How to Create a Marketing Strategy That Works: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Create a Marketing Strategy That Works: A Step-by-Step Guide
  • Creating a robust marketing strategy with clear objectives is a crucial step in achieving your wider business goals.
  • From market research and buyer personas to industry trends and defining your market positioning, creating a marketing strategy can seem overwhelming.
  • But it doesn't have to be! We've broken down the key components and steps to create a marketing strategy (that really works) from scratch. Read on to find out.

We've put together this guide to help you create a marketing strategy for your business. We will cover the following areas:

  1. Overview
  2. Research
  3. Creating a Marketing Strategy
  4. Creating a Marketing Plan
  5. Budget, Tools & People 

How to Create a Marketing Strategy That Works: A Step-by-Step Guide

Section 1: Overview

Before we get started, it's important to have a clear understanding of the purpose of a marketing strategy, a marketing plan and how they differ. We will

What is a marketing strategy? 

A marketing strategy is a clear articulation of your marketing goals and strategies that are shaped by and linked closely to your business-level goals.

Learn why your marketing strategy is failing. 

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is built based on a marketing strategy. It is a detailed plan on how to achieve your marketing goals, as well as the budget, resources and tools needed.

What is the difference between a marketing strategy and marketing plan?

A marketing strategy is the “What”, while a marketing plan is the “How”. A marketing strategy is the “Thinking”, while a marketing plan is the “Doing”.

Here's an example:

  • Your primary marketing goals may be to increase brand awareness and gain broader market adoption.
  • Your marketing strategy might then be to introduce your brand and offering into new markets (what your business needs to do).
  • Your marketing plan would then identify the channels and tactics you need in a marketing campaign to reach and engage with your target buyers (how your business will do it). 

sales growth

Section 2: Research

There are two research areas that will form the basis of your marketing strategy:

  1. Buyer Personas
  2. Competitors, Industry and Trends 

Research Area #1: What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional character created to represent a specific customer segment within a target market. A buyer persona helps in the creation and delivery of more meaningful messages, to increase marketing cut-through.

For example, a beachwear retailer has identified its target market as Australian women aged 18 - 50. However, this is a broad category of shoppers with unique needs and motivations for buying. Therefore, buyer persona examples for this company may consist of:

Ellis, 35 years old, married, accountant.

Jane, 22 years old, single, university student. 

Based on the two buyer personas, you can apply highly targeted marketing strategies that address each persona’s pain points and desires.

What is a buyer journey?

A buyer’s journey is the process a typical customer or client goes through from the moment they are introduced to your brand all the way to making a purchase or using your service.

A comprehensive buyer’s journey also extends to after purchase, by nurturing them to become advocates for your brand.


Buyer Persona + Buyer Journey = Powerful & Effective Marketing


How do I define my buyer personas?

Follow these steps to successfully define your target buyer personas.

Step 1: Do your research

When creating your buyer personas, you can research and gather information from many sources such as publicly available reports, data on past and existing customers, case studies and surveys.

Step 2: Segment your target market

Identify the types of buyers within your target market. For each buyer type:

  1. Define the demographics, such as age, race, sex, occupation, marital status, education level, annual income, etc.
  2. Describe their psychological attributes by defining their interests, behaviours, aspirations, attitude, lifestyle, values, fears and opinions.

Step 3: Bring your buyer persona to life

  1. Assign a name and title: Humanise your target segment by assigning a name and title. For example, ‘Jane Ellis- Surfer’.
  2. Put a face to a name: Select a photo that best represents your vision of the buyer persona.
  3. Write an overview of the persona: Create a fictitious overview of your buyer persona’s life story, demographics and psychographics, and why they need or want your product/service.
  4. List their values and fears: What’s your buyer persona’s greatest fear? What do they value most in life?
  5. List their goals and challenges: Consider their goals and challenges in life.
  6. Put it all together: Combine everything together in a visually appealing presentation to get the full picture of who your customer is.

target market

Research Area #2: Competitors, Industry and Trends

To create a comprehensive marketing strategy, your research must also cover:

  • Your current business data and analytics
  • Your competitors
  • Industry and other trends
  • Laws and regulation

What can I learn from my current data?

There’s a wealth of data available, some of which is free and you haven’t tapped into or utilised yet. The most obvious place to start is your own data.

