strategic Assessments

Holistic strategic assessments to identify your purpose, vision, and mission and establish annual goals and objectives. SMBs can use consultants to help better define the company’s goals and bring their vision to life with strategic plans that outline short and long term opportunities.

Brand Development

Development of logos and tag-lines. Our creative services consulting team has experts who can design logos and tag-lines that resonate with your company’s target audience.

Target Audience Analysis + Development

Development of a comprehensive sales and marketing funnel for building solid leads in the CRM. Our Indianapolis-based team will take time to understand your target audience and buyer’s persona to develop effective content marketing collateral and online marketing campaigns that will convert in each stage of the sales and marketing funnel—ensuring that leads continue to flow into the CRM.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Onboarding

Centralized CRM management. Proper management of your organization’s CRM is critical for communications and marketing to the right people. If there’s incomplete information or garbage going into the CRM, segmenting audiences may be challenging and certain types of marketing strategy, such as email marketing may be ineffective.

Website Design + Development

Designing and building websites that generate positive user experiences with custom designs. Building a website and forgetting about it isn’t helpful in building your brand. There are many different aspects to consider when building a website. So having a custom website where content is consistently updated and meets the needs of your target audience is critical for your online success.


SEO audits and maintenance plans to position your brand in the best location on search engines. Google is constantly changing and updating the algorithm that determines a website’s placement on search engines. Understanding SEO best practices can be challenging when it’s not a daily focus.

Pay-per-click campaigns that are tied to your online presence and support your lead generation funnel. Our SEO & PPC specialists are the best in Indianapolis and can help your company identify which key phrases your product or service is best suited for to boost engagement to your site and generate leads.

Content Marketing

Print and digital content that tell stories and engage audiences. Consulting services that execute on strategic goals and objectives can create content that can be used online, shared on social media, and used in email campaigns. We have strong execution partners that work with your team and ours to ensure the overall strategy is maintained and the doing gets done.

Our team are experts in developing optimized content that resonates technically with search engines and with your target audience. Google likes new content, and new content helps your SEO placement. That’s one of the main reasons to keep updating content on websites.

Email Marketing

A complete email marketing program that includes templates, mailing list management, content marketing, campaign development and organization, and monitoring and campaign metrics evaluation.

Tomato Fish Marketing is an Indianapolis marketing consulting firm that offers end-to-end marketing strategy evaluation with our innovative redMAP process.