These are a handful of resources you can dig in:

  • Site traffic: If you have analytics installed on your website such as Google Analytics, you should study your traffic. There are a hundred things you can learn such as:
    • Where visitors come from
    • How long they spend on your site
    • Where they click and what they do
    • Visitor demographics such as gender, age, location

​Most importantly, try to investigate why people leave without buying or using anything or abandon their shopping carts.

Are you attracting the right target buyers? What are their barriers? Is it the site process, or is the cost putting them off?

  • Foot traffic and in-store observations: If your business is in the brick-and-mortar category, you can dig up insights by observing how customers move around your store. If you study where your customers linger the most, where they seem frustrated, confused or engaged – you’ll see patterns emerge. Ask your front-line staff, they’ll often know.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): Software or manual customer records can reveal trends in repeat buyers, why customers don’t return, and why some customers become advocates for your business.
  • Reviews and press coverage: These will show shortcomings and key strengths about your brand in the eyes of customers.
  • Past campaigns and launches: Why did some product or service sell faster than others? Did one get promoted differently than the others?

What can I learn from my competitor’s marketing?

You can learn a lot about your competitors through simple observations, using their products and services, and conducting market surveys, in-depth customer interviews or focus groups. These will give you a good starting point. There are various models and frameworks floating around, but the main principle is to find answers to the questions below.

“What are the marketing elements or tactics that’s clearly working for your competitors in the market?

Imagine you’re looking for a product or service. What is the pull factor of your competitor’s marketing and offer that trump yours? Dig deep and look at way they communicate, reflect on their campaigns, study their branding, and focus on the customers’ reaction. Similarly, study what’s not working for them.

“What are the competitor’s norms?”

Study what your competitors are offering, launching or planning. Are any of these becoming “norms” for consumers? For example, complimentary shampoo and conditioner are becoming a norm in B&Bs. What new, purposeful value could you introduce that aligns with your brand?

“What does digital evidence say about the competitor?”

Study your competitor’s website and digital presence. Spend some time tracking the buyer’s journey between arrival, discovery, purchase and post-purchase stages. Focus on the imagery, messaging, layout, process, and value that they offer to a visitor. What’s working for them and what’s not?

Look at their customer reviews and feedback, and then compare it to yours. You can find them on their website or through Google, online forums and third-party sites such as TripAdvisor for hotels and UrbanSpoon for restaurants.


While analysing your competitors may reveal some quick wins, they're insufficient grounds to base your marketing strategy from. The goal when using competitor insight is to be proactive, not reactive, so use it with caution.

You should strive towards being customer-focused, rather than competitor-led.

competitor's marketing tactics

What other resources can I use in my marketing strategy research?

Your marketing strategy should also consider industry trends, new technologies and upcoming regulation changes.

Look for insights on:

  • The technological advancements, trends and adoptions happening in your industry.
  • Trends among your target buyers, whether they’re moving away or towards a new preference.
  • New regulation changes, which requires your marketing strategy to communicate these changes to your customers.

However, don’t take reports, research and trends at face value. Consume them in tandem with other data, as some industries are more volatile than others and some trends may be short-lived.

Section 3: How to Create a Marketing Strategy

Now comes the fun part: actually creating your marketing strategy.

What are the key elements of a marketing strategy?

A typical marketing strategy needs to address each of the following key components:

  • Vission, mission and statement
  • Long-term and short-term marketing goals
  • Competitive advantage
  • Target market
  • Market positioning strategy
  • Messaging strategy

Vision, mission, and business goals

Your marketing strategy should be intimately aligned with your vision, mission, and strategic goals. Ultimately, the purpose of marketing is to help your business, so business goals should come first.

Long-term and short-term marketing goals

This should outline the short-term goals (what your marketing need to accomplish in the next 12 months), and the long-term ones (what your marketing needs to accomplish over the next 3-5 years).

Competitive advantage

While you shouldn’t be copying your competitors outright, it’s important to understand the competitive environment. This helps identify your competitive advantage which builds your unique selling proposition and messaging.

This area should answer questions such as:

  1. What are your competitors doing?
  2. How are your products or services different?
  3. What’s their price range?
  4. Which target market are they serving?

Target market

You must identify:

  1. The key segments and sub-segments within your broader target market.
  2. The characteristics of your target market segments or buyer personas.
  3. The psychographics of your target market segments (i.e. behaviours, thoughts, feelings, perceptions, etc.).
  4. The journey each segment undertakes when engaging with your brand, leading to and following on from purchasing your product or service.

This helps you select the right marketing channels based on where your target market is most active, to deliver messages that will resonate with them, and to nurture them towards making a purchase or building loyalty towards your brand.

Market positioning strategy

A good marketing strategy should address how you want your business and brand to be positioned within the market.

  1. Will you compete based on price?
  2. Will you compete based on product leadership, offering the best service or product?
  3. Or, will you compete based on customer intimacy, offering the best solution through customisation and customer service?

You must look at the competitive environment, the needs and expectations of your target market, and your internal capabilities, to determine the most appropriate positioning strategy for your business.

It's important to understand that you can't possibly be or offer everything to a customer as it is unsustainable for a business. 

Messaging strategy

In line with your positioning strategy, your messaging strategy should identify the following:

  1. Customer Value Proposition – what’s the key point of difference that will resonate with your target market?
  2. Brand Personality - what are the characteristics that represent your brand?
  3. Brand Voice - what is the attitude, tone, language, and purpose behind your brand’s messaging and communications?
  4. Positioning statement - a simple statement that summarises your brand, what it is and what it does.
  5. Brand Pillars - what are the key value points that support your brand positioning?
  6. Audience Messages - what are the key messages that your target market needs to know, in line with communicating your positioning and customer value proposition?

marketing strategy

What are the different types of marketing tactics?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the marketing tactics available, but a list of common types of marketing:

  1. Interactive marketing
  2. Relationship marketing 
  3. Transactional marketing
  4. Scarcity marketing
  5. Call to action (CTA) marketing
  6. Word of mouth marketing
  7. Evangelism marketing
  8. Mass marketing
  9. Seasonal marketing
  10. Guerilla marketing

1. Interactive marketing

Interactive marketing encourages a 2-way communication between consumers and the brand. The goal is not necessarily to prompt a purchase, and is often used when you need to:

  1. Gather feedback, insight and information from your customers
  2. Demonstrate your value by providing customers with answers
  3. Nurture customers along the sales and marketing funnel
  4. Improve and enhance the customer experience

2. Relationship marketing

Relationship marketing is about building relationships with customers, rather than simply selling to them. This can be very effective for brands where customers need a high level of trust before making a purchase, and/or when it’s highly beneficial to foster long-term relationships.

This is a tactic commonly used by Business-to-Business (B2B) brands, utilising networking events, content marketing and loyalty programs.

3. Transactional marketing

Considered an alternative to relationship marketing, transactional marketing is focused on driving up sales. Tools that can be used in a transactional marketing campaign include coupons, discounts, sales and promotional events.

4. Scarcity marketing

For some markets, it can be advantageous to limit the availability of a product. Typically, this happens when resources and raw materials are scarce, or when the product or service requires a high level of skills.

5. Call to action marketing

Call to action (CTA) marketing is focused on using tools and methods that will help convert website visitors to make a purchase or complete a lead form. This tactic focuses heavily on optimising conversion rates by testing the site design and improving the copy and imagery.

6. Word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth (WOM) marketing is a highly effective marketing tactic if done well, as people buy from businesses that they know, like and trust. Positive word of mouth can be generated through providing high quality products and services and ensuring a positive customer experience at every touchpoint.

7. Evangelism marketing

Evangelism marketing is a level up from WOM marketing, focused on nurturing customers into advocates, who represent the brand as though it is a part of their own identity. A good example is Apple, which has a large group of die-hard fans.

8. Mass marketing

Mass marketing is a common tactic adopted by major corporations, such as Coca-Cola, to drive sales across a large market base. It usually requires a big budget and is typically driven by insights from big data. Tools adopted for mass marketing campaigns may include television, radio, outdoor, and the internet.

9. Seasonal Marketing

Seasonal marketing capitalises on seasonal events to attract new customers. Retailers use this extensively by pushing promotional campaigns around holidays such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day.

10. Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing leverages grass-root, unconventional, and low-cost methods to creatively promote a product, service, event, or brand. This approach requires a high amount of energy and imagination to grab the attention of the public in a unique, personal, and memorable way.

Examples of guerrilla marketing are outdoor showstoppers, such as redesigning a public space or using unconventional places like a train station, event ambush, and experiential marketing that requires audiences to use one or more of their senses.

What are the different types of marketing channels?

You can choose from a mix of traditional or online marketing channels to use in your marketing tactics. Traditional marketing channels include:

  • Printed publications, catalogues, flyers
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Direct mail
  • Telemarketing

Online marketing channels include:

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Search engine
  • Mobile

How do I create the right marketing strategy?

Your marketing strategy should be driven by:

  • A deep understanding of your business and marketing goals
  • A comprehensive understanding of your target market
  • Insight into your competitors, trends and regulations
  • A powerful sense of what and who your brand is and the value it offers the market
  • Available budget and resources

Section 4: Create a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan details how you'll get there and achieve the objectives of your marketing strategy. There are 5 steps to create a marketing plan:

  1. Have a clear marketing strategy
  2. Identify your marketing mix
  3. Identify your execution plan
  4. Identify how success will be measured 
  5. Set your marketing budget

Step 1: Have a clear marketing strategy

Your marketing strategy should cover:

  • Vision, Mission, and Business Objectives
  • Long-Term and Short-Term Marketing Goals and Objectives
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Target Market Understanding
  • Market Positioning Strategy
  • Messaging Strategy

Step 2: Identify your marketing mix

A marketing mix is composed of all the elements needed for an effective and comprehensive marketing. It is made of 7Ps:

  • Price - the value attached to the product or service
  • Product - the actual product or offering being sold
  • Place - the point of sale
  • Promotion - the activities undertaken to make the product or service known to the market
  • People – the people responsible for selling the product or service and delivering the customer experience
  • Process - the process involved in delivering your products or services to the customer
  • Physical Evidence - everything your target market will see when they interact with your business (e.g. physical environment, advertisements, packaging, branding, etc.).

Step 3: Identify your execution plan

A strong marketing plan includes an implementation plan that outlines how the tactics will be implemented, i.e. when, where and by who.

Step 4: Identify how success will be measured

For each marketing activity or tactic, there should be clear KPIs assigned to keep track of your progress and return on investment.

Step 5: Set your marketing budget

You will need to devote a percentage of your projected annual gross sales to your marketing budget.

Section 5: Budget, Tools & People 

The first thing to consider when setting your marketing budget is how established your business is. 

marketing agency

How much should you spend on marketing?

Essentially, there are many factors to consider when setting your marketing budget.

What you spend on marketing, where and how you spend it, should be determined by your marketing strategies and expected gross revenue.

  • For newer businesses, you may need to user a higher percentage of your gross revenue for marketing, around 12-20%, as both revenue and brand awareness are much lower. In the early stages, you may likely need to invest in branding, building a website, and other activities to launch your business.
  • Established businesses tend to have a well-established brand equity, market share and higher gross revenue that they can afford to invest a lower percentage in marketing, around 6%-12%. While big projects may come up, such as website redevelopment, marketing is often more of a maintenance activity with more modest growth goals by this point.

A common fear that often holds businesses back is spending too much of their revenue on marketing. However, marketing is essential to building a long-lasting business. By taking the time to create a marketing strategy and plan, you avoid wasting time and money on unsuitable activities.

Click here to read more on agile marketing and how to market better with less money.

What resources do you need to create a marketing strategy and plan?

There are a few key areas to consider when creating a marketing strategy and plan:

  • Decide who will come up with the strategy: Will you as the business owner do it or outsource it to a marketing expert?
  • Decide who is going to execute the marketing activities: Will you do it, delegate or outsource it? One thing to remember is that you’ll always get a bigger return on investment when you hire experts, which is why marketing agencies and consultants are a top choice for growing businesses. Plus, you don’t need to worry about upskilling yourself or your employees.
  • Decide who will the plan be executed: This is where you need to start looking at the channels, whether traditional or digital, and the software and tools you need. It won’t always be the same as another business, so you should take the time to find the tool that best suits your business.

Consider these three things carefully and you’ll have a far better understanding of the resources required not just to create a marketing strategy and plan, but to also execute them.

Discover 20 creative and fruitful strategies for marketing your small to medium business.

Have you created a marketing strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sahlia Painter

Head of Consulting at Reload Consulting

Sahlia heads up the team at Reload Consulting and brings high-level expertise and diverse strategic experience to every project she works on. Sahlia has delivered digital projects for a range of SMEs across different industries. Sahlia prides herself on her ability to tailor solutions to each business' unique situation and objectives and draws from her experience to work closely with her clients, to ensure the projects run smoothly and that she delivers exceptional outcomes.

Comments (1)
Justine Garcia

Justine Garcia, Community Manager at

Thanks for sharing this Sahlia. I'd also like to say that every business, and every company will have a certain strategy that may work for them. Every business is different with diffent needs